I never realised how special Parang music was, until I put on “Alegria Alegria” by Daisy Voisin, the queen of Parang, one November day in 2005. There I was, in my apartment in West London, thinking I’d get into the Trini Christmas spirit, and BOOM…tears sprang from my eyes. After that, I was a snatty-nosed mess.
I wasn’t the only one.
Some days later, when another Trini friend visited me, I put on Daisy again. A few seconds later, her eyes were red and teary. As one friend said, in a depressed mood that Christmas Eve, “I know I shouldn’t put it on ‘cause it’ll make me more homesick, but I cyah help it!”
Hearing of people crying or getting emotional when they hear Parang, or even Soca, while living abroad, isn’t unheard of. I imagine it’s similar for any immigrant who misses something special about their homeland. Music is supposed to touch your heart, and move your soul. Parang does that for me.
For the non-Trini folk reading this, Parang can best be described as Christmas folk songs, sung in Spanish. Some say it came out from Spanish colonists’ influence on local culture. Some say Venezuelan immigrants brought it. Wherever it came from, all I know is that it makes me happy, and it expanded my Spanish vocabulary, beyond Sesame Street’s “uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez!” lesson from Maria.
As a Trini, nothing lets you know that Trini Christmas is “de bess”, better than the sound of Parang. Having spent Christmas in England, I can honestly say that I missed the natural vibe that you feel in the air, when Christmas is approaching Trinidad. No amount of Christmas decorations hid the fact that a white Christmas missed the warmth – and not the sunny kind – of the Caribbean.
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. And Parang makes the feeling official. So I thought I’d compile ten of my favourite Parang songs, with some Soca Parang thrown into the mix – because Soca Parang sweet too.
It was really hard to choose just ten. And is weeks now ah tryin’ to do it. But if I didn’t stop myself, I’d never finish my list. Here goes.
1. “Indian Parang Chick” (Kuchelala) by Taxi
Even if you dislike Parang (the horror of these people who dare to say such a dreadful thing), you have to admit that this song is a Christmas banger. Your body just has to move to the rhythm.
2. “Latin Parang” by Colleen Grant (I don’t need you any more)
If Beyoncé sang Parang, she would have sung this. With lyrics like: “Christmas comes only once a year…It’s the only time you ever seem to care…I got music in my soul now…I don’t need you anymore…” that tells a man off, while being self empowering, this is the Parang version of Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable”…with a sweeter voice.
3. “Trini Christmas (is de Bess)” by Susan Macio
This one automatically goes on the list, as it’s basically a national treasure. I’m not one for the general statements about Trinis, but yuh cyah be a Trini if you don’t know the lyrics to this song. “Ah give him bread, and ham, toogedda with a pastelle!” Right?
Now if we dissect her lyrics about meeting a strange man from Margarita, who wanted to take her to dinner the same night he met her, we’d think she was stupid for inviting him to her home for dinner instead. He could have been a serial killer! But it’s Christmas. Who has time to study such morbid possibilities?
4. “Anita” by Scrunter
Scrunter has nuff tune. And I love many of them, including “Ah want a piece ah pork”. But this one is an all-time fave from childhood.
5. “Parang Parang” by Singing Francine
Though born in Barbados, Singing Francine (also known as Francine Edwards) is an icon in Trini culture, primarily for her well-known Parang songs like “Parang Parang”, “Aye Aye Maria”, and “Hurray Hurrah”. Who would have thought the lady most of us know for epic Parang songs, is also equally known for her social commentaries, among calypso lovers? Francine, I haven’t listened to your calypsos, but I definitely love this one.
And number 6.
6. “Hurray Hurrah” by Singing Francine
7. “Si Yo Pudiera” by Sharlene Flores
If you love sweet, slow, mellow music, you’ll love this one.
8. “Vamos Vamos Vamos” by Flores de San Jose
Most of us don’t know the actual Spanish words to Parang, but does it matter when the music is this sweet? With Sharlene Flores providing lead vocals, this is another sweet Parang from Flores de San Jose.
“Vamos vamos vamos…Es hora de partir Adorar al Nino esta en Belen Adorar al Nino esta en Belen…”
9. “Alegria” by Daisy Voisin.
She is the queen. Google it, if yuh didn’t know. Nuff said.
10. “Mr Santa Claus” by Rembunction
Remy release this song six years ago, and continues produce music that makes you feel genuinely joyful, and eager to dance. My favourite line is “Ah go come to de North Pole…and cuff yuh in yuh nose hole.”
Check out his YouTube channel for his newer releases. Rembunction is not only good-looking; he’s seriously talented. He drew these cartoons you see in his videos and directs them. He also has some albums filled with rich music. You should check them out. Oh…and I was lucky enough to interview him before. You can check it out here.
…Okay, so I lied. I have two more.
11. “Bottle and Spoon” by Leon Coldero
When last yuh beat a bottle and spoon? Trinis are supposed to do this at least twice a year. For Christmas and Carnival.
12. “Bendita tu eres” by Flores de San Jose feat. Sharlene Flores
Oh…Santa told me I could add two more songs.
13. “Rio Manzanare” Here’s a live performance from the legendary Lara Brothers.
Ok. I have to stop now. Special mention must be made of other songs I wanted to include, like “Drink a Rum”, “Sai Sai”, “Compañero”, “Piece of Pork”, “We come out to Dance”, and “A song that I call Noche Alegria, but that’s not the name and I can’t find it online…weep”.
And I want to shout out DJ LazaBeam and Parang of the Bells by Laza Beam and David Cockburn for this new-age take on Parang. Me loves it.
Okay. Ah done! What’s your favourite Parang/Soca Parang tunes?