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Canboulay (from the French cannes brulées, meaning burnt cane) is a precursor to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and has played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago.
The festival is also where calypso music has its roots.
The Cedula of Population of 1783 laid the foundation and growth of the population of Trinidad. The Spanish who were in possession of the island, contributed little towards advancements, with El Dorado the focus, Trinidad was perfect due to its geographical location. French planters with their slaves, free coloreds and mulattos from neighboring islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica migrated to the Trinidad during the French Revolution. The Spanish also gave many incentives to lure settlers to the island, including exemption from taxes for ten years and land grants in accordance to the terms set out in the Cedula. These new immigrants establishing local communities of Blanchisseuse, Champs Fleurs, Cascade, Carenage and Laventille. Trinidad's population jumped to over 15,000 by the end of 1789, from just under 1,400 in 1777. In 1797, Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population. This exodus was encouraged due to the French Revolution.
Beginning in 1845, major influxes of indentured immigrants from India and other parts of the world dramatically changed the ethnic composition of the islands. These indentured servants brought their own folk music, primarily from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to the creole mix, resulting in chutney music. In addition to Indians, Syrians, Portuguese, Chinese and Africans came to the islands in waves between 1845 and 1917, and even after.
The French Revolution (1789) had an impact on Trinidad's culture, as it resulted in the emigration of Martinique planters and their French creole slaves to Trinidad where they established an agriculture-based economy (sugar and cocoa) for the island. The Mas tradition started in the late 18th century with French plantation owners organizing masquerades (mas) and balls before enduring the fasting of Lent. Indentured laborers and the slaves, who could not take part in Carnival, formed their own, parallel celebration called "Canboulay". Canboulay (from the French cannes brulées, meaning burnt cane) is a precursor to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and has played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago.
Impact on Caribbean culture
The festival is also where calypso music has its roots, through the chantwells who sang songs called Kaiso. As early as the 1780s, the word cariso was, used to describe a French creole song and, in Trinidad, cariso seems to have been perfected by the (mostly female) chantwells during the first half of the nineteenth century. The chantwells, assisted by belair (bélé) drums and alternating in call-and-response style with a chorus, were a central component of the practice called Calinda (stick-fighting).
Calypso music was developed in Trinidad in the 17th century from the West African Kaiso and canboulay music brought by African slaves imported to that Caribbean island to work on sugar plantations. These slaves, brought to toil on sugar plantations, were stripped of all connections to their homeland and family and not allowed to talk to each other. They used calypso to mock the slave masters and to communicate with each other. Many early calypsos were sung in French Creole by an individual called a griot. As calypso developed, the role of the griot became known as a chantuelle and eventually, calypsonian.
Stick fighting and African percussion music were banned in 1881 from Trinidad Carnival, in response to the Canboulay Riots. They were replaced by bamboo sticks "Bamboo-Tamboo" beaten together, which were themselves banned in turn. In 1937 they reappeared, transformed as an orchestra of frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums. These steelpans or pans are now a major part of the Trinidadian music scene and are a popular section of the Canboulay music contests. In 1941, the United States Navy arrived on Trinidad, and the panmen, who were associated with lawlessness and violence, helped to popularize steel pan music among soldiers, which began its international popularization.
- De Ledesma, Charles and Georgia Popplewell. "Put Water in the Brandy?"". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 507–526. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0