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!

September 16 – Bahama Mama

Rum Jams

Music and rum seem to be a match made in heaven. There are so many rum songs out there, particularly from Caribbean nations. Here are some good tracks I was able to dig up:

Rum and Coca-Cola – The Andrews Sisters

I love this tune. It will be played repeatedly when I’m on a rum bender… and that happens with awesome regularity. I’m shocked I had never heard this song before. With Ma and Pa’s passion for rum and cokes, combined with their love for tropical settings and everything that goes along with it, I don’t know why it’s never been played in their backyard on any of our glorious swimming days or at any of their family parties. Perhaps I have now been able to pass something along to them for future celebrations.

Dead Man’s Chest – Various

The rum playlist goes two for two with this pirate shanty. Playing this song will have you and your mates swinging your arms and your mugs of libations around and having a great time of it all. You might even start some swashbuckling adventures thanks to the theme. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! This song originally comes from the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and has been featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. Yar!

Bundaberg Rum – Bill Scott

Bundaberg Rum has a reputation of being consumed by loud and troublemaking folk. You know, the kinds of jerks at the bar you don’t want to be around. In Australia, they’re referred to as yobbos, which is a great term. Four bars in Brisbane banned the rum in 2005 because of the disruptive nature it caused for some. Apparently, this is exactly what the Bundaberg company wanted, as its ads were geared towards the yobbos. As for the song, it’s alright, but not as good as the other two.

Little Drummer Boy – Various

Rum pum pum pum… I guess this doesn’t really belong. Let’s get drunk!

Drink #259: Bahama Mama

Bahama Mama Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Dark Rum (I used Captain Morgan)
  • 0.25 oz Coconut Rum
  • 0.25 oz Kahlua
  • Top with Pineapple Juice
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry and Cocktail Umbrella

What’s your favourite rum anthem? Make sure it’s loaded up the next time you crack a bottle of Bundaberg Rum and go on a rampage!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I really enjoyed this drink, despite its use of many ingredients I find to be hit or miss. This time, items like Pineapple and Lemon Juice were indeed hits. There are other Bahama Mama recipes out there, but I completely recommend the one I settled on.