Lesson 2: Learning “J’ouvert Barrio”

Aim: How is rhyme used in calypso lyrics?
Summary: Students learn to sing and dance to “J’ouvert Barrio,” and explore rhyme in calypso lyrics.
Materials: Long stick or bar (for limbo), Musical Explorers online audio
SC: MGK-2.1, MGK-2.2, MGK-2.3, MGK-2.6, MGK-2.7, MGK-2.8, MGK-2.9
Vocabulary: chipping, jump-up, limbo, rhyme, syncopation

> See Glossary

Sing “J’ouvert Barrio”

“J’ouvert Barrio” Chorus Translation

J’ouvert barre yeux
Pas leve la main a se yeux

Daybreak, block them,
But don’t put a hand on them.

Experience Syncopation in “J’ouvert Barrio”

  • Listen to “J’ouvert Barrio” while clapping a steady beat.

  • Now, have your students try speaking the lyrics while patting the beat on their laps. Exaggerate the “vert” and the “pas” of the phrase so that your students can feel the change in rhythm from the rest of the chorus.
    • Which words feel different from the rest of the chorus?

    • Notice that your hands are up in the air when you say or sing those words.

  • Explain to your students that if a word is performed when their hands are up in the air, that word is the syncopation, or off the beat.
  • Have your students speak the rhythm of the melody, adding a movement such as a stomp or a hop to the two syncopated notes to help them stand out.
  • Sing the melody of “J’ouvert Barrio” adding your new syncopated movements.

“J’ouvert Barrio”

J’ouvert barre yeux
Pas leve la main a se yeux
J’ouvert barre yeux
Pas leve la main a se yeux

I’ll tell you a story you do not know
It’s about Carnival and calypso


It is the folk song and ballad
Of that beautiful island of Trinidad


Every year there’s Carnival—don’t forget
That is Trinidad national fete


On Carnival morning, six bells chime
And everyone, they would start to rhyme


Jump your jump, dance your dance, it’s bacchanal
Play mas* Monday morning Carnival


Jump in the line and break away
Shake your hips, believe, and faint away


Jump in the line and smack your lips
Roll you eyes, roll your head, and shake your hips


Monday morning on parade
Everybody, man, play masquerade


*Mas is the West Indian tradition of masquerade.

Explore Calypso Movement in “J’ouvert Barrio”


  • Play the recording of “J’ouvert Barrio” and ask students to set the steady beat of the song through clapping.

  • Explain that when people dance together during the Carnival parade, it is called a jump-up. One of the steps they do is called chipping.
  • Chipping is a simple step. You walk in time to the music, stepping on every beat, shuffling your feet a little, and adding hip movement to the step.
  • Play the recording of “J’ouvert Barrio.” Have students practice chipping as they move in a circle or around the room.

  • Ask students to do the chipping movement during the refrain and improvise their own movements during verses.

The Limbo

  • The limbo is a traditional dance contest from Trinidad that is sometimes considered the national dance. It was popularized in the US by Chubby Checker and continues to be a favorite party game.
  • If you are in-person with your students, take a long stick or bar and have two students each hold one end at about shoulder level while playing “J’ouvert Barrio” or “Mary Ann.” If students are at home, they can do the same with a broomstick or yard stick and a family member or caregiver.

  • Have the rest of the students form a line and pass under the bar leaning backwards, with their backs facing the floor, without touching the bar. Anyone who touches the bar is out.
  • After all the students have passed through, lower the bar. Keep going around until the last person remains who can successfully limbo under the bar.


Creative Extension: Discover Calypso Rhymes

  • Rhyme is a key feature of calypso lyrics, which generally are in rhyming couplets.
  • Read the lyrics to “J’ouvert Barrio” and/or “Mary Ann” aloud.
    • Which words rhyme? Is there a pattern?
  • Have students turn to SG23 and create their own calypso rhymes, using the rhyming word pairs to complete the lyrics provided. This can be done individually or as a group.

Literacy Extension: Jump Up Time

Carnival is supposed to be a happy time, but Lily wishes it were over. In the story Jump Up Time by Lynn Joseph, Lily’s family has been working on the gorgeous hummingbird costume for months, but it’s Lily’s big sister, Christine, who will wear it at the children’s Carnival. Lily doesn’t want to wait until next year for her chance to jump up in costume.


Musical Word Wall

Add the words chipping, jump-up, limbo, rhyme and syncopation to the Musical Word Wall.
> See Glossary

PDF Downloads

SG23 ↓ Download File


Audio Tracks