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PARANG
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PARANG

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  • WHAT IS PARANG
  • CATEGORIES OF PARANG SONGS
  • PARANG INSTRUMENTS
  • CANTIQUES DE NOEL / CRECHE
  • REFERENCES

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 cocoapanyols 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.

SOURCE

CATEGORIES FOR PARANG SONG 
The following table depicts the categories and descriptions of Parang songs, along with a sample song from each category. The songs are displayed in Spanish and English.

TYPE OF SONG TITLE DESCRIPTION
Serenal or Aguinaldo Nosotros Tenemos Parranderos announce their arrival in song and seek to gain entry to the homes of family and friends to relate the story of the birth of Christ, and to share in the joy of the message of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all men.
Anunciacion Gloria en el Cielo This song tells of the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary telling her that she was chosen to bear the Christ Child.
Nacimiento El Nacimiento This song relates the events of the actual birth of the child called Jesus Christ.
Guarapo Guarapo This is a lively song based on any topic.
Joropo Alma Llanera Song similar in style to the Spanish waltz, it is used for dancing.
Vals (Castillian) Ansiedad This is a secular song with a slow waltz tempo.
Salsa Moliendo Café The salsa is a Latin style of music, which is popular with dancers today.
Manzanare Rio Manzanare A Manzanare is a Venezuelan waltz celebrating different things about the Manzanare river of Cumana, Venezuela.
Estribillo Sabaneando An Estribillo is a very lively sing along song in which you call and answer.
Despedida Vamos Vamos Vamos This is a song to give thanks for the joy of sharing, and to say farewell to the host, until the next Christmas.

PARANG INSTRUMENTS 

The instruments used by parang bands are representative of the many cultures that form part of our heritage. Amerindian, African and European influences are all visible in the modern parang ensemble. It is now difficult to identify one group of instruments as the 'core' of the parang band.

Traditionally, however, most bands would have some combination of the following instruments: cuatro, mandolin, tiple, violin, bandol (bandola), bandolin, guitar, box bass, maracas ("chac chac"), wood block (claves or "tock tock") (Taylor 33; Marquez 67; “Parang”). Contemporary bands have included other instruments such as flute, scratcher (güiro), electric bass, Latin percussion and steel pan (Ingram). Outlined below is a brief description of the major instruments used by parang bands.

 
 

BANDOL or BANDOLA
Taylor, in her description of the local instrument, states that it is approximately 85 x 30cms and has four double strings. Two of the base strings are made of metal and two of gut while the four treble strings are all made of gut (36). This is supported by the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, which defines the bandola as "a flat-backed lute of Central and South America" (“Bandola” ). It points out that there are "two types of Venezuelan bandola: the first, found in the western plains, has four single strings, tuned b-e′-b′-f″; the second, from north-eastern Venezuela, has four double courses, the lower pair tuned in octaves and the higher strings in unison, as follows: A/a-e/e′- b′/b′-f#″/ f#″." (“Bandola”). It seems therefore that the type found in Trinidad and Tobago is consistent with that of north-eastern Venezuela.

 
  BOX BASS
This wooden instrument, native to Trinidad, provides the bass accompaniment for parang. It consists of a square or rectangular box about eighteen to twenty inches high with a hole, six inches in diameter in its centre. A detachable pole is positioned on one corner of the top of the box. From the centre of the box a string of nylon or jute is attached to the top of the pole. Notes are achieved by varying the angle of the pole and moving the fingers, which depress the string along the pole. The sound is emitted through the hole in the front of the box. (“Musical Instruments“)
 
  CELLO (violoncello)
The cello is a stringed instrument and part of the violin family. The cello is much larger than a violin, and unlike that instrument, is played in an upright position between the legs of the seated musician, resting on a metal spike. The player draws his or her bow horizontally across the strings (“Cello”).
 
  CLAVES (tock tock)
Concussion idiophones of Cuban origin consisting of two cylindrical hardwood sticks measuring from 20 to 25 cm in length and from 2.5 to 3 cm in diameter (“Claves”).
 
  CUATRO
An instrument of the guitar family, found in South America and the West Indies. The small cuatro of Venezuela has four strings, traditionally made of gut but now mostly of nylon, usually tuned a-d′- f#″-b (“Cuatro”).
 
  GUIRO (scratcher)
A percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side. It is played by rubbing a wooden stick along the notches to produce a ratchet-like sound (The Free Dictionary.com). The right hand usually holds the scrapper (or pua) and the left hand holds the güiro with the thumb inserted into the back sound hole. This instrument is approximately 25-35 cms long. It is believed to have originated among the Arawaks and spread among the peoples of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Central America and parts of Mexico (“Instruments-Güiro”; Garland Encyclopedia)
 
  GUITAR
A stringed instrument of the lute family, plucked or strummed, and normally with frets along the fingerboard. The modern guitar has six strings, a wooden resonating chamber with incurved sidewalls and a flat back.
 
