Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Keep vulgar lyrics out of Christmas parang
Before Diane McIntyre could settle into her seat to chat about the upcoming Junior Parang Festival starting on November 3, she whipped out her cuatro from its case, and sat through the hour-long interview holding it affectionately in her arms as she explained why the festival was necessary.
McIntyre, who was once the music officer of the Division of Culture in what was then called the Ministry of Education and Culture, said she founded the parang festival primarily because of society’s negative perception of parang and its parranderos.
“What really upset me was once you said the word ‘parang,’ conversation would stop...No respect for parang. No respect. But also disrespecting you as a person who performs or likes parang,” she said.
She said there was once a misconception that parranderos were uncultured and uneducated.
Motivated by her desire to change this, McIntyre, while pounding her fist on the table for emphasis with each word, said that her goal was to “make every single person in Trinidad love parang.”
“I will make them love it,” she said, describing her thought-process back in the 70s.
McIntyre founded the festival in 1978 with its first showing at Providence Girls’ Catholic School in Belmont with about 12 schools participating. It is now a major event on the calendars of up to 50 primary and secondary schools across the country.
“When I thought up the festival, as much enthusiasm as you can have, you must have a venue. If you have no venue, you don’t have a festival. Providence just said ‘You want a venue? Take it.’”
From its humble beginning in a hall with wooden floorboards at Providence, Mcintyre realised she needed to expand to accommodate more schools, and the festival was moved to Woodford Square in its second year.
She credited the principal at the time, Sister Regina Leiba, for the overall success of the 35-year-old event, because she offered the hall so willingly.
McIntyre said many of the adults in today’s parang bands got their start because of participating in her festival as children.
“The cradle for the adults was the junior festival,” she said, remembering a young Alicia Jagessar, who has become a popular parang singer with Los Alumnos de San Juan.
She said people should not doubt the ability of children to learn Spanish and play parang instruments, as their performances could move anyone to tears.
In 2008, on the 30th anniversary of the festival’s inception, McIntyre took her talent and parang band Un Amor to Tobago and created the Tobago Schools’ Parang Festival.
She said her band teaches young students how to play the cuatro, guitar, mandolin, and violin in parang style, organised by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
“Tobago is absolutely onboard with the parang. Absolutely.”
McIntyre said she has been successful in making parang socially acceptable, evidenced by a high demand for parang bands to perform during Christmas, but there has been a development she disapproves of.
“It has now reached the stage where the first thing that comes to mind is parang, you must have a parang band. But it has come back to haunt me because it is now being bastardised.”
She said simply there was no such thing as “soca-parang.” As far as she is concerned, true parang should be sung in Spanish, and the subject of songs should be about the Christmas season.
“You want that parang vibe, you know what they do? They pick up a cuatro and sing a pack of nonsense. As long as the words phonetically remind the listener of Spanish or Spanglish.”
She said such songs, which stray from traditional parang, should be called Christmas calypso.
“Vulgar lyrics have no place in Christmas parang. I have no problem if you want to sing a Christmas calypso and you sing it in English.”
Such songs were “killing out” traditional parang, she said.
This year, the venue for the festival will kick-off at St Augustine Senior Comprehensive School on November 3 with primary schools.
She said none of this success would have been possible without the full support from school principals and teachers.
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