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October 22, 2008

Origins of Rapso

What is Rapso?
There is a popular myth that rapso is the fusion of American rap music with soca, hence the name rapso. Sounds plausible, but not true. Rapso is a unique style of street poetry from Trinidad and Tobago that originated in the 1970's. Rapso was created to relate to the everyday experiences of everyday people. The late Lancelot Layne is the man responsible for this genre.

Origin of Rapso
During the 1970's Trinidad and Tobago experienced much political and social unrest. The 1970's saw the rise of the Black Power Movement and a corresponding pro-African sentiment. Trade unions also began to take a stand. This is the environment that gave birth to rapso. Some of the first rapso songs were chanted on the picket lines.
Lancelot Layne's 1970 hit Blow Away was the first rapso recording. Layne is also well remembered for his 1971 recording Get off the Radio. In 1976, Cheryl Byron was the first rapso artist to perform in a calypso tent. At the time, she was scoffed at "whoever heard of poetry in a calypso tent?" Today Cheryl Byron is recognized as the Mother of Rapso.

Brother Resistance
Born Roy Lewis in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the man known today as Brother Resistance is one of the founding elders of rapso. Renowned as one of the most important contemporary Caribbean poets, Brother Resistance began writing poetry as a schoolboy. Everyday he and a group of friends would write poetry and exchange it among themselves. He later went on to join the church choir, but still did not realize that he would become a singer. For a time, he worked as a disc jockey and adopted Resistance as his DJ moniker.
In 1980, Brother Resistance and his Network Riddum Band released their debut album, Busting Out. It was the Network Riddum Band that coined the term rapso. Since then Brother Resistance, also known as Lutalo Makossa Masimba, has gone on to become one of the Trinidad's best known rapso performers. He has written a book, Rapso Explosion, and along with Karega Mandela and Brother Book, was instrumental in establishing a day of celebration for rapso in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of Brother Resistance's more memorable songs include Tonight is De Night, Ring De Bell, Mother Earth, and Handclapping Song.

Rise of Rapso
The 1990's gave birth to a new generation of young rapso artists. Combining the positive messages of rapso with dance rhythms, artists such as 3 Canal, Kindred and Black Lyrics have done much to popularize rapso music.

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