 

MANDOLIN /BANDOLIN
Taylor suggests that there is some debate about the distinction between these two instruments. She notes that some Trinidadians consider them to be synonymous while others claim that the flat-backed version of the instrument is called the mandolin and the bowled bodied one is known as the bandolin (36). Some music reference texts seem to support the first theory.

  • Mandolin – A small plucked wire-string instrument. It has four double courses of strings, tuned g-d′-a′-e″ (like the violin), and a deeply bowled body. Modern variants have a flat or gently curved back but a wider pear-shaped body and sometimes an arched belly and f-shaped sound holes. (The Oxford Companion)
  • Mandolin – Any of several types of small pear-shaped, fretted string instruments plucked with a plectrum, quill or the fingers. Variations include the flat-backed mandolin – A general term encompassing various instruments (such as the bandola and bandolin), encountered primarily in North and South America. (The New Grove Dictionary)

Taylor maintains that both instruments are pear-shaped, approximately 45 x 24 cms, with four double strings of wire. The round back version is sometimes made with the shell of a morocoy or turtle (36).

 
 

MARACAS (chac-chac or “shak-shak”)
A pair of gourd rattlers, most commonly oval. The gourd contains the naturally dried seeds of the fruit. Imitations in wood, wickerwork, Bakelite or metal contain beads, small shot, or similar rattling pieces. In Trinidad and Tobago, maracas are usually made from the fruit of the calabash tree.

To make a Maracas, holes are cut in the top and bottom of the [calabash] fruit, the pulp is scooped out with some type of improvised tool, and the fruit is dried in the sun. Preference is for the driest gourds, providing clear crisp sound. Tiny dried seeds from the Indica Canna Lily (locally known as chac-chac seeds) are then inserted before a dowel-handle is placed in the chac-chac. (T. Mitchell, M. Mitchell, Flores, and Lezama qtd. in Fulton 80)

 
  POLLITOS
An ideophone [sic] that sounds similar to castanets, but look quite different. They are made in two rectangular pieces of wood (7 inches by 4 inches) with two square pieces half the length of the rectangles. Between each piece of wood is a tiny (¼ inch) round dowel. The three dowels and four pieces of wood are strung together with cord with a centre loop on the outside to place the thumbs.(Lezama qtd. in Fulton 80)
 
  TIPLE
Taylor notes that the tiple is a smaller version of the bandol with all metal strings. It is called the soprano because it is the most treble instrument in the parang ensemble (36). The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments defines the tiple as a small guitar of Spain, Colombia, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In Venezuela, it has five double or triple courses.
 
  VIOLIN
A stringed instrument played with a bow, having four strings tuned at intervals of a fifth, an unfretted fingerboard, and a shallower body than the viol and capable of great flexibility in range, tone, and dynamics.
 
  WOOD BLOCK
This is related to the rectangular wooden slit-drums that are used as time-beaters by the Han Chinese. The orchestral wood block is generally in the form of a rectangular block of teak or similar heavy hardwood with one or sometimes two slotted longitudinal cavities. The instrument varies from about 15 - 30 cm in length, 8 - 15 cm in width and 7 -10 cm in depth. The tone of this small instrument is resonant and penetrating. It is struck on the surface or the edge above the slot with wooden drumstacks or beaters.

CANTIQUES DE NOEL/CRECHE
Cantiques de Noël (Songs of Christmas sometimes called “French Parang”) are part of the French heritage of Trinidad and Tobago. According to Anthony De Verteuil, these songs were brought to Trinidad from Martinique and Guadeloupe and sung by patois speakers (19). It was largely a Roman Catholic tradition associated with the custom of “Keeping Crèche” (Reyes, “Parang” 13). Crèche, literally translated, means manger or crib and refers to a representation of the Nativity scene.

During the Christmas season, from mid-November to January 6th (Epiphany), families construct the Crèche in their homes using figurines, straw and hay to recreate an authentic manger scene. Cantiques de Noël were sung around the Crèche and usually described the birth of Christ. Traditionally, families either went from house to house singing these hymns or they gathered at the home of a central figure in the district.

Although the French-Creole patois was spoken by many people in Trinidad up to the 1930s (Reyes, T&T Heritage 4), the “French parang” has, for the most part, been supplanted by the Spanish language parang. The articles “Christmas Music of Trinidad“ and “Parang and the Crib are both Old Customs“ provide some interesting details on the traditions involved in “Keeping Crèche”

Two of the most popular cantiques are “Tombé du ciel” and “Allez mon voisin”. They are listed below along with their English translation.


