By Dave Douglas
With the fusion of soca and parang music resulting in a growing popularity this year, the Caribbean Christmas concert patrons in Toronto are beginning to turn out in even larger numbers.
This year saw some of the best parang, calypso and parang soca acts performing in Toronto. However, although everyone is pleased with the growth in the industry, there are concerns shared by two top artists from Trinidad & Tobago, Michael Anthony Osuana a.k.a Sugar Aloes and Edwin ‘Crazy’ Ayoung about the direction of the lyrical content of the relatively new genre, parang soca during the Christmas season.
An article in Trinidad Newsday indicates Crazy believes the sanctity of Christmas should not be tainted with smutty songs about wining, jamming and carousing.
He said, “Let us leave the partying and wine and jam for Carnival. Leave out the drunkenness and the bacchanal. We have plenty time for that. But let us keep Christmas clean.”
Among his repertoire are parang soca hits like Maria, Yvonne and Tito Lara. “I never sang a dirty parang soca song. Check out the lyrics and you will see. They are all clean. No smut. I give due respect to the season.”
However, to bring some clarity and better understanding of the roots of this tradition, we have to go back to the Hispanic origins of parang. A time when during the Christmas season from mid- October to Jan. 6, bands called parranderos would move from house to house in neighbourhoods, singing mainly religious songs called Aguinaldos (also known as Serenales).
Families would then greet the parranderos if they so chose with food and drink and allow them entry into their homes with songs honouring the host followed by songs of the birth of Christ, eventually ending with the theme of brotherly love, peace on Earth and joy to the world. Some of these sessions continued into the wee hours of the morning.
Recently, I met with the man called Crazy at the Parang Calypso show in Toronto. He had a very calm demeanour, a much cooler Crazy but on the other hand, a man with a vision of hope, a man who stands firm in the belief that Christ should be kept in Christmas.
When he took to the stage he thanked the audience for having him and reminded them that Jesus Christ is responsible for Christmas. He then introduced his song called Crazy for Jesus.
The lovable lunatic, as he is sometimes dubbed, is not alone on this subject.
“Sugar Aloes the original ‘sharp man’ also shares the same belief. During his recent performance at the Christmas Classic event, also in Toronto, Aloes asked the audience, “Well, we having fun ent it? Well, let meh tell yuh something, we can’t leave Christ out of Christmas and because of putting Christ in Christmas, those of you who feel it may be sacrilegious, it’s not!
“They told us in the Bible that even at the wedding Christ had turned water into wine. So, this being Sunday morning we can give God some praise.”
Almost instantly, Aloes converted the reveling crowd into a church congregation and had them shouting “Amen” and “Hallelujah” as he introduced songs from his soon-to-be-released album, How Great Thou Art. At the end of the segment, he reinforced that it is important that we add Christ in everything that we do.
As to what influenced his decision to take the stand to promote his Christian values, Aloes explains, “If you check the background of most of the children that grew up in the San Juan area in Trinidad where I grew up, most of them went to Catholic or Anglican schools. Religion was instilled in us from early and our parents and grandparents taught us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, so we have to respect the Creator.”
Regardless of our religious beliefs, this time of year embraces many diverse cultures and celebrations, so as we exit 2014, we extend to everyone best wishes for a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and toute monde, Prospero Ano y Felicidad.
Photos by Peter Tang
For more images, head over to www.TangCanada.com.