What is Parang?


In this short introduction, I will explore the various elements of Trinidadian parang.  First, here are some attempts to describe parang by local scholars...

The local revelry that is parang is the visiting of merrymakers to the homes of family, friends or patrons to sing songs in Spanish to the accompaniment of certain musical instruments; usually, the guitar, the cuatro, the maracas or chac-chacs, the mandolin, the bandolin, the violin and the bandola and sometimes the cello.  There is also dancing and the eating and drinking of fare appropriate for festivity.” (Taylor 1977, 15)
'Parang' is the present Trinidadian interpretation of the Spanish word, parranda .  Parranda is the action of merrymaking and also refers to the group of carousers who serenade their friends throughout the year.  The word parranda in general Spanish is used mainly in the expression andar de parranda, which in the modern Trinidadian vernacular is 'to go paranging,' akin to the Venezuelan parrandear, meaning not only merrymaking in the original sense, but also 'liming' or enjoying oneself, with or without music, moving from place to place with no time limit in mind. “(Moodie-Kublalsingh 1994, 65-66).

In summary, parang is the staged act of merrymaking, music, dance, and food typical of the Spanish Creole community of Trinidad.  While it is most actively performed during the Christmas season, parang (also used as a general reference to Spanish Creole music) is also used in other festivals and ceremonies throughout the year.   The most notable of these are the Santa Rosa Festival at the end of August, the velorio del cruz (or cross-wake), and the Sebucan festival in May.  In Trinidadian vernacular, parang is a signifier of "Spanish" or Hispanic-derived culture on the whole, in a similar fashion to "East Indian music" or "Chinese music," however the history of Spanish Creole culture in Trinidad also includes Amerindian mixing, Venezuelan migrations and “cocoa panyol” (or plantation Spanish) village communities.   While parang's performance and references are multifaceted and historically/culturally complex, I will attempt to give some  framework to the tradition(s) in their local contexts. 
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Parang is Music

Parang music includes a "core"  instrumentation of the following:

In contemporary parang ensembles, the following instruments are also added to/substituted for core instrumentation, especially the mandolin or bandolin.  As I will explain later, the addition of certain instruments is due to rthe adaptation of the music due to loss of players (for certain instruments, such as mandolin) and adaptations to the stage. .

Parang encompasses a number of religious and non-religious song types.  Here is a list of the some of the major song types encountered by the author during her fieldwork in Trinidad.  In addition to this, some scholars include soca-parang (or Christmas soca with some parang instrumentation), however these are not frequently performed at parang fiestas and are primarily performed by calypsonians. Audio examples are included as they become available.

Song Type


Audio Example
(all samples in MP3 format)


  1. Anunciacion

  2. Nacimiento

  3. Serenale

  4. Despedia

  5. Easter themes (Crucifixion, Resurrection, etc.)

6/8, slow-moderate tempo

  1. announces the coming of Christ

  2. celebrates the birth of Christ

  3. sung at the door during serenading

  4. Sung leaving a private house parang

  5. celebrate the Easter rites, also sometimes performed at Christmas

  1. "Alegria" by Daisy Voisin

  2. "Gloria del Nacimiento" by Los Alumnos de San Juan

  3. "Abriendo Puertas" by Sharlene Flores with Flores de San Jose

Castillian (Vals Venezolano)

3/4, moderate waltz tempo, secular song, generally an instrumental

"El Diablo Suelto" by Daisy Voisin (incidentally, there are many versions of this song title, which is usually a joropo)

Estribillo (Serenal)

6/8, moderate tempo, secular song



6/8, moderate tempo, improvised Spanish lyrics, both religious and secular themes, traditionally sung in lyrical competitions over repetitive bass rhythm

  "Galeron" by Rebuscar


(from Venezuela), 6/8, secular song with moderate tempo. Characterized by use of gaita drum (a barrel drum) and considered to be Afro-Spanish

"Hay Que Cantar" by Robert Munro


6/8, quick tempo, secular song

"Gavilan" by Rebuscar

Guarapo (or Guarap)

6/8, quick tempo, secular song, lyrics mostly celebrate the drinking of guarap, or fermented cane juice (traditional among the Amerindian community)

"El Guarapo" by Daisy Voisin


(from Venezuela) 6/8, quick tempo, secular themes, characterized by quick tempo/meter changes

Desafio” by Robert Munro Among Friends (he is a Trinidadian master of the Venezuelan joropo style)


6/8, moderate tempo, secular song, describes the Manzanares river (in Venezuela and possibly Spain)

"El Manzanare" by Las Estrellas

Velorio del Cruz (Cross-Wake/Vielle Croix)

6/8, slow tempo, galeron is the typical song performed for this ritual

 Vielle Croix” by Rebuscar

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Parang is Dance

Senior Dancers

In parang, there are two primary dance styles:  a slow castillian waltz, and the quicker duple-feel gavilan style.  The castillian waltz always brings the older parranderos to the dance floor, the remnants of a rural Trinidadian cocoa-estate community.  The couple in this first photo are dancing the castillian, a waltz-style dance in a slow, stately pace.  In this dance, the couple must maintain a "respectable" distance apart from each other, as in the European ballroom waltz.  The couple is almost always male-female in this dance, and it is rare to see someone dancing solo.  


