How we implemented the Children and Youth Drawing Competition and Teachers’ Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development in Cameroon

Written by Marianne on . Posted in Cameroon, General Information, News, News & Updates

Remember the E4S project implemented with support from the Cameroon-based youth-led NGO Vital Actions for Sustainable Development (AVD) a Children and Youth Drawing Competition and Teachers’ Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development. These activities took place in the city of Yaoundé during two months, from 25 August to 25 October 2014.

The Drawing Competition

The drawing competition was organized under the theme « Make a ‘Green’ Wish for the Planet » with the aim to promote education for sustainability in its social, economic and environmental pillars while also encouraging an open reflection on this theme which shall be placed at the centre of education of children, youth and citizens both inside and outside educational systems.

The competition was opened to children and youth of Cameroon, aged 10 to 20 years, students or not. They were invited to produce an artwork in the form of a drawing which represented their dream or wish for a greener and sustainable planet without pollution, where waste is recycled, sustainable energy is used and all citizens work together to protect earth from harm. Entries were also required to raise awareness about education for sustainability and inspire citizens on the topic.

E4S Cameroon_Educative talk5

Launching of the competition
The competition was implemented throughout three main phases. The first step was the official launching which took place on Monday 25 August in Nkolndongo Bilingual Primary School with the participation of students from Bastos Educative Centre. The launch event started at 10 a.m with as its first item a welcoming word by the head of the host school, followed by the presentation of the E4S project by the local representative who also presented the drawing competition theme and the expectations from participants. The importance for children and youth to take part in the contest was highlighted by him and he mentioned the amazing prizes to win by 10 children and 10 youth. A representative from the working team who developed the WWF Youth Strategy for Education for Sustainable, delivered a short word and his intervention was followed by a group of students from the hosting school which performed a great traditional dance.IMAG1346 Ahead of and during the launching, the E4S project team has distributed flyers with information about the competition and students and other potential participants were invited to join the educative talks scheduled by the project team. The launch event ended with an open-microphone for the public which served as a free space for people to express themselves and share their opinions about their understanding of the competition and the value of education for sustainable. The launch has ended around 2 p.m with a lot of music being played and open floor.
Educative talks in the schools

After the launch event, the E4S project team in Cameroon has delivered a number of 4 educative talks in the two targeted schools in Yaoundé city, with 2 educative talks organized per school. The talks were held during two weeks, from Monday 1st to Friday 12th September. Their main objective was to enable children and youth interested to participate in the competition to get familiar with the topic, the participation rules and to receive useful knowledge and information that could enable them to have a successful participation with very good entries. The E4S project team has facilitated the talks and got support from teachers in the schools. The talks took place as follows:

Educative talks in Nkolndongo Bilingual Primary School

The primary school hosted its talks on Wednesday 3 and on Friday 12 September. The project team went to the school on these days and had an open talk and discussion with the students on the competition topic in order to achieve the above objective. The students were really interested ad an active participation was noted. The teachers who supported the talks also encouraged their school children to give special attention the activity in order for them to learn and also win prizes.

Educative talks in Nkolbisson Government High School

The secondary school welcomed its educative talks on Friday 5 and Wednesday 10 September. The facilitators from E4S Cameroon team have accompanied students by providing them with support and assistance to produce good entries and understand well the competition theme and guidelines. During the second talk they had a chance to show results from personal reflections they made on their preparation for the competition. This has enabled the team to make suggestions to improve ideas students had as well as provide them with more practical knowledge on the topic.

Promotion of the competition in the schools and collection of entries

After the educative talks were completed, students from both schools were given three weeks, from Monday 15 September to Sunday 5 October, to start producing their drawings. This period of time was agreed in order to enable participants to submit many and good quality entries. The initial deadline for participation fixed on Friday 19 September was postponed to 5 October, International Teacher Day, because it was not very easy at that time to get students focused on an extra-school activity given that they just started the school year. It was therefore necessary to adjust the dates.

During the three weeks the project team went many times to the two schools in order to motivate and encourage the students to consider the competition as serious and thus participate. This task was supported by the teachers and also by some volunteers. The promotion of the competition was also made through the installation of posters announcing the competition in both schools as well as announcements during school gatherings which take place every Monday morning.


