What is Parang? Well Parang is the soundtrack to Christmas here in Trinidad. More than that however Parang is also a culture, a way of life that sweeps through my island after the lights of Eid and Divali have been put away.
The What is Parang? webpage has a wonderful overview of the history and features of Trinidad Parang.
‘Parang’ is the present Trinidadian interpretation of the Spanish word, parranda . Parranda is the action of merrymaking and also refers to the group of carousers who serenade their friends throughout the year. The word parranda in general Spanish is used mainly in the expression andar de parranda, which in the modern Trinidadian vernacular is ‘to go paranging,’ akin to the Venezuelan parrandear, meaning not only merrymaking in the original sense, but also ‘liming’ or enjoying oneself, with or without music, moving from place to place with no time limit in mind. (Moodie-Kublalsingh 1994, 65-66).
Los Alumnos de San Juan Parang Group (credit unknown)
Growing up parang meant two women in particular, Daisy Voisin and Sharlene Flores. Daisy Voisin was the Grande Dame of Parang and no one will ever touch or claim her crown, I think all would agree. Her voice and passion for the music have not been matched and it really is a shame that more has not been done to document her life, her performances, and her artistic legacy. I am really glad to be in possession of one of the last CDs she made before her death in 1991. Fortunately through the magic of YouTube we never have to be without her voice or image
For more on Daisy Voisin:
• Alexandra “Daisy” Voisin – de Queen of Parang (TnT Island)
• Daisy Voisin (Wikipedia)
Unlike Daisy, Sharlene Flores was the ambassadress of a new musical hybrid ‘parang soca’. Distinguished by English lyrics and a more secular message she put a fresh young face onto the art form. I haven’t really heard her much from her since the 80’s, and those songs from my childhood still remain her most popular, becoming local standards.
For more on Sharlene Flores:
• Sharlene Flores (Wikipedia)
In the past 2 decades the lines between carnival soca and parang soca have become increasingly blurred. The parang soca of Sharlene Flores’ day seems downright languid compared to the faster rhythms of today’s fete joints. first by melding calypso rhythms to become parang soca, and most recently by incorporating classical Indian rhythms and tonalties to form ‘chutney parang soca’. Much like our cuisine, the possibilities for musical fusion seem endless!
The current Queen of Parang Soca for the past decade or more has definitely been Marcia Miranda! This song brings to mind the roving bands of parang singers (parangderos) that used to be very popular criss-crossing the country. You’d welcome them into your home and they would sing in exchange for food and drink. Pretty similar to Christmas carollers I suppose. I haven’t seen them as much in recent years, but I know that they are still going strong in many communities around the country. Unfortunately however, as the below video demonstrates, it seems Marcia’s vistors left with a whole lot more!
So far I have been focusing on the ladies of parang and you would be forgiven if you thought there were no men. The fact is that the men in recent years have not been as prominent, however for many decades the Lara Brothers ruled as Parang’s Kings (alongside Daisy’s Queen).
The men of parang today are much more likely to be found in its more lucrative hybrids. Parang soca is pretty much owned by Scrunter.
And for chutney parang you need look no further than Neeshan Prabhoo
So, there we have it. Christmas as Parang. It could only happen in Trinidad!
Over the following days I will be sharing the following with you (links will automatically update as each post goes live ) …
TriniGourmet’s Official Christmas Recipe Round-Up!
This post was originally published December 7th, 2006. It has been updated once since then.
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