WHAT IS PARANG?
The term Parang is derived from the Spanish word parranda, which means a spree or a fête. Initially it meant a group of four or more men who went to give a parranda at an event - a christening or a birthday celebration. The group sang to the accompaniment of musical instruments. However, in Trinidad, parang came to mean the songs that were sung especially during the Christmas season. What was brought from Venezuela to Trinidad was parranda navideña, which means Christmas parang.
There are two theories about the origins of Trinidad parang. The first is that the custom was brought to the island by the Spanish colonists who ruled Trinidad from 1498-1797. It continued to flourish after the British took over the island, because of constant interaction between the people of Trinidad and those of Venezuela (The Spanish Main).
The second theory suggests that the custom was brought over from Venezuela in the 19th century by the cocoa panyols who came from Oriente, East Venezuela to work on the cocoa plantations in Trinidad. Whatever its origins, parang is now an integral part of the cultural landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.
Incorporating aspects of indigenous and South American cultures, parang has been called a fusion of "the deep spiritual aspirations of the Spanish people and the unfettered joyfulness of the Amerindian and African cultures."
Parang has become synonymous with merrymaking at Christmas time. Groups of musicians called parranderos go from house to house entertaining members of the community. These visits involve singing and dancing as well as the sharing of food and drink. Today, this type of social paranging only takes place in a few areas in Trinidad. The main towns for parang are Arima, St. Anns, Santa Cruz, St. Joseph, Caura, Mausica, Lopinot, San Raphael and Rio Claro. One must, of course, add Paramin to this list.
The official parang season runs from October to January 6th (The Day of the Kings or Dia de los Reyes). During this period, various parang groups take part in competitions organized by the National Parang Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NPATT) culminating in Lewah (Les Rois), the feast of the Kings.