Selection of the competition’s winners

From 6 to 8 October a total of 232 entries were collected in both schools and external participants (students and non students) by the project team with the teachers support. Out of this number, only 200 drawings met the competition guidelines and were submitted later to the appreciation of a national jury which has chosen the winners. 169 entries came from primary schools and 63 were collected from secondary schools. At the end a number of 150 drawings from primary schools were submitted to the jury with 50 retained from the secondary school. The jury therefore needed to evaluate a total of 200 entries in order to select twenty (20) winners of the competition, including 10 in the children category aged 6 to 11 years and 10 in the youth category aged 12 to 20 years.

The selection of the winners for the drawing competition took place on Tuesday 21 October at Nkolndongo Bilingual Primary School which has offered to host the activity. The five members of the jury were chosen based on their support to the drawing competition, their understanding of the competition theme, their engagement with educational school activities, and their role as teachers or educators in both participating schools.

The jury had as main tasks to select twenty (20) best entries and rank them by merit order using a fair selection process and the following criteria: originality (5 pts), quality (5 pts), connection of the drawing with the contest theme (5 pts), contribution to the E4S project’s vision for Cameroon (5 pts) and the impact the entry could create on Cameroon ESD policy when shown to others (5 pts).

The jury meeting started at 3 p.m. and ended at 7 p.m. It was not an easy task given the good quality of some of the entries. The jury has first shortlisted some entries before making its final decision on them – the aim here was to better structure the process. Members reviewed all 200 entries one after another and then ranked them by merit order. This process was anonymous given that members were mainly teachers from the participating schools, thus knew some participants. The jury work has ended with a key reflection workshop on the competition learning which was facilitated by E4S local representative in Cameroon with a dynamic contribution from all members.

Award ceremony

The award ceremony for the drawing competition was held on Thursday 23 October 2014 in Nkolbisson Government High School in Yaoundé. It was attended by over 50 people, including the 20 winners of the contest, teachers from both schools, other students from the host school as well as special guests and family members who all came to encourage and congratulate the winners.

The event started at 12 p.m. with the singing of Cameroon national anthem by everyone. The E4S local representative in Cameroon then took the floor in order to remind the context and background of the competition. He also gave a summary of all activities that were organized. After him the President of the jury talked about the process to select the winners and how dynamic and engaging this task was, according to him. His words were followed by the opening remarks from the Head of Nkolbisson Government High School – the host school of the ceremony. She firstly recognized the importance of such initiative in empowering a new generation of young people who shall commit themselves to a better future and world. She then thanked the E4S team for their efforts in organizing the contest and appreciated the choice of her school for hosting the award ceremony. After her remarks, she invited the first prize’s winners from each category of the contest and gave them with their awards. The other winners were then called one by one in order to also be rewarded by the Head, jury members or teachers.


All winners received prizes which included certificates signed by E4S local representative in Cameroon and Nektarina CEO, T-shirts sponsored by Plant-for-the-Planet, books and magazines offered by Plant-for-the-Planet and Planete Jeunes, school supplies, bags, drawing materials, flyers about E4S, and the promotion of their drawings during the ceremony. The winning entries were therefore exhibited during the award ceremony. Winners along with their families, friends, classmates and teachers were present and had a great time. The ceremony ended with a group photo where all winners, teachers, jury members, organizers, guests and the Head of the host school came together. After that a cocktail was opened to participants.

The Teachers’ Workshop

One very important activity to organize as part of the E4S project in Cameroon was a Teachers’ Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development. This workshop was held on Tuesday 21 October at Nkolndongo Bilingual Primary School following the selection jury. The resource persons who took part in the jury work were the same given their support to the drawing competition, their understanding of the competition theme, their engagement with educational school activities, and their role as teachers or educators in both participating schools.

