CALYPSO: A WORLD MUSIC
HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN FLORIDA
Introduction
Calypso in Trinidad
International Calypso
Artists
Songs
Calypso Today

Popular Calypsos and Related Songs

"Day-O" / "The Banana Boat Song"

One of the most popular "calypsos" of all times is not really a calypso. "Day-O" is a traditional work song from Jamaica about dockworkers loading bananas for export. Millions know the call of the Jamaican stevedore, who asks the "tally man" to count the heavy bunches of bananas that he loads, so that he will receive his pay.

The song was first recorded in England around 1954 by Trinidadian vocalist and actor Edric Connor. Connor called it "Day Dah Light (Banana Loaders Song)" and included it on an album of Jamaican folksongs that was not widely distributed. In 1956 two new arrangements of the song were recorded independently by Caribbean-American singer Harry Belafonte and the Tarriers, an American group that interpreted folksongs. Belafonte's version, adapted by songwriter Irving Burgie, was titled "Day-O" and was released both as a single and on his Calypso album. The Tarriers heard the song from another interpreter of folk music, Bob Gibson, who had traveled to Jamaica. Their version, called "The Banana Boat Song," is actually a medley with another Jamaican folksong: "Hill and Gully Rider." Both the Tarriers and the Belafonte versions of the song shot to the top of the pop music charts in early 1957.

Since the 1950s, "Day-O" / "The Banana Boat Song" has been recorded and performed by numerous artists. Even the Muppets have a version! In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., a parody appeared, based on wordplay with "tally man" and "Taliban." The song also remains an anthem for New York Yankee fans, who sing it heartily at home games.
 

sheet music cover
Sheet music

 

record label
Tarriers record
 

sheet music
Dutch sheet music