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Descendants of a Sharp-Tongued Dialectic: Calypso and the Chantwell

Allyson Samuel


Work on the Trinidad calypso has centered on its development as a part of a national culture. For my purposes, calypso becomes more than simply entertainment and more than simply national; it becomes a form of subversion of colonial order. In its role as art, cultural artifact and political tool, it shares some very important critical and satirical elements with picong, a form of verbal warfare that itself shares an African history with games of insult such as the African-American tradition of “the dozens.” Calypso owes its bite to this folk form. Calypso, as contemporary social commentary whose purpose is to speak to the people’s concerns about social and governmental problems, shares a tradition with earlier forms of critique such as the cariso and the lavway—two categories of song which also utilized picong’s biting wit.

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ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness. ISSN: 1543-0855 (online).
Editor: Dr. Sonjah Nadine Stanley-Niaah.

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