Alexander D Great - Broadcaster/Composer/Educator
 
WHY CALYPSO?
  
Calypso is the complete performance art form encompassing the creation of an original song and performance from scratch.
I use calypso to examine any subject on the curriculum and have done divers projects including Drugs, Alcohol and Street Crime, Ancient Egyptians, Magnetism, Bullying, Brixton Market and Refugees. I use two  main methods of working, one for pre-school and Key Stage 1 and another for Key Stages 2 and 3.
  
During pre-school and key stage 1 I tell very simple stories with little one or two line chants in them (e.g. "fill up the pot, fill up the pot, fill up the pot with something hot" for an Anansi story). I give out percussion instruments (one for each child) and they play as they sing the little chants. Also nursery rhymes and bits of old Caribbean folk songs (Linstead market or Brown Girl in the Ring).
 
At Key stages 2 and 3 pupils should be writing their own calypsos. The simplest form is the "Call-and-Response" model. Pick a subject upon which to write and ask the class to come up with a suitable phrase for a response. This should last for 4 beats e.g. FOLLOW THE LEADER, LEADER, LEADER", WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?, NO DON’T STOP THE CARNIVAL" etc.Put pupils in groups of 3 - 5 and ask them to write two lines which rhyme. When all have completed the task (should take 10-15 minutes or so) they perform the whole song as a class, with the lines moving from one group to the next, interspersed with the response.
 
Older children, aged 9 or 10 and up, should be able to construct a proper calypso over three or four sessions. The approach to this is outlined below as a series of steps which do not have to be adhered to slavishly but provide the children with a methodical approach. Bear in mind that multiple intelligences are at work here and children have different ways of accessing and controlling information.
The following list is a mix of method and perceived benefit to participants, i.e. what the kids get out of it.
 
1             the conceptualising or re-telling of a story, news item or theme .
 
2             the designing of a song structure (verse, chorus, bridge etc.) and writing of lyrics which take into account line length, syllabic and rhythmic stress, rhyme schemes and metaphor, to name a few.
 
3             Composition of a melody which complements the words and suits the mood of the subject. (This is subjective as children have different ideas as to what constitutes a tune but in essence I mean using pitch rather than recitation or rapping. A tune makes word setting much more flexible.
 
4             Singing and/or playing simple accompaniments on instruments, from simple percussion to anything a child plays. Utilise their ability and have them improvise their part in accompanying the calypso. Let them explore their potential.
 
5             The students design their own performance. Who sings which bits, verses, choruses? Do they have a number of different singers in their group eager to sing lead in the verses? If so, do they share the job one verse each or a line each in every verse? Structure!
 
6             Add mime, dance, gesture and costume to the overall presentation and you have a mini-opera lasting 3 minutes.
 
 
Best of all, you will have a bunch of very confident, pleased - with - themselves (and eager to please you) pupils.
 
 
 
Alexander D. Great (12/10/05)