Videos & Interviews


Origins and History

Calinda is not a mas. Calinda has its origins in African stick fighting and drumming traditions, of which there are many variations. As a tradition carried by African Slaves to the island, the art has developed into formalized competition during Carnival season.

The ban on carrying sticks, imposed by the British government, was a major factor in the civil unrest that became the Canboulay riots.

The stick itself is roughly thirty inches in length and made from a variety of woods selected for a balance of strength and flexibility, treated with oils and often with heat to harden it.  The sticks have been referred to as “beau-sticks”.


Early stick fighting costumes were akin the Princely Pierrot in some ways, which lends further confusion to the differentiation between the two roles, as also Pierrots are known to be openly combative when facing other Pierrots.  Stick fighters in the 1800s have been cited as wearing a heart or diamond shaped breast cloth referred to as a “fold” which was often beaded as well and covered with shining glass, mirrors, etc.  Often constructed by loved ones, this central area was of particular connection to honor, and if shattered, it was a demoralizing blow to the assailed fighter.

Behavior, Context, and Audience Interaction

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Sound, Speech, Voice, and Text

A sample title of a chant in the Gayelle would be, “Pretty man nuh play in Gayelle”.

Sample Text from a Gayelle Song Would be,“Tell yuh muddah doh cry, tell yuh sister doh cry, tell yuh children doh cry. If yuh loss yuh teeth, real bois man doh cry. If yuh die yuh die, real bois man doh cry.”

Another sample Calinda text, presented by Errol Hill is, “Rain can’t wet me/When I have my poui in my hand./Rain can’t wet me,/I advancing on the foe like a roaring lion!”


Each stick fighter is said to have unique movement patterns.  However, commonly there is a rhythmic repetition akin to an exaggerated, highly stylized “chip” or shuffle.  The repeated rhythm of the movement pattern can be varied to throw off an opponent, and is often used tactically.  The non-combat segment of the performance has been described as dancing.  Stick fighters exchange blows as well.

Variations and Related Mas Topics

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Behavior and Audience Interaction

Traditionally, the sound of the Calinda worked in tandem with the fight and movements of the bois-men (trans. “wood men” or “stick men”) who were the stick fighters.  They would lend energy, dictate tempo of fight movements.  The Chantuelle, the singer (or chanter)  would instiage, and invite the audience from the gayelle (the ring of onlookers) to jump into the ring for battle.  It has been said that this extemporaneous speech/song style is the root of competitive calypsonians.

In addition to formalized Gayelles, there is also a network of “open” Gayelles that allow for far less regulated stick combat.

Bands and Individual Artists

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References to this in Art and Popular Culture

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related links

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Additional Images

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Additional Videos


Henry, Jeff. Under the mas’: resistance and rebellion in the Trinidad masquerade. San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago: Lexicon, 2008. Print.

Hill, Errol. The Trinidad carnival; mandate for a national theatre.. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972. Print.

Baynes, Cori. “MAS REPUBLIC: Stick fuh so.” MAS REPUBLIC: Stick fuh so. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2013. <>.