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    Materials and preparation

  • Choose a song or two with Calypso-type rhythms to teach to the class. You may want to use one of the songs you have found a recording of. Some songs that are traditionally associated with a calypso-style performance and are often found in songbooks and recordings for children include: "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)", "Matilda", "Jamaica Farewell", "Sloop John B", "Tingalayo", and "Brown Girl in the Ring". Or you may use the songs provided here, Caroline and Marianina . Please note that these are not traditional Caribbean tunes; instead, so that you may feel free to copy them, they are tunes that are in the public domain (in the U.S.) that have been altered slightly in order to give a strong Calypso feeling to the rhythms. If you can't open the PDFs, the songs are also available as figures below . (Readers who have access to a version of a genuine Caribbean tune that is clearly in the public domain are invited to contact the author.)
  • Become familiar enough with the song(s) that you will be able to teach and lead them with confidence. If you need to hear the tunes in order to learn them, you can listen to Marianina and Caroline .
  • Arrange for accompaniment, by yourself, a friend, or the students themselves. Accompaniment is important to get a "calypso" sound. Piano is not ideal; but a keyboard that has a marimba or other percussion setting might do. Guitar, string bass, and/or winds (even recorders) in whatever combination is better. In either case, try to include at least some percussion; or you may consider a percussion-only accompaniment.
  • Have enough copies available, as needed, of the words, music, and accompaniment parts.


  1. If they are going to make their own percussion instruments , do that activity first.
  2. If students are providing the accompaniment, assign parts and rehearse the instrumentalists. The calypso rhythms above should work as accompaniment to just about any appropriate song you choose. Several short rehearsals usually work better than one long one.
  3. Meanwhile, start teaching everyone the song. This may also take several sessions. You can listen here to the melodies of Caroline and Marianina if you need to.
  4. Add the accompaniment to the singing for the final rehearsals. Even if the song is not a part of a concert, try to find an audience for a final "performance".

Writing calypso lyrics

    Materials and preparation

  • If you'd like to emphasize the creative, improvisatory nature of real calypso, and your students are up for the challenge, consider having them write a bit of calypso themselves.
  • Choose a simple tune that the students are familiar with, either a song that they have learned in class (see above ), or one of the tunes that you have a recording of. Tunes associated with calypso are preferable, but not necessary.
  • If the students do not already know the tune very well, play the recording for them often, or work with them on singing it.


  1. Remind the students that traditional calypso singers improvise the words of their songs. That means they make them up right on the spot, as they are singing, only a few minutes after they find out what their song is supposed to be about. At the big calypso contest in Trinidad every year, they often use a standard melody and make up funny, clever songs about something that has been in the news recently or something that they have noticed about life. The songs are often complaint or protest songs about things that they think should be changed.
  2. Tell the students they do not have to make up the words as they are singing. They can have some time to think about it and make up the words and write them down. Tell them which tune you are going to use and remind them of it by playing it for them or letting them sing it together.
  3. Ask the students to make up new words to go with the tune. Their song could be a humorous complaint about something they would like changed (longer recesses, or being allowed to have a dog, for example), or it can be a funny commentary on something that has happened recently, at school (a game they've learned in P.E.), at home ("what happened to my missing homework assignment"), or in the news (an escape at the zoo, or a heavy snowfall, for example). If necessary, remind them that being mean or personal is not funny.
  4. You may let them work in groups or alone.
  5. If necessary, check the words of each song before you allow it to be performed.
  6. Allow groups to perform their song together. Brave individuals can sing their songs by themselves, or you may make copies so that the class can sing each other's songs together.
  7. If there are any particularly clever or humorous songs, you may want to consider sharing them in a performance for parents or for the school.

Listening to calypso

Genuine calypso is not that popular outside the islands; you will probably not find it at your local library or CD store. But steelband music, or even just a calypso-style sound is easier to find.

    Listening suggestions

  • Many children will already be familiar with the tunes "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" from Disney's The Little Mermaid .
  • Some collections of songs for children (particularly multicultural collections) include calypso-sounding versions of songs like "Tingalayo", "Matilda", "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)", and "Brown Girl in the Ring".
  • Harry Belafonte's performances, while not genuine improvised calypso, contributed greatly to the first big craze for the calypso sound in the U.S. They are still relatively easy to find.
  • Steelband albums marketed to tourists (for example Steel Drum Classics "Best of the Best" , produced by Barefoot Records and C and B Studio) are also not genuine calypso, but most of them do have the right sound.
  • If you want some examples of the real thing, check with your favorite music recording distributors.

Songs to use

These tunes are not from Trinidad. So that it is easy to copy and use them in the classroom and concerts, tunes that are in the public domain (in the U.S.) have been altered slightly in order to give a strong Calypso feeling to the rhythms. (Readers who have access to a version of a genuine Caribbean tune that is clearly in the public domain are invited to contact the author.)

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Source:  OpenStax, Musical travels for children. OpenStax CNX. Jan 06, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10221/1.11
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