My husband and I have very different ideas about appropriate Christmas music. He grew up in the snowy Midwest, always with a real pine tree, wood crackling in the fireplace, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. I grew up in Trinidad, always with a lifelike but fake plastic tree, bright sunshine and cool breezes on Christmas Day just like any other day, and all sorts of creative Christmas music.
In our house we had Nat King Cole, sure, but we also had the Jackson 5, Daisy Voisin, who I’ve mentioned in the past, Jacob Miller, and in later years, Scrunter and Sprangalang.
Let me share with you the weirdest Caribbean Christmas songs I know.
1. Bring Drinks by Sprangalang.
OK. This will take some explaining to non-Trini Afrobella readers. In Trinidad, we enjoy our cocktails. Drinking is an accepted and frequently encouraged part of the culture, especially during the holidays. And there’s a tradition of holiday songs about consuming alcohol and food, starting with Drink a Rum (and a Ponche-a-crema), Scrunter’s I Want a Piece of Pork and Marcia Miranda’s Bring Out De Ham.
So who or what is a Sprangalang? Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall is a well known, well loved, and very distinctive Trinidadian comedian who now has become a singer/composer. His songs are very funny to those who know Trini dialect and culture.
Bring Drinks really captures the spirit of a Caribbean Christmas party, but in Sprangalang’s version, the cook at this house party has screwed up all the food. “Roti and egg! Peanut butter and turkey leg!” Never fails to put a smile on my face.
2. All I want For Ismas by Jacob Miller
Instead of his two front teeth, all Jacob Miller wants for Christmas is “collie herb.” As he says, “different strokes for different folks.” The late, great Jacob Miller was one of few reggae artists who embraced Christmas enough to produce a whole album, Natty Christmas. Trust me, it’s a classic. And if you like that, you’ll love Reggae Christmas from Studio One, a compilation that includes songs by Johnny Osbourne, Alton Ellis, and The Wailers.
3. Santa Claus Don’t Have No Wife by The Mighty Terror.
Proof that Mrs. Claus is a recent invention.
According to the late calypso legend The Mighty Terror, not only is Santa Claus living a lonely life, but he just may be a pedophile after your “girl children.” This might be the most menacing take on St. Nick ever recorded. (See also, Machel Montano’s Soca Santa for a taste of Santa experiencing the islands).
4. Christmas a Come by Eek-a-Mouse.
I can’t think of a reggae artist with a more distinctive style of delivery than Eek-A-Mouse. The 6 foot 6″ tall chanter/singer/language innovator had a hit in 1981 with Christmas A Come, which falls into another tradition of Caribbean Christmas music — lamenting poverty and an inability to buy toys. (See also Socks and Draws by RemBunction — a hilarious threat to St. Nick to come correct in terms of the gifts).
5. Trini Christmas Is The Best by Susan Maicoo.
I think the closest comparison to this for Americans would be Alvin and the Chipmunks’s Christmas Don’t Be Late. Vocally, dead on right? And also in terms of the cheesy warmth it makes me feel in my heart.
This song is all about welcoming a foreigner to the traditions of Christmas in Trinidad. She serves her visitor “bread, and ham, together with a pastelle, ginger beer, punche a creme, and sorrel.” I want them all. Right now.
Being away from home is hard at this time of year. I get a lump in my throat when I call my parents and hear Daisy Voisin’s voice in the background. Putting this list together helped to ease some of the tight homesickness in my chest.
Here’s a bonus video
6 — Home for Christmas by the supremely talented Blackman family, really expresses how it feels for a Trini to go home for the holidays. I love the celebratory vibe.
Our holiday celebrations in the islands might seem really different than what you’re used to in your part of the world, but we share similarities. Ultimately, the holidays are about loving your family, enjoying the company of your friends, celebrating religious traditions, and giving thanks and praises to the man upstairs for everything we’ve got.
Are you in the holiday spirit, bellas and fellas? What’s your favorite holiday song? Share with me in the comments. And happy Friday!