Calypso is a music that documents the histories and ideologies of the people who create it and the societies in which they live. Many calypsonians note that the music functions as a newspaper, conveying contemporary stories of local and global significance, attitudes about life and society, critiques of structures of power and the dreams and aspirations of its people. Rapso is an overtly political and activist variant of calypso, with deep roots in the oral traditions of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Although Trinidad and Tobago became independent of British colonial rule in 1962, the struggle for freedom and independence is ongoing. Through their music and performance, rapso artists advocate for economic and social justice and cultural self-determination. An important aspect of their work is to foster local pride while being simultaneously in conversation with regional and international social movements for human rights. What does this tell us about the culture and politics of the Caribbean? It tells us that the project to achieve independence continues and that artists are engaged in a critical assessment of their reality within the global dynamics of power and culture. Despite the history of genocide, slavery, colonialism, and neo-imperialism, Caribbean people have survived very difficult circumstances, using creativity and wit to manage the most difficult of experiences. The arts have been, and continue to be, a central feature of Caribbean political and social action.
Patricia van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy, Dickinson College Assistant Professor and Distinguished Chair of Africana Studies.