The aim of the workshop was to reflect the results of the drawing competition in order to discuss how it has provided participants with a learning journey to better understand the topic of sustainability and their possible role as agents of change. Secondly the workshop engaged the participants in a discussion on how a reform in the education sector in Cameroon could lead to the insertion of education for sustainability in the school curricula at the basic and secondary levels as a separate topic that will help the government to educate and empower citizens. Based on the drawings they have evaluated as member of the selection jury, the participants were able to see a link between this overall goal and what the children and youth have shared through their entries. The workshop has used a roundtable and open discussion as the methodology to enable contribution and dynamic participation.

From this reflection, it came out that many participants from both categories mainly understand the term ‘‘sustainability’’ in its environmental dimension (protection of the nature, fight against climate change or deforestation, waste management, planting trees, ensuring a greener world, etc). It was missing the other dimensions of sustainability and this has led the workshop participants to understand that it is very important that children and youth are knowledgeable about sustainability in all its aspects so that they are able to support this and get actively involved at the end of the day. Without a higher awareness raising action, there are huge risks that young people don’t see the point or importance of getting active in sustainability. Thus the importance of educating citizens – young people included – on sustainable development and sustainability is highly needed in Cameroon if the country want to achieve a cohort of citizens empowered on this notion and topic.


The workshop also discovered that the expected benefits of the competition on the participants are still far to be achieved and there will be a need for more focused action in a regular basis. If some participants have really shared their personal views (through their drawings) on what they wish for the future of the earth, many didn’t get the right approach or answer to the contest theme. This shows the lack of knowledge or interest on the topic, but also the lack of the educational system in Cameroon to make citizens aware of this topic and knowledgeable about.

In addition to these reflection points, the workshop participants also had an opportunity to evaluate each of the 20 winning entries in order to explore the possible ways they could be used later when the E4S project team in Cameroon would like to enter into a dialogue with the government of Cameroon and other stakeholders. This dialogue which could lead to established discussion about how a reform in the education sector in Cameroon could enable the insertion of education for sustainability topic in the school curricula of the basic and secondary education in order to educate and empower citizens with related skills. It would have been a great opportunity for the participants to also discuss directly with representatives from the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders such as UNESCO National Commission in Cameroon in case they would have attended the talks.

Finally, we are glad to invite you to see all the pictures of this activity and a selection of drawings on our Flickr page. 

15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) first feedbacks

Written by Marianne on . Posted in General Information, India, News, News & Updates

Nektarina Non Profit and its Indian partner Zest Youth Movement attended the 15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) from 4th to 7th of February 2015 in New Delhi.


The first day was dedicated to the High Level Corporate Dialogue under the theme “Delhi to Paris: Corporate Vision on Climate Change”. The main summit “Sustainable Development Goals and Dealing with Climate Change” took place during the three next days, with various plenary sessions, thematic tracks, keynote addresses and other contents.

An extremely rich programme thus! We kept our followers updated on the conference’s progress on our Facebook and Twitter pages during this special week and are in progress of preparing a complete feedback of the experience. In the meantime, here are some comments, outcomes and pictures we are willing to share.

DSDS 15 took place in the framework of the negotiations for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that will be held in Paris in December 2015 and of the current process of defining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a set of targets relating to future international development.


High-level governments’ representatives from all over the world expressed their commitment and willing to reach a serious international agreement on climate change coupled with a strong and fair financial mechanism. The role of businesses and the question of green economy were also widely discussed with major corporates representatives and CEOs. Finally, the tiered role of developed and developing countries and positioning towards the future strategies was debated.

The DSDS was also an important moment to remind India’s role on the regional and international scene on major issues like climate change and sustainable development.

We will come back with more detailed information soon and keep an eye on further progress on these crucial issues.

Please visit our Flickr page to see our entire DSDS photo album.

And our India E4S BROCHURE here.


Muslims vs Free Speech

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, News, Publications, Regions, Take Action

The recent attack on the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo by gunmen who are understood to be Muslim extremists did remind me of the publication of cartoons in a Danish newspaper years ago. Violent protests erupted over a series of cartoons which satirized Prophet Mohammad in Denmark. Moreover I was reminded of the murder of Theo Van Gogh who directed a provocative film that talked about women in Islam.

Not to forget in Pakistan we are having a YouTube ban after the release of a film, Innocence of Muslims. The ban is in place since September 2012 and apparently the chances of it being lifted are slim.

