The journey of Trinidad’s parang music, in one informative podcast · Global Voices

All smiles: A group of musicians play a paran. Photo by Marc Aberdeen on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trinidad and Tobago government held regular televised press conferences to keep the public informed, but every time Prime Minister Keith Lowry appeared, citizens imposed further restrictions. was preparing for the announcement of The phrase “as of midnight tonight” has become a horrifying one that has spawned many memes. Flipping the narrative “As of midnight tonight”, it announced:

Paran music is a genre of folk music performed during Christmas time. Traditionally sung in Spanish, palan was introduced to Trinidad and Tobago from Venezuela, but its music is deeply rooted in indigenous and African cultures. Referring to the tweet, Twitter user Attillah Springer said: commentedin the Trimbagonian dialect, “Now that I am in this state, I hear something and it tells me why Paran is so important.” I’ve included a link to the Wajang Diskotheque podcast series, put together in a simple format.

The episode, titled “Parang Jam,” was streamed in December 2020, when Trinidad and Tobago, like many other countries in the world, was under restrictions due to the pandemic. The usual revelries, socials, dances and other festivities (including Paran songs), which are deeply rooted in the tradition of moving music from house to house within the community, were apparently not possible. Bringing that feeling of connection into people’s homes when they needed it most.

Narrated by Elisha Bartels and Adam Andrews, this podcast explores immigration and homelessness during the Christmas season, full of interesting tidbits about Parang’s history, and interspersed with clips of local favorites. .

For example, the song “Rio Manzanare”, written in 1958 by the Venezuelan José Antonio López, contains themes of loss and longing for home, a theme many might not typically associate with Paran traditions. I’m talking about “At the bottom of it all, it’s about families who have been forced to leave their homes,” the host explains. Who in our family doesn’t know this and doesn’t have this trauma embedded in their DNA? Especially in this world where most of us got here in a coerced or coerced way. ”

In recent years, Trinidad has again become a destination for thousands of Venezuelan economic migrants.

While many Trimbagoers simply register Paran in the category of “Christmas music,” the podcast desperately holds onto native tongues, memories, and hometown songs, writing new ones to fill the gaps. Emphasizes the importance of refugee music.

Like many European, Middle Eastern, and other pre-Christian traditions, the history of Paran is one of adaptations of indigenous and African musical forms to apply to Christian contexts. Paran is not only the music of the joy of the birth of Christ, but also tells part of the story of conquest and conversion.

Another song featured in this podcast, which was featured as a way to keep people going during difficult times, was “La Gaita” by the Lara Brothers. The group’s founders, Willy, Tito, Antonio and Victor, were brothers born in Venezuela in the 1920s. The last founder passed away in 2014, but the band continues to this day and their music continues to stir people’s memories. As podcast host Adam Andrews said:

It is also interesting that Paran music flourished in areas such as Santa Cruz and St. Joseph, parts of Trinidad known for their cacao and coffee plantations. “Pañol” workers in these estates, as Venezuelans are locally called, had little free time to visit family and friends, but Christmas was a “relatively free time.” They moved through the community singing songs that “started by describing the story of the birth of Christ and quickly moved to secular themes.”

Dancing in steps incorporating castellan and salsa styles is part of the paran experience. It’s almost impossible not to want to move while listening to Paran music. Again, although Paran is considered primarily “Spanish” music, the podcast notes that it also contains elements of West African rhythms and melodic structures. And yet, despite Latin America’s shared experience of Caribbean colonialism and the violence that comes with it, “it never speaks of music of African origin in the same way as calypso”.As Elisha Bartels suggests, “If you wonder how a country that hasn’t been a Spanish colony for over 200 years still sings in Spanish, it’s only seven dangerous miles between us and Venezuela.” Please remember.”

Spreading from places like Sucre in northeastern Venezuela to Trinidad, Parang is a unique crossroads of indigenous and African cultures long before Columbus appeared in the region. of the Caribbean. ”

The podcast also features the incomparable Daisy Voisan, widely known as the Queen of Paran, who dreamed of making this music world famous. Her band La Divina Pastora (The Divine Shepherdess) was named after her Black Madonna statue in her Roman Catholic Church in Siparia, a town in southern Trinidad, Voisin’s birthplace.

According to the story, the statue was brought from Venezuela to Trinidad by a Capuchin monk who claimed to have saved his life. Indeed, the statue of the Madonna is widely revered for her unifying and healing powers.Each year on her feast day there is a procession attended by Catholics and Hindus, and a manifestation of the goddess Kali, Sipari I adore her as her Mai. Madonna was also “as sacred to the Warao as it is to Catholics,” says the podcast.

One song that strongly reflects some of the issues facing Trinidad and Tobago and the wider region is “Mi Negrito” by San José Serenades, suggesting a podcast. Wistfully performed by Gloria Alcázar, a Venezuelan who came to Trinidad to learn English and eventually married the band’s founder, Lennox Flores, the lyrics speak of the singer’s love for black people.

In a day when the bodies of women on both sides of the Gulf of Paria continue to be the scene of violence by friends, strangers, lovers and buyers, today when women’s bodies are moved as if they never knew freedom, Gloria Reflect on the words of Alcazar. As we laugh in the face of a sinking boat, we reflect on our fear and desire for difference, and our desire to be closer to whiteness. We consider the cycles of oppression and how easy it is to ignore the suffering of others when we have not confronted the traumas of race, class, and migration.

Paran undoubtedly brings joy, but understanding where it came from and how it has grown offers me the opportunity to think more deeply about the issue, even as the genre continues to experiment and evolve. increase.

Listen to the full “Parang Jam” episode of the Wajang Diskotheque podcast here.

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