Trinidad & Tobago – What’s Kraken?

Feel the Rhythm

Originating from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Calypso music enjoyed the height of its popularity in 1956, when Harry Belafonte released the “Banana Boat Song”, otherwise known as “Day-O”. The music style also produced other popular spinoffs, such as Soca, Reggae, Chutney, Rapso, and Ringbang. Let’s take a look at the history of this cultural music and get our groove on!

Calypso music, like many other genres, started with humble beginnings. During colonial slavery in the 17th century, slaves were not allowed to speak to each other while working long, exhausting days at sugar plantations, but were able to come together at night and play music. These songs helped form a bond among the slaves, as they mocked their masters and sung about the hardships of their existence in a French Creole language.

Day-O Spider

The music is based off of a call and response style, where the singer (dubbed the Calypsonian) engages his audience and involves them in the song. Instruments often associated with Calypso music include, steel drums, banjo, guitar, and other percussion devices. Calypso was played in tents made of palm trees and poles, which were constructed to keep rain away from performers and dance-goers alike.

Calypso music eventually became used to spread news around the islands and became a reliable source for current events. Songs battled political corruption, which sparked the British rulers to censor the songs and for officials to decide what could and couldn’t be heard by the public. This just pushed Calypsonians to use other tools to get their message across in song, such as double-entendres, satire, irony, and other elements of humour.

Long before rappers were taking aim at one another with thinly veiled criticisms and threats, Calypso musicians were insulting each other, while also making music based around sex, gossip, scandal, and innuendo. Like much of the music industry, there are some great artist names in the Calypso world, such as Lord Invader, Growling Tiger, Mighty Sparrow, King Fighter, Macbeth the Great, Sir Lancelot, and Duke of Iron.

Rapper Rapping

The first Calypso recording was made in New York City in 1912, by the visiting Lovey String Band. It’s thought that this was the first recording to ever take place of a musical style not to have originated in either North America or Europe. Not many other Calypso recordings were made until the late 1920’s and early 1930’s (given the title: the golden era of Calypso), perhaps due to the wartime economy and depression.

Attila the Hun (not the barbarian, but the musician) and Roaring Lion brought the music back to the United States in 1934, where they became regular recording artists and were later joined by other Calypsonians from Trinidad and Tobago. A tradition that ran up to the late 1970’s, with Mighty Sparrow being the last great Calypsonian abroad. The musical style then branched off into other genres.

prelude music

One of the first big Calypso hits, “Rum and Coca Cola”, by Lord Invader, was not about the fizzy beverage being mixed with alcohol, but the prostitution industry that popped up when American military bases began appearing in Trinidad during the 1940’s. Regardless, the Andrews Sisters turned this into a U.S. chart topper and were later sued by Lord Invader for copyright infringement, being awarded $150,000 in royalties after years of court battles.

Calypso music can be seen in popular works like the movie Beetlejuice, where Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O” plays during a very memorable scene. You can also hear “Day-O” at sporting events, often used to get fans pumped up as they echo the song’s title back to the singer. Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt dubbed Belafonte “The King of Calypso” after seeing him perform in 1958. Daylight come and me wan’ go home!

Trinidad & Tobago: What’s Kraken?

What's Kraken Cocktail

  • 1 oz Kraken Rum
  • 1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
  • Top with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with Whipped Cream

That “Day-O” song sure can get stuck in your head easy. Belafonte even performed the hit on an episode of The Muppet Show, with Fozzie Bear interrupting the singer… and for that, we thank him!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I really enjoy Kraken Black Spice Rum, which gets its rum content (molasses) from Trinidad and Tobago. I made this cocktail for Pa Sip, also a fan of Rum, as well as Butterscotch Schnapps. It was a pretty good drink and perfect for this time of the year!