I hold the right to freedom of expression very dear and this debate that has been going on for years regarding Muslims versus free speech has always fascinated me. I am somehow shocked to know that people are being killed in the struggle to protect freedom of speech. People are murdered for what? Cartoons!

No wonder I still prefer Captain Planet, a cartoon series in my childhood that talked about saving the planet. A message that did create awareness and let’s not forget didn’t harm anyone.

In an open democratic society freedom of speech is the bedrock but in my opinion it should not include the right to offend. Today we live in a pluralistic society where we face many grave problems already, be it politicization of religion, terrorism and marginalization to name a few. Yes we do live in a multi-cultural society and have diversity hence we need greater limits on free speech. Freedom of speech does not mean the right to offend the sensibilities of others for the sake of enjoying greater power.

When free speech is used merely as a provocation that does not support dialogue or debate as it should then it definitely raises few questions. Is it about opening up a debate or attacking a minority community?

Today the clash between freedom of speech and Muslim sensibilities is becoming a major fault line. In this polemic it is important to note that there is a thin line between freedom to do anything and being offensive and if the equilibrium is maintained we need not to worry. I support freedom of speech but I do not support hate of any kind. In a democracy we already have censorship laws like the libel law and the blasphemy laws (exploited a great deal in many countries like Pakistan). We can’t just say whatever we want to. There are restrictions imposed by the law. Similarly with the freedom of speech which is our fundamental right there comes a responsibility. As civilized, sensible, sensitive and polite human beings, which we rarely are these days, we need to know what to say on a given day in a given format. Freedom of speech is not a western concept; it is a craving of the human soul.

As Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the British civil liberties advocacy organization rightly said on the issue of Muslims vs Free Speech :

“It is important to make a distinction between your legal right in a free society of free speech not unfettered because we don’t want child pornography and incitement to murder so there is always necessary and proportionate limitations on free speech but let’s separate your legal right that I would defend to the death actually from whether as a moral and ethical human being you on a given day in a given format to say this or that. That is really really important. You have a right of free speech but it not your duty to say the most offensive things possible and I must say that free speech is under attack but not for Muslims or Christians or just people of faith but from big brother politicians. It is a bit of a shame that we are talking that it is just about Muslims because it is not. I defend free speech and other liberal value, freedom of expression is incredibly important so why don’t we lead by example if we want to say to the Muslims, as I do in solidarity and friendship, don’t be overly offended by profane cartoons. While stick and stones may break your bones but not cartoons. If we want to say that then why should we be offended by women who choose to wear a headscarf or a hoody or anything else. Everybody is entitled to their human rights but sometimes in a democracy it is minorities who need human rights protection the most.”

This is not a battle between Muslims and the West. This is a battle of messages and counter messages. If some groups promote hate, death, intolerance and destruction- we call for life, pluralism, alliance of civilizations, compassion and peace.


Education for Sustainability in Venezuela has gain a new Partner

Written by Marianne on . Posted in General Information, News, News & Updates, Venezuela

Caracas from Mt Waraira Repano, Ávila.Caracas from Mt Waraira Repano, Ávila

We are happy to announce that Education for sustainability Project (E4S) has settled its base in Venezuela. Our new country manager Vladimir de Chelminski is aiming up high with a Green school Project, video making, networking, social media presence and much more to advocate for integrating sustainable development in Venezuelan schools.

It is good to know that even though Venezuela is far behind with sustainability consciousness from the people, policies and within education, there is some kind of boom, or success right now, with activities promoted by local activists that are changing many peoples’ paradigms.

The government has removed the Environment Ministry and made a fusion with the Ministry of Housing and Habitat, having 6 vice ministers for that matter. There is a lot of concern about it. But, since there are opposite forces playing on the ground, many people have decided to make the changes for themselvesWe are part of those people and we want to unite with all the other complements of this puzzle. Bringing good vibes and showing the world a possible way of being coherent with every possible relationship established on earth, the environment and the biosphere that feed us and give shelter.

