The Subversive Power Of Calypso

The Subversive Power Of Calypso

Its bouncy beats and tuneful melodies often serve up serious, even subversive, messages. The music demands more careful listening, writes Benjamin Ramm.

Outside the Caribbean, calypso music is regarded as carefree, light-hearted, even frivolous. Yet calypso is among the most political of all musical traditions – a form that combines joyful cadences with serious and often subtle social commentary. Originating in the struggle for emancipation, the genre is characterised by its witty and imaginative treatment of themes as diverse as racism, the Cold War, and the cost of living.

In 1881 Britain banned percussion in the Caribbean – so steel pan music was born

Misconceptions about calypso stem in part from the commercial success of Harry Belafonte’s 1956 record Calypso, the first LP album to sell over a million copies. The most famous track, Banana Boat (Day-O), is not actually a calypso, and the album is a celebration of Jamaica, even though calypso originates on the other side of the Caribbean, in Trinidad. In one of the first globally broadcast Carnival competitions in 1993, calypsonian the Mighty Chalkdust performed Misconceptions to challenge the “false images” of the island (“we are not part of Jamaica / though we sing reggae, that’s not our culture”) and its music (“so when you hear Belafonte and Mr Poindexter / that is not kaiso [calypso], that is brandy mixed with water”). Continue reading

Afgan girls fight extremism with the power of music

Afgan girls fight extremism with the power of music

Zarifa Adiba loves music. In Afghanistan, that makes her a target..
In today’s video we’re going to talk about the cultural differences between Italy and USA when it comes to dating, specifically among young people! Be sure to let me know in the comments if you guys agree with me!
And her last comment should be… thank you USA for making this happen and sacrificing life and treasure so I can play my music….we will fight back from inside so your lives were not given in vane. Etc

Can Music and Politics mix?

Can Music and Politics mix?

I was 19 years old when I first heard the Kronos Quartet’s “Howl, U.S.A.”  The album dons as its cover Robert Mapplethorpe’s stunning portrait of a tattered, weatherworn and ever-so-slightly transparent American flag.  The image seemed symbolic of the music — political works by Scott Johnson, Michael Daugherty, Harry Partch (arr. Ben Johnston) and Lee Hyla — which struck me as an honest, direct and sometimes difficult-to-hear assessment of a country in tatters.  I was enthralled.

Some think that to soil music with base, terrestrial politics is improper, even rude.

Although I’d grown up listening to Woodstock-era protest music, and was aware of the political text (and subtext) found in some heavy metal, punk and hip hop it had never occurred to me until this moment that classical music, loosely defined, could be political. The course of my artistic output was suddenly and drastically changed.
Continue reading