In the quicker parang style, the couple will usually dance much closer, and thus more sexual tension is exhibited.  It is more common to see solo dancers in this style (as illustrated above), since it always draws many more participants onto the dancefloor.  The quicker style is related to a larger number of song types, including the aguinaldo, gavilan, guarapo, joropo, manzanares, and gaita, since each of these songs are based upon a 6/8 rhythmic feel. 
In the contemporary settings of nationalized competitions, "latin" songs bring a greater variety to the dance, adding Dominican
merengue and Puerto Rican salsa to the repertoire.  These song styles are more popular with a younger group of participants, primarily young middle-class and also the expat/visiting Venezuelan youth.  As one can guess, these dance styles have also influenced the quantity and quality of crowd that follows the competition fetes, in the popularization of this formerly rural, non-competitive tradition.  Additionally, the more intricate dance-steps of salsa have inspired Trinidadians to attend Latin dance classes and, for the afficionados, Latin music nights at nightclubs in urban areas (i.e., Port of Spain, San Fernando).  
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Parang is Food

The foods typically found at a parang event are also traditional Christmas fare to most Trinidadians:  pastelles (steamed chicken or pork-filled cornmeal patties), empanadas(fried version of pastelle), paime (sweet pastelle), sorrel (a spicy cider), ginger beer, rum, "babash" (home-brewed alcohol), wild meat (i.e., wild game); and at more intimate family gatherings, roast pork, pelau (chicken and rice), and sometimes cassava bread (an Amerindian tradition). Here are some recipes for preparation of the parang delicacies.  I would gladly accept any contributions to this section from chefs or food afficionados!

Cristo's Homestyle Pastelles*

1 lb. beef or pork, minced
2 onions, chopped
1 bunch chive & thyme
hot pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
Cilantro (Shadon Beni)
1 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

2 c. cornmeal
3 c. tepid water
4 tbsp. corn oil or 1/4 lb. margarine
1 1/4 tsp. salt

  1. Season beef with onion, chive and thyme (2 kinds), cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, black pepper and salt.

  2. Cook well

  3. Heat 2 cooking spoons of oil.  When oil is properly hot, put two tablespoons of roocoo (annato extract) for coloring

  4. Adjust salt and pepper to taste

  5. Mix cornmeal, tepid water, salt and oil to make soft balls

  6. Using a pastelle press or hands, press balls of corn on leaf.  Put 1 tbsp. or more of meat mixture and fold neatly.  Tie.

  7. Place in steamer or colander and steam for 20 minutes.

Note:  Use banana leaves, warmed over open fire to make pliable, then cut and cleaned.

Ponche de Creme

6 eggs
3 tins evaporated milk (large low-fat)
1-1/2 tins condensed milk
1/2 c. rum
1 tsp. Angostura bitters
grated nutmeg

  1. Beat eggs with lime peel until light and fluffy

  2. Add evaporated milk

  3. Sweeten to taste with condensed milk.

  4. Add bitters, grated nutmeg, and rum according to taste.

  5. Remove lime peel and served with crushed ice.

Ginger Beer

1 lb. fresh green ginger
4 c. granulated sugar (2 lbs.)
1/4 lb. potatoes
4-6 grains cloves
1 stick cinnamon
8 c. boiling water

  1. Wash, remove skin and grate 1 lb. green ginger

  2. Peel and chop potatoes in medium pieces

  3. Put ginger, potatoes, clove, cinnamon and sugar in a large bottle or jar.

  4. Pour boiling water over ingredients.  Sitr and cover; allow to brew for 2-4 days.

  5. Strain and bottle.

Serve with ice and Angostura bitters.  Ginger can be diluted with water if the flavor is too strong.


1 grated coconut
1 lb. cornmeal
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
4 oz. dried fruit
banana leaves
1 lb. pumpkin
1 oz. shortening
1 oz. margarine
sugar to taste
1/2 pt. water
twine for tying

  1. Grate coconut and pumpkin

  2. Add all other ingredients

  3. Stir in enough water to make a dough of dropping consistency

  4. Wipe banana leaves and heat them to make them pliable

  5. Cut into pieces about about 8" by 8"

  6. Place about 2 tbsp. mixture on each piece

  7. Roll up, fold over and tie.

  8. Place in boiling water and boil for about 20-30 minutes.  Test one to see if it has set, if not, cook for a longer period of time, depending on size of paime.

Source:  Naparima Girls' High School Diamond Jubilee 1912-1987, Trinidad & Tobago Recipes
*Pastelle recipe courtesy of Cristo Adonis, Calvary Hill, Arima

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Works Cited

Moodie-Kublalsingh, Sylvia.  1994.  
The Cocoa Panyols of Trinidad:  An Oral Record.  London:  British Academic Press.
Naparima Girls' High School.  1988.  
Naparima Girls' High School Diamond Jubilee 1912-1987: Trinidad & Tobago Recipes.  Trinidad:  RPL Ltd.
Taylor, Daphne Pawan.  1977.  Parang of Trinidad.  Port of Spain, Trinidad:  National Cultural Council of Trinidad and Tobago.
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Page researched and written by Amelia K. Ingram, Wesleyan University, 2002.  All rights reserved.
 All photography by Amelia K. Ingram, © 2002, Trinidad.  All rights reserved.  
For publication or copyright permission, please contact the author at:  aingram_at_wesleyan.edu
Thank you for your cooperation.