IMG_9712crossoverCreative Cofee in Caracas. Linking Earth Activist. 2014

We want to present ourselves in front of the Venezuelan society as strong people who love the earth completely without borders, and bring possible solutions to have a better planet for our kids. Focus mainly in the positive rather than the ugly and giving example on the way.

We will penetrate the learning process and offer consciousness, thinking at least for the next seven generations.

We will start by doing the work inside schools while making visual register of all our steps, in order to make an explicatory video about a sustainable vision of our schools, and then present these solid statements to the government and try to change the course of the planet in a minimum but valuable way.

If you wish to collaborate in any way you could contact our E4S country manager at Thanks for the support.

IMG_9856Foro ambienteWhere is the environment going in Venezuela? Forum. 2014

“You Have Not come here to just enjoy Lima”

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Cameroon, General Information, Ghana, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Sierra Leone, Take Action, Trinidad and Tobago

1017932Manuel Pulgar Vidal , President of COP20 addressing the audience in Lima

Photo Source: Google

“This is the time to take decisions…we want to give a clear and strong message that we want to take this process forward…you have not come here to just enjoy Lima…we must not accept to leave Lima with empty hands ” Manuel Pulgar Vidal said in a passionate appeal to the negotiators on the second last day of COP 20.

Vidal who was acting as the President of the conference or COP 20 (Conference of Parties) shared the disappointed of many that no progress was made on the negotiating text. With just one more day to go till the end of the conference and negotiations it was indeed saddening to see another deadlock looming on the horizon.

When we talk about global climate agreement one question that pops out is; with the global political crisis, where most countries are at war with each other both physically and otherwise, will they ever be able to negotiate in terms of climate justice?  I have been asking this question a lot and have never come across a sane explanation. In an extremely unjust world ruled by people who value profit is it even possible to talk about climate justice? Are we just fooling ourselves trying to make a difference by attending these important meetings visited by the many heads of states who are good at posing for photographs with the delegates but not drafting sound agreements?

Climate talks have remained deadlocked be it Brazil or Lima. Defeated in Brazil we thought we have a battle to fight in Lima where we may win and now we are looking forward to Paris in 2015. Is it just about wasting another year? When it comes to climate can we really afford to waste these many years? What are we waiting for?

These glorious opportunities that bring so many countries together should be made use of properly without wasting too much time, money and energy. There was an Ad-hoc Working Group on Durban Platform (ADP) at the COP 20 that was supposed to decide how various countries will contribute in the fight against climate change. The contributions that will be determined nationally are called Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs will form the backbone of the global climate agreement that is expected to be finalized at the next climate conference in Paris in 2015.

Unfortunately there are disagreements existing on several issues related to INDCs. Regarding the actions that have to be taken by developed countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 there isn’t a clear understanding. By using the jargons many countries try to get away without presenting a clear action plan. The mitigation/adaptation debate over the INDCs and whether these contributions should be put to an international review had been slow.

The frustrating slow pace of the Lima negotiations does disappoint many around the globe including the developing world that is mostly on the receiving end. Developing world is most affected by the decisions made by the developed world that even ship its waste to the global South. Also some countries in the developing world  clearly have other priorities.

According to Al Jazeera “China has said emissions will peak by 2030, while India chose to put economic growth ahead of emissions caps.”

How many more conferences and drafts do we need to understand and acknowledge the unforeseen adversity in the years to come?

AlJazeera reported :

 “ In Peru, the venue for this year’s crucial climate change conference, illegal logging continues at unprecedented rates.”

 “The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is a city under threat as it is sinking at a rate of seven centimetres every year. By 2030, according to experts, half of the city will be below sea level. Step Vassen reports from the Indonesian capital.”

 “In South Sudan, many people are chopping down trees just to exist. The country’s oilfields generate billions of dollars a year, but all the oil is exported, leaving millions of people to rely on wood and charcoal for fuel. The current rate of deforestation will mean no forest will be left in South Sudan within three or four decades.”

And the list goes on. The empty slogans made by the politicians demanding actions against climate change in not enough. Someone rightly said that with great power comes great responsibility. Here I would like to make an urgent appeal to the world leaders/politicians to take up this responsibility without wasting more time.

