The connection between musical rhythms and how we play

by Shaun Fuentes

published with the expressed permission of the author

What similarities are there between T&T and Brazil, if any?  The first thing that comes to mind is Carnival.

Like Brazil, we are a country inclusive of immigrants and like them, our annual Carnival celebration is used to create and divulge the concept of national identity, of a fun-loving, happy people in a permanent state of dancing celebration.

It has been said that the movement and rhythm of music influence the approach to football of different cultures and nationalities in Brazil.  “Show me the way a man dances,” said one prominent South American coach, “and I will tell you how he plays football.”  The pounding of the drums and the sway of the hips are vital to the tradition of Brazilian football, where not all the steps are to be believed - some are feints designed to fool the opponent.

Rhythm section - D’Radoes Steel Orchestra
Rhythm section - D’Radoes Steel Orchestra 

You remember the call of “Kaisoca Soccer” by former National coach Everald “Gally” Cummings.  Was there a connection between our music and culture and the way we played the game.  Do we still have that influence? We did have it but not so much anymore, said Strike Squad forward Leonson Lewis.

“Yes and no to that question as to whether there is a connection between our music and rhythm and the way we play football,” Lewis told me last week.

“I remember in the 1980s, Gally used to tell us about Kaisoca Soccer.  He used that term based on the strengths of the players and their attributes.  The speed, agility, the way we could move with the ball at our feet, the tempo at which we played.  Of course, I think there was an influence.  My mother had me joined an Arawak dance group from a very young age and then with Eugine Joseph in Mon Repos and mom would always tell me she sees the dancing style in me whenever I played.  The way I moved my feet but also I used to use my shoulders a lot in playing and that came from the dancing.

 Rhythm section - CASYM Steel Orchestra
Rhythm section - CASYM Steel Orchestra

“We would have a lot of music playing on the bus and rhythm sections.  So yes to back then but like you said the football has evolved so much since that I don’t think we or any other country has any particular brand of football that they refer to as theirs anymore.  There are so many other elements in the game now and I don’t think we as a country see that influence of our rhythm as a people in we play anymore,” Lewis added.

Brazilian football has often been portrayed as a Carnival in boots, the players taking the field more interested in self-expression and enjoyment than in winning the game, happy to concede five goals as long as they can score six, and happy even if they don’t.  Perhaps we were also like that.  I’ve been told time and again that back in the day the players played with more excitement and love for the game.

Tim Vickery, a resident of Brazil, wrote, “But all the samba stuff can be exaggerated.  First, Brazil is huge, and samba is not the rhythm of preference in much of the country.  The last man to lead Brazil to World Cup glory was Luiz Felipe Scolari, who like many of today’s top Brazilian coaches comes from the south, a region much more influenced by mass European immigration.  It is not easy to imagine Scolari dancing the samba.”  So there’s a twist.

Clayton Morris, the captain of the 1989 Strike Squad believes there is an influence in our style of players but perhaps not as much on our general style of play?

“This is a very interesting and important topic and yes this had an important part in my life as a sportsman and national footballer...I was born in a musical family and grew up in a multicultural community in St Ann’s,” Morris said.

‘Steel band music caught my attention from as early as five years.  I recall in the earlier days on the national youth team..  Winston Phillip who was also involved in Steelband at the time - we had a rhythm section on the team bus which motivated the players before games...this was clear during the Strike squad campaign in 1989 with all the calypso songs that were produced during that time...so yes this is very important and adds to a nation’s cultural tradition in sports and more,” he continued.

 Rhythm section - Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra
Rhythm section - Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra

So the debate goes on.  Is there a connection, whether it be in football, track and field, cricket or other sports.  Hold on.  what if our laid back approach as a people is negatively affecting what our athletes do out there?  That discussion is for another day.

Shaun Fuentes
Shaun Fuentes

About Shaun Fuentes
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA (Trinidad and Tobago Football Association) Media.  He is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and currently a CONCACAF Competitions Media Officer.

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