Music and Dance has been synonymous with Carnival from the days of slavery in the 1700s. When the French plantation owners would put on their elaborate fêtes prior to the fasting for Lent, the slaves would have their separate revelries called Canboulay. Following emancipation in 1834, Canboulay has played an important role in the development of music of Trinidad and Tobago. Slaves were not allowed to speak to each other but would take turns to mock their owners by singing in the West African artform of Kaiso (the predecessor to Calypso and Soca). They beat bamboo sticks, scrap metal, dustbins, and metal containers together as percussion instruments. The most notable percussion instrument that evolved from this was the Steel Pan. In the 1930s, it was realized that the drums could be tuned to distinct musical pitches and produce recognizable melodies, marking the creation of the first steel pans.
Some know Carnival as the lewd dancing in the streets. Dancing was forbidden during slavery. However, freedom to dance how you wanted survived. Many of the rhythms of Africa transcended generations and became the beats you hear in modern Caribbean music. If you listen carefully, you can hear the drums echoing from the distant African shores. The sway of hips, tells a story of our ancestors’ journey along the treacherous seas. The history of the Caribbean is intertwined with slavery, but music and dance endured. It is meant as a revival to our soul, and to show the world that we survived and thrived.
When you see someone dancing to Caribbean rhythms, feel free to dance along. Let the music move you with its intoxicating beats. We are free to dance and you are too!
Join us on Churchill Square August 5 – 7 where we bring the Caribbean rhythms to you. Bring your dancing shoes.