The Man Who Grew A Forest

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Take Action

Back in the 50s a tale was written about Elzeard Bouffier . The Man Who Planted Trees was a tale written by Jean Giono and the character of Elzeard Buoffier was created to make readers fall in love with trees. After reading the story based on a fictitious character made me recall a living person who single handedly grew an extensive forest on 550 hectare sandbar.

 Jadav Payang has dedicated many years of his life to planting trees on the island leaving his home and education behind. Majuli Island is a sandbar that happens to be the largest river island on earth located in Northeast India. The forest planted by Jadav is known as Molai forest after his nickname Molai.


Jadav Payeng, Photo Source: Google

Back in 1979 when Payeng was 16 years old floods washed a large number of snakes on the shore of the sandbar. A number of snakes died due to the hot weather as they didn’t have any shelter. Payeng was taken aback by this carnage and tried to reach out to the forest department to grow trees there. They told him to grow bamboo himself and nobody was ready to be of any help. That was a turning point in Payeng’s life that motivated a single man to grow a forest that surpassed the scale of New York’s Central Park. Seeing Jadav Payeng makes one believe in humanity and selflessness. It is interesting to note that the sprawling forest now is home to many endangered animals. The story of Jadav is an inspiration for the world filling the wide chasms of hopelessness surrounding us.

In a world where ambition drives people crazy Jadav Payeng does give people a message of love for nature. By pruning and watering the plants morning and evening he does tell us that there are other living things sharing the planet with us whom we should look after. Payeng delightfully tells that it was an experience where the fauna and flora flourished including endangered animals like the Royal Bengal tiger and one- horned rhino.

 We all like to talk about saving the planet and hardly act on what we preach. All the conferences and seminars happening behind closed doors on environment and conservation might not have Jadav Payeng in their midst because he is busy doing something important. He is putting our words into action. We don’t need big words anymore we need action driven by a genuine passion and commitment to preserve what we already have. If the world has agreed upon any definition of a hero, Jadav Payeng is surely my hero whom I greatly admire for his dedication and commitment. What he has done and is still doing is truly extra ordinary.


IF MUSIC IS PROHIBITED THEN TRINIDADIANS WOULD RE-INVENT IT FOR THE WORLD: A brief history of Trinidad and Tobago contribution to the world of music.

Written by Claudia Caponi on . Posted in General Information, Regions, Trinidad and Tobago

Few countries can talk about fast population growth as the one experienced by Trinidad and Tobago: in 1777 its population was less than 1,400 and by 1789, the population of the island reached 15,000.

While this fact leads to serious problems within the immediate economy, the purveyance and the environment, it is also true that the varied origin of its inhabitants, their different customs and traditions gave rise to a culture shock at first, but to a strong cultural enrichment through time. This enrichment has been noted particularly in music, the dominant art in Trinidad, with their different traditions, festivals, carnivals and even unique and indigenous instruments like the steelpan.

The global contribution of Trinidad and Tobago to the world of music is recognized internationally and very important, and it is due to its inhabitants diversity of origin and the capacity of recognizing the interesting points in another’s culture.

Several factors contributed to this rapid population growth: the distribution of a decree by the Spaniards, owners of the island until 1797, created for those who wanted to go to the island to sow and harvest and that would free the settlers from taxes for the first ten years. Also the French Revolution of 1789 had a strong impact on the exodus that took place into the island, resulting in the migration of Martinican Creole planters and their French slaves who would be established in Trinidad to create an economy based on agriculture, specifically sugar and cocoa plantations.

The famous, elaborated, traditional and very amusing carnivals of Trinidad and Tobago

Diverse cultures found themselves in one place in the Caribbean, away from their land but always with the country of origin in the heart and the will to keep the patriotic traditions and perpetuate them through the generations. One of these traditions is the carnival the French brought with them. And although workers and slaves also celebrated it, it was forbidden for them to participate in the same party as the masters and white Europeans; so they formed their own carnival called “Canboulay” which is the precursor of the Carnival currently being held in Trinidad and Tobago, an institution that has had an important impact on the cultural and tourist development of the island.