Hungary – Breakfast at the Bar

Scourge of God

While Attila the Hun’s empire stretched across much of what is now Europe, he is greatly associated with the people of Hungary, thanks to the Hungarian Royal Court laying claim to him as their own ancestor. Let’s take a look at this brutal legend and sort the fact from the fiction:

Attila wasn’t a big dude (perhaps for his time he was), despite how he’s depicted in modern media as a hulking brute. His tale of the tape stated that Attila was only 5’6” and 145 lbs. When Rugila (king of the Huns) died, he left the Hunnic Empire to his nephews, Attila and Breda. Eventually, Attila tired of sharing the kingdom with his brother and had him killed. Attila ruled from 434 AD to 453 AD and was a terror to both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire.

Attila Inspired

Nobody knows exactly what Attila the Hun looked like, although he’s often depicted in his leather armor and with rough facial features and disheveled hair. Scholars debate over whether Attila would have had European features (like a Viking) or Asian characteristics (like a Mongolian). Although viewed and depicted as a cruel and ruthless leader, Attila was said to also possess great diplomatic skills.

Attila picked up a number of not-so-kind nicknames and credits during his lifetime and centuries later, as historians examined his reign of terror. He was known as the ‘Scourge of God,’ but that’s a title he actually gave himself. The History Channels ‘Ancients Behaving Badly’ named Attila ‘history’s first great terrorist’ and ranked him as history’s greatest psychopath. Count Dracula (in Bram Stoker’s Dracula) went so far to claim to be a descendant of the warrior, perhaps explaining his own bloodlust.

Despite his status as a legendary conqueror and barbarian, Attila died of a common nosebleed, choking on the blood. Researchers have thought that other factors contributed to his demise, such as alcoholism, which caused a rupture in his esophagus and death from internal bleeding. Attila’s death occurred on the same day as his marriage to the princess, Ildico, and therefore, poisoning has often been speculated as a cause of death.

Attila Death

Attila’s burial was shrouded in secrecy, with all those who witnessed the interment being executed. He may have been buried under part of the Tisza River (with the waters temporarily diverted) in a tomb of gold, silver, and iron. Although Attila was succeeded by his son, Ellac, his other children began fighting over Hun territory and the empire was divided, causing the Hun legacy to dissipate.

There have been TV mini-series and movies based off Attila and he has made appearances or been referenced in many other projects. In the Night at the Museum movies, he is portrayed as being simply misunderstood and in need of help. In an episode of Married with Children, he lines up on the devil’s football team to battle Al Bundy, with Bundy’s chance to return to earth up for grabs.

Attila has been used in many other forms of media, including as an occasional adversary to Hagar the Horrible in comics; as part of a planned, but never completed opera by Beethoven; as a hero and villain in various video games; and as a political euphemism, to describe an extreme conservative. McFarlane Toys even released an action figure of the iconic thug, as part of the series, ‘McFarlane’s Monsters III: 6 Faces of Madness.’

Attila Personal Trainer

On Spike TV’s ‘Deadliest Warrior,’ a show which takes historical figures and armies and matches them against each other to see who would win based on weaponry and battle tactics, Attila was matched up against Alexander the Great and defeated the legendary ruler. Attila’s weapons consisted of the Sword of Mars, the Lasso, the Hunnic Bow, and the Scythian Axe and his combat skills while riding horseback are thought to have largely secured the victory.

The oddest tribute came from Calypso musician Raymond Quevedo, who for whatever reason, chose to adopt the Attila the Hun moniker for his recording career. Instead of massacring tribes across Europe, Quevedo turned his artistry into entering the political realm in his home of Trinidad and Tobago. The real Attila the Hun and his exploits were even turned into a pinball machine, released in 1984… I love me some mass-murderer gaming action.

Hungary: Breakfast at the Bar

Breakfast at the Bar Martini

  • Muddle Marmalade
  • 1.25 oz Palinka (Apricot)
  • 0.75 oz Cointreau
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Garnish with a Lemon Slice and Orange Wedge

The Sip Advisor has yet to travel to Hungary, but in Budapest alone, there are 10 different streets named after Attila. This proves that all you need to do is be a total dick during your life and you’ll be remembered and honoured forever!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This was a very good cocktail, offering my first chance to use Marmalade in a drink. It added a unique tangy orange flavour that was very much welcomed. I used a Lemon Slice, as well as an Orange Wedge to add some extra flavour, as well as presentation to the recipe.