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Parang Festival

Date: September - December

Although Trinidad was originally named and colonised by the Spanish - who later encouraged French planters to settle here with their households and slaves - it was not until the island was held by the British that a Christmas tradition of the Venezuelan peons engaged in the cocoa industry took root. This was the custom of house to house serenading that began with carols recounting the Annunciation, the journey to Bethlehem and birth of the Christ child; and which would usually end with more prosaic songs spreading the joy of the season. The songs were sung in Spanish. The singers were called paranderos. And the musical form became known as Parang, the sound of Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago. Instruments included cuatro (a small four-stringed guitar), violin, chac-chacs (maracas), a curious one-string box bass, and, of course, the voices.

 

While the custom of house to house visits continues mostly in close-knit rural communities; Parang has grown into a national folk form with events for groups of paranderos organised by the Parang Association. Not only parang groups, but calypsonians too, record songs in the Parang tradition - in Spanish or with Spanish phrases or choruses and according to the lilting lyrical tempo of the songs telling of Christ’s birth.

 

The official Parang season starts on September 25. There is a gradual build up that heightens the anticipation of Christmas which is the most commercial and popular festival of the year, celebrated by all citizens, whatever their religious background.

 

Where and when

 

Parang groups are invited to perform in malls and public places, as well as private functions and parties, as the Christmas season progresses. The National Parang Association of Trinidad & Tobago organises an annual competition which moves through venues in different parts of the country.