From 1845 until about 1917 the migration continued into the island, with different nationalities ranging from Indians, Syrians, Portuguese, Chinese and Africans who went to the island to work as laborers and brought their traditions and influences. It is especially remarkable the influence of the Indians who went to Trinidad and Tobago in 1843 as indentured workers to fill the labor void left by the abolition of slavery. The Indians brought to the island their folk music that fused with the local creating what is known as chutney music, a fast and lively rhythm that incites dancing and hence the origin of its name.

The Canboulay was actually an illegal party, in which all marginalized sectors of society were concentrated. For society in control these festivals symbolized the violence repressed by their workers and slaves, a potential revolt that had to be abolished at all costs. So to avoid the direct prohibition of Canboulay, drums were banned, a key element of the celebration. An ingenious substitute for drums and sticks was a local invention called tamboo bamboo: sticks of bamboo cut to different sizes and thicknesses that allowed different sounds combined together. The local and marginalized population could not only continue with their music despite bans, changing the musical elements to the extent possible, they even used the local material offered by nature to continue their national traditions. Three types of instruments were obtained from bamboo, and its use during carnival lasted for many years until it finally was rendered obsolete by new modern steel bands. According to Rafael DeLeon, a Trinitarian musician and historian internationally renown, when he was a kid carnival music was made with all kinds of found or everyday objects: garbage lids, pieces of metal, bottles hit with spoons, cooking utensils and any other object which produces sound when struck with a stick. After all it was impossible for the authorities to ban anything that made a sound when being hit!


   Group of the 40s, with their steelpan made by hand.  These groups are called Steelband nowadays.

Using these clandestine, handmade instruments, that hid the desire to celebrate the carnival in freedom as the masters did, gave rise to an interesting cultural mix, held in the hills of Trinidad, where the masters could not hear the drums, many times celebrated during the night and often combining other traditions learned through oral communication brought by the ancestors that came from Africa and were brought to the island as slaves.

One of these traditions is a dance called Belé: here the European tradition is mixed with the African. When the French came to Trinidad and Tobago they took their Creole slaves with them. Both were used to a lively lifestyle, with dances and concerts that always remembered the Grand European balls. Slaves, in their spare moments, imitated in the fields not only the European fashion but also their dances and movements. The rhythm of African instruments combined with the European tradition gave rise to a folk dance, usually danced by older women in the fields all night long, far away from the masters while they were having their own celebrations or were asleep.

The Calypso, probably the most internationally known musical movement derives from these clandestine musical forms, adapted slowly over time by the different socio-cultural moments that the island lived through. One of its predecessors is the Kaiso, a musical movement that emerged after the emancipation of the slaves and the verse duel sung that hid a political subcontext. Gros Jean has the reputation of being the first calypso singer in the days when calypso was sung in “patois” and with his lyrics he created an exchange of insults in verse that later developed into the “wars of calypso” or current verse duel song.


Steelband of our days.

Calypso takes African and English influences, and it becomes the voice of the people. When English starts gradually replacing “patois” (Creole French), it also does so in music; a certainly advantageous fact for international recognition and subsequent acceptance by the local government. Although their mainly anti-colonial and outright opposition to the British lyrics made it become an anti-British underground communication method.

The year 1914 marks a milestone in the music history of Trinidad and Tobago, as this is the year a first album of Calypso was recorded in the island; the presence of American soldiers on the island due to the Second World War contributed to the worldwide expansion of the indigenous rhythm. The 1930’s are the Golden Age of Calypso, at this point contests for performers were organized in search of the “King of Calypso”, in 1939 Growling Tiger won it with his song “The Labor Situation in Trinidad,” which as can be predicted by its name, talks about the precariousness situation of the workers on the island. It is for this reason that singers of calypso are considered dangerous by the government and the elite in charge, because they know that these singers have charisma and can mobilize and especially create consciousness in a large part of the population that should be aware of their terrible and appalling working conditions. Elites always stayed away from the celebrations, and the Afro-Creole middle class, who tried hard to open themselves a place among the dominant white class, thought that keeping distance from the village celebrations could carve themselves a good social position.

