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The Ibibios and the origins of limbo and calypso. The enslaved Ibibios and, I suppose, other slaves would gather, plant two poles on opposite ends, and place a bar across. They’d take turn(individually) dancing and negotiating their bodies to go underneath the bar and exit on the opposite end without upsetting it, no matter how low the bar was. The accompanying chant used to egg on and lead the dancer to a successful exit went something like this: ‘kaiso, kaiso, kaiso—–.’ That means go forward, go ahead, more, etc. The dance was later named limbo. Ka means go. Iso means forward. Kaiso therefore, means go forward in the Ibibio language of Southeastern Nigeria. The Ibibios who were kidnapped from the Niger Delta, shipped across the vast Atlantic ocean, and subsequently enslaved in the caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago brought their music, language, and traditions with them. In slavery, their customs and traditions got interwoven into the larger slave culture of the area, but the word kaiso(go forward, go ahead or, more) survived. It later became the name of Trinidad and Tobago’s most popular music. Kaiso evolved into calypso and, that too, evolved into soca;a blend of American soul music (so) and calypso (ca); hence, soca. The very fact that the word kaiso was common and accepted enough to be used for naming a dance or song suggests that the Ibibio slave population of that area was strong and socially influential. Little Inara says the people must have really enjoyed dancing while chanting, kaiso, kaiso, kaiso. She just told me, “How I wish I was there to bust a move.” I wish Justin Bieber reads this write-up so Inara could have her little christmas-time peace on earth wish come true. Man, talk about teenage crush.
December 9, 2012
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