Parang music is one of Trinidad and Tobago's folk music that seems in a remarkable way to stay true to its original form, unlike other local genres of music. This first part of the article will look at the origin of Parang music and how the changing culture of Trinidad and Tobago affects this art form. The second part will look at this form of music, its distinct qualities, and the role it plays in the Trinidad's society.
The Festive Parang Music
In Trinidad and Tobago there are diverse genres of music. Some of these genres are seasonal, while others transcend the various seasons. One seasonal music is Parang music, particularly referred to as Trinidad's Christmas carol, that is mostly played and enjoyed around the Christmas time. This festive Christmas season begins in mid-October and ends around January 6, at the Feast of Epiphany.
Origins of Parang Music
The word "parang" derives from the Spanish verb "parrandear" which means to go out to town to have a good time. And that is just what this music represents. The liveliness of the music is contagious and it can have you swaying in a blink of an eye.
Parang music reflects its gentle beginnings. Though the real origin of this music has been lost in time there seems to be two trains of thought where its origin may have stemmed. One theory is that it was introduced to Trinidad by the Spaniards during their occupation in Trinidad, which began in the late 1400's and ended in 1797 when Trinidad was taken over by Britain.
The other theory states that its influence could have most likely stem from the Venezuelan peasants and agricultural laborers who journeyed to Trinidad in the 1900's to 1920's and settled in rural areas, such as Lopinot, Caura, Paramin, to work in the cocoa plantations. This community of cocoa labourers were known as the "Cocoa Panyols", a local distortion of the word "espanol".
The "Cocoa Panyols" had a tradition that reflected their mixed racial origin of Amerindian, Spanish, French, and African ancestry. Parang was part of their culture and this close-knit community maintained their language, customs, and religion that was reflected particularly in their music, essentially the parang music. They were proud of their music and the music was played with all their being. Some of the early bands that grew to national popularity reflected how this music was expressed in its rural beginnings.