International » Caribbean Traditions » Calypso
The musical output of Trinidad and Tobago -- Calypso, steel band music, and soca -- is centered around the carnival season that begins shortly after Christmas and culminates with Carnival Tuesday, the day before the Catholic feast of Ash Wednesday. The island calypsonians compose (or buy) at least two new songs annually, which they then perform nightly throughout carnival season at the calypso tents. Of course, all those who can arrange it will also produce recordings of their songs that will be released sometime between Thanksgiving and a few weeks before Carnival Tuesday. The annual music crop is highly affected by two major music contests in which the vast majority of calypsonians compete during carnival season: the National Calypso Monarchy (best calypsonian of the year) and the Road March (best party song of the year), as well as by a host of other smaller competitions like Junior Monarch, Calypso Queen, and Extempo Monarch. Most compositions are a reflection of attempts of calypsonians to win these competitions. Consequently, they fall into two camps: party songs vying for Road March and lyrically strong calypsos vying for the Monarchy by addressing a wide range of social and political topics.