TOMBE DU CIEL
Tombé du ciel, tombé du ciel
Tombé du ciel en terre (x2)

Quand Jésus naquit du ciel
De la vierge sa mère
Plusieurs anges ayant en dessein
D’annoncer ce mystère

Tombé du ciel, tombé du ciel
Tombé du ciel en terre (x2)

Pour aller chercher les vergers
L’un vole et l’autre trotte
Dans les champs et dans les vergers
On retrouve ri botte

Qui faisait la la la la la la
Qui faisait la la ri botte

Bien Bonjour Monsieur St. Joseph
Et la Vierge Marie
Et bien bonjour monseigneur Jésus
La chef des œuvres de la vie

Et bonjour la la la la la la
Et bonjour la la compagnie
Et bonjour la la la la la la
Et bonjour la la com-pagnie

FALLEN FROM HEAVEN
Fallen from heaven, fallen from heaven
Fallen from heaven to earth

When Jesus was born from heaven
Of the Virgin his mother
Several angels having the intention
To announce this mystery

Fallen from heaven, fallen from heaven
Fallen from heaven to earth

In order to find the orchards
One has to either fly or walk
In the fields and in the orchards
One retrieves ri botte

Who sang la la la la la la
Who sang la la ri botte

A very good day St. Joseph
And the Virgin Mary
And a very good day Jesus
The Creator of life

And good day la la la la la la
And good day la la company
And good day la la la la la la
And good day la la company

 

ALLEZ MON VOISIN
Allez mon voisin allez
Allez mon voisin allez
Allez mon voisin
À la crèche mon voisin

Promptement levez-vous mon voisin
Le sauveur de la terre
Un enfant parmi nous mon voisin
Envoyé de son père mon voisin

L’enfer est confondu mon voisin
Ayant fait une prière
Je portais mes présents mon voisin
À l’enfant et la mère mon voisin

Après quelques moments mon voisin
Le ciel à la victoire
Du messis entendu mon voisin
Chantons, chantons la gloire mon voisin

Allez mon voisin allez (x2)
Allez mon voisin à la crèche mon voisin ALLEZ!

GO NEIGHBOUR
Go neighbour go!
Go neighbour go!
Go neighbour!
Go and see the crèche

Promptly get up neighbour
The Saviour of the earth
A child among us, neighbour
Sent from his father neighbour

Hell is confused neighbour
Having made a prayer
I carried my presents neighbour
To the child and the mother neighbour

After some moments neighbour
Victory to heaven
Have you heard of the Messiah neighbour
Let us sing, sing the glory neighbour

Go neighbour go! (x2)
Go neighbour to see the crèche neighbour Go!

REFERENCES
“Bandola.” The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 1984.

“Cello.” The Free Dictionary.com. 2004. Farlex Inc. 26 Nov. 2004
http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Cello

“Claves.” The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 1984.

“Cuatro.” The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 1984.

De Verteuil, Anthony. Trinidad French Verse 1850-1900. Port of Spain, Trinidad: Instant Print, 1978.

Fulton, Carolyn. Trinidadian Parang: Caribbean Music for the Music Classroom. M.A. Thesis. Pacific Lutheran University, 1993.

“Güiro.” The Free Dictionary.com. 2004. Farlex Inc. 26 Nov. 2004 
http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/G%FCiro

“Güiro.” The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 2. 1998.

“Guitar.” The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 1984.

Ingram, Amelia. What is Parang. 2002-2004. Wesleyan University. 18 Nov. 2004 
http://aingram.web.wesleyan.edu/parangdescription.html

“Instruments - Güiro.” Music of Puerto Rico. 2004. Music of Puerto Rico Foundation. 26 Nov. 2004 
http://www.musicofpuertorico.com/en/instruments_guiro.html

“Mandolin.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2001.

“Mandolin.” The Oxford Companion to Music. 2002.

“Maracas.” The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 1984.

Marquez, Abdelkader. La Parrianda Trinitaria: Trinidad Parang. Caracas, Venezuela: Embajata de Venezuela, 1979.

Moodie-Kublalsingh, Sylvia. The Cocoa Panyols of Trinidad: An Oral Record. London: British Academic Press, 1994.

Parang: Revival of an Old Hispanic Tradition in Trinidad. n.p., 1992.

“Musical Instruments.” KEWL: Kids Enjoying the World of Learning. November 30, 2004. Illuminat Education Solutions Research and Development Team, Illuminat, Barbados. 26 Nov. 2004 
http://www.caribbeanedu.com/kewl/mix/mix08.asp

“Parang.” The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 2. 1998.

Reyes, Elma. The T&T Heritage at Christmas. 1996. Trini and Toby Heritage Publication. 26 Nov. 2004 
http://www.kacike.org/srcc/Christmas.html

“Parang and the Crib are Both Old Customs.” Trinidad Express, 25 Dec. [1973?], p. 13.

Taylor, Daphne Pawan. Parang of Trinidad. Trinidad: National Cultural Council of Trinidad and Tobago, 1977.

“Tiple.” The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 1984.

“Violin.” The Free Dictionary.com. 2004. Farlex Inc. 26 Nov. 2004 
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/violin

Walke, Olive. “Christmas Music of Trinidad.” Shell Trinidad, Dec. 1959, p. 5-6.

“Wood Block.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2001.