Unit 3: Calypso with Etienne

Melody will take us on a journey from Colombia to Trinidad to meet our next performer, Etienne. Use SG19, SG20 and SG21 to meet Etienne and prepare students to learn about calypso.

Genre Overview

Calypso traces its roots to West Africa in the 1600s, drawing on traditions of social commentary and improvisational lyrics in song. Modern calypso was born in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1900s, when these West African traditions mixed with chantuelle, a Creole vocal tradition that accompanied stick fights known as kalenda. Calypso developed in tandem with Carnival and Kambule. Kambule is the solemn costumed procession commemorating the emancipation of enslaved Africans, and Carnival is the pre-Lenten ritual brought to Trinidad by French Catholic settlers. It was within this fertile breeding ground of masquerades, parades, and musical competitions that all the elements of calypso were developed, including the steel pan and steel band. As the century progressed, well-known calypso singers began performing and recording in New York, which led to a New York version of calypso that dealt with themes specific to life in the city.

Meet Etienne Charles

Etienne was born in Trinidad and grew up with calypso, as well as many other kinds of music. He went on to study jazz trumpet, first in Florida and then in New York. As a trumpet player, bandleader, and composer, he is drawing constantly on his Afro-Caribbean roots. “Jazz is creole music,” he says. “As a person in the new world, I’ve been influenced by so much music. I come from a fusion of rhythms, a fusion of cultures.”

Lesson 1: Learning “Mary Ann”

Students learn to sing the chorus to “Mary Ann” and explore calypso rhythms with found percussion instruments.
→ Go to Lesson 1: Learning “Mary Ann

Lesson 2: Learning “J’ouvert Barrio”

Students learn to sing and dance to “J’ouvert Barrio,” and explore rhyme in calypso lyrics.
→ Go to Lesson 2: Learning “J’ouvert Barrio”

Learn more!


Listening & Viewing:

Additional Teaching Resources:

Unit 3: PDF Downloads

SG19 Let’s Explore Calypso! ↓ Download File
SG20 Meet Etienne! ↓ Download File
SG21 We asked Etienne… ↓ Download File
SG22 Explore the Steel Pan ↓ Download File
SG23 Calypso Rhymes ↓ Download File

Unit 3: Audio Tracks