Parang: Trinidad with a Hispanic flavor

Salsa Picante - Photo credit:

Extracted from: Parang
by Abdelkader Marquez
Updated: November 27, 2005

Parang music, which characterizes the Christmas season of Trinidad and Tobago, has its roots in Venezuela, but it has developed its own Trinidadian flavour, absorbing Colombian and even Cuban music into its sphere.

Since 1979, when a Venezuelan diplomat wrote about parang, the music has evolved further with electronic instruments, new compositions, and new influences.

Daphne Pawan-Taylor, author of Parang of Trinidad, a publication of the National Cultural Council of 1979, writes, "Parang is a term which identifies a custom belonging to Trinidad's Hispanic Heritage. The word itself is neither Spanish nor English. It is the colloquial term for "parran", the abbreviation of "parranda", the Spanish word which means a spree, or carousel, or a group of more than four people who go out at night singing to the accompaniment of musical instruments."

Dr. Taylor explains that Trinidad has incorporated many words of Spanish origin simply by eliminating the last syllable or last letter from the word. Some examples of this are "guarap" for "guarapo," sugar cane juice; "lanap" for "la hapa," an extra portion; "alpagat" for "alpargata", sandal; "taso" for "tasajo", dried meat; "planas" for "planaso", a term associated with relations between Trinidadian fishermen and the National Guards; and even the verb "mamaguy" for the Venezuelan idiom, "mamadera de gallo".

As a noun, parang identifies a custom originating from Spanish tradition on the island which consists of celebrations which take place from the last week in November until January 6th. In Trinidad, the real season starts during the middle of October with rehearsals by musical groups, and ends after January 15th.

During this time, on radio, TV, and at private parties, nothing but parang is heard. This is expressed in the following Trinidadian piece: "Parang por la manana":
Parang por la manana
Parang al mediodia
Parang a toda hora
Como si fuera comia
As an adjective, parang describes the music, musical instruments, dances, costumes, etc., related to the season.

In the form of a verb, to parang means to wander, to travel merely for the sake of pleasure and without destination.

Paranderos, of course, are those who participate in the celebrations.

The origin of parang is still a matter for discussion. Some maintain that the custom was introduced by Spain during the Spanish occupation of Trinidad (1498-1797), and was adapted to the island's environment, influenced by its contact with Venezuela and kept alive by the constant communication with that country. Others believe that the custom came from Spain through Venezuela during the Spanish administration of both countries, and continued through communication with Venezuela.

Trinidad parang has its own national characteristics and is enjoyed by all, despite the difficulty experienced by many in understanding the words sung in "local Spanish" to Venezuelan rhythms. Recently, Colombian pieces such as "The Caiman", "La Mucura" and even Cuban pieces such as "El Muneco", "Cuando Sali de Cuba" and others, have been included in the repertoire of many parang groups.

There can be absolutely no doubt about the continuing Venezuelan influence on Trinidad parang. One has only to look at the names of the most popular paranderos: Paul Castillo, Clarita Rivas, Soltero Gomez, Silvestre Mata, Rita Guerra, Petronila Marcano, Marcelina Hernandez, Jose Pena, Jose Espinoza, Adrino Reyes, Luis de Leon, Casimiro Leon, Gloria Alcazar, Pedro Ramos, Paulina Lezama and many others. The same applies to the names of the various parang groups: La Divina Pastora, La Sagrada Familia, Los Muchachos del Agua, Los Pavitos, La Libertad, Las Estrellitas, Ay Caramba, La Tropical, Los Caballeros, La Santa Familia, Los Hermanos Lara, La Estrella de Oriente, La Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, Los Amigos, Los Campaneros, and Rancho Quemado.

Parang has been kept alive in the hearts of Trinidadians mainly through the efforts of the older generation, who maintain the tradition of parang in the outskirts of Port of Spain.

Also Read:

There's More To Parang

Origins and Nature of Parang Music

A video clip of Parang misic

Windows Media Player required

Source File

Trinidad and Tobago Parang Album:

Homepage | Carnival Features | Special Events | Photo Gallery