Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago during the early to mid 20th century. Its rhythms can be traced back to West African Kaiso and the arrival of French planters and their slaves from the French Antilles in the 1600s.
The music, which drew upon African and French influences, became the voice of the people, and was characterized by highly rhythmic and harmonic vocals, which was most often sung in a French creole and led by a griot. As calypso developed, the role of the griot (originally a similar traveling musician in West Africa) became known as a chantuelle and eventually, calypsonian. As English replaced patois (creole French) as the dominant language, calypso migrated into English, and in so doing it attracted more attention from the government. It allowed the masses to challenge the doings of the unelected Governor and Legislative Council, and the elected town councils of Port of Spain and San Fernando. Calypso continued to play an important role in political expression, and also served to document the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
While most authorities stress the African roots of calypso, in his 1986 book, Calypso from France to Trinidad: 800 Years of History, that veteran calypsonian, The Roaring Lion (Rafael de Leon) asserted that calypso descends from the music of the medieval French troubadours.
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