Kaiso! Kaiso!

If Soca is the heart beat of Trinidad & Tobago Carnival, then Kaiso, Cariso or Calypso as it's now widely known is its soul. Imported from West Africa by those enslaved to West Indian cocoa, sugar and coffee plantations, the music provided a tremendous resource.It preserved spiritual ties with the Mother Land while illuminating a path for survival in a new world. We'll even go as far as saying, if there was no Kaiso, the Afro-Trinidadian person would not be. Heck! We'll even venture to say that without Kaiso, there would be no Carnival, not as Carnival exists today! 

It is said that the name Kaiso derived from the Hausa word "Kai", used to convey disapproval or to admonish. The people would gather around the griots, who would level scathing criticism against the slave-masters and plantation owners. The griot chanted and the people responded in kind "Kaiso!Kaiso!". Gradually, chantwells, who were  primarily female, and who song mainly in French Creole, perfected the call and response in the Calinda (stick-fighting) arena. By the late 1700's this type of folk song was known as Cariso and it, along with stick-fighting, was a signifiant element of Carnival celebrations. The music would evolve even more to become the vocal weapon of choice against every manner of social ill from the grim realities of emancipation to the idiocy of politics.

 Other etymologists suggests that there is yet another origin for the name Kaiso. According to this school of thought, the word comes from the Ibibio people who comprised much of Trinidad's slave population. Among the Ibibios and probably other Africans, it became a popular past-time to engage in a certain dance. A couple of folks would plant sticks into the ground at opposite ends and lay a pole across the top. The contenders, male or female, would display their most impressive rhythmic moves while doing their best to not touch the pole, which lay precipitously above. Cheering them on was the collective refrain "Kaiso! Kaiso!"  "More! More! Go!Go!".  Eventually, the dance became Limbo and the term was adopted in reference to a music that became synonymous with the Caribbean person's ability to treat the most serious of subjects with uncanny humor.

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