The music in this case is used as an instrument of mass communication, to create awareness in a battered, illiterate and exploited population. Music is the best way to reach them and make them understand their situation in society and how they can change it; something that is not convenient at all to the oppressive and ruling class.

During the 70s the popularity of Calypso reaches all corners of the world, and also new rhythms emerged as the derived Soca music or Rapso, greatly increasing international sales. The Indo-Trinidadians popularized their chutney music throughout the world also during this period. It is also the time when women make their way into the local music scene, and in 1978 for the first time a woman won the competition to the “King of Calypso”, and because of Calypso Rose won the contest it had to be renamed as the “Calypso Monarch” competition.

The influence of the British settlers who brought to the island the only music well received and accepted by the elites in every society party must also be included in this musical melting pot: Western classical music. Initially used as the music in parties where the dances of European high society were represented and reproduced, was gradually introduced in the local society through music festivals that still exist today and that have been fused with the local rhythms.


  The steelpan, national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and the only percussion instrument accepted internationally that was invented in the 20th Century.

One of the greatest contributions to the world of music is the steelpan, an instrument invented in Trinidad and in fact, the only acoustic instrument invented in the twentieth century. Born as an instrument used by slaves, at first a drum made from empty oil barrels beaten with a bamboo stick, the performers realized that the hardest hit areas of the drum began to produce a pitch sound, so if the oil drum was modified they could also modify the sound that came from it. At first the steelpan was manufactured by hand, now, due to the high global demand, these instruments are made industrially. It is a concave drum on which the whole musical scale is present.

Initially the steelpan was associated with marginalized communities and its use associated with violence and lawlessness; until Dr. Eric Williams, leader of the People’s National Movement, and the man regarded as the father of the nation, worked and did everything possible so the upper classes will eliminate their prejudices about the instrument and it would be accepted as an important element within the local culture. Today the steelpan is used internationally and is considered the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.

Another interesting geographical influence is the one of Venezuela in the Christmas music played and heard on the island, called Parang. It is not only an interpretation done during the Christmas season, but it carries within it all the usual Christmas celebrations and traditions of the Caribean. Their interpreters usually visit the homes of relatives, neighbors and friends; playing these songs in Castilian, usually with instruments like guitar, maracas, mandolin, violin and even cuatro, the national instrument of Venezuela.

Currently Trinidad and Tobago remains a musical country with an ancient culture that has been the basis for a mix of ingredients brought from the whole world, giving a unique result and recognized worldwide. The music is still evolving but always from the base of the original rhythms. Currently rhythms like Rapso with their musical poetry are the communication tool for people to express their everyday experiences.

As we see the Trinitarian culture has perpetuated over time, thanks mainly to its ability to adapt to the changing of times and take the best elements of each culture. Everything depended on the ability of fusion that have had the different cultures that have passed through the island. Each nationality has been fueled not only by the local customs, but the customs brought by other people. Everyone wanted to leave in their children the footprint of their ancestors, orally recounting their experiences and express them through music. Music has been the unifying and pacifying element in many cases, thanks to it Trinidad and Tobago have been enriched from an accelerated population exodus that had taken full advantage of the coexistence of all the cultures of the island inhabitants.


Growling Tiger: “Money is King”. A song from the 30’s that talks about the big economic gap the different classes of his period suffered:

The worldwide famous Harry Belafonte, with his song Matilda, that talks about a woman that steals all his money and runs to Venezuela:

Mighty Sparrow: “Congo Man”. Talks about the situation of Africans brought into Trinidad to work as slaves:

Sundar Popo: “Nana & Nani”. International representative of chutney music:

Lord Shorty or Ras Shorty: “I watch out my children”. Big experimenter and fusioner of all island rhythms, from calypso to indian music:

BP Renegades: “In De Minor”. A steelpan group or steelband. In this video it is possible to appreciate the influence of European music in the island:

Samples of Parang music, the christmas music of the island:

Calypso Rose: “Fire Fire”. The first woman that won the “King of Calypso” contest in 1978. After her the contest changed its name to “Monarch of Calypso”:

Lancelot Layne: “Get off the Radio”. The father of Rapso:

A list of 20th Century Calypso greats:

Belé Dance: