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Probably from French chanterelle (female bird used by hunters as a decoy to attract other birds; treble string of a musical instrument), from chanter (to sing, crow) + -erelle (variant of -elle (suffix forming feminine nouns, often with a diminutive sense)).[1]



chantwell (plural chantwells)

  1. (chiefly Trinidad and Tobago, music) A (generally female) lead singer of traditional cariso music, or of a calypso band. [from early 20th c.]
    • 1952, The American Magazine, volume 154, New York, N.Y.: Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, OCLC 648161680, page 97, column 1:
      The weird, off-beat music known as "calypso" is played in all the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean, but the place to hear it at its best is in Trinidad, where it originated. Every year the calypso singers, or "chantwells," as they are called, hold a "war" to decide the championship. The singer whose songs are judged best by popular acclaim becomes "king" for the year.
    • 1976, Robert J. Alexander [et al.], John P. Augelli, editor, Caribbean Lands, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fideler Co., →ISBN, page 89, column 1:
      Calypso began with the "chantwells." These were slaves who entertained plantation owners in colonial times. The chantwells made up songs about the people they knew and the things that happened to them.
    • 2008, “Calypso”, in Richard M. Juang, Noelle Morrissette, and Melissa Fullmer, editors, Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History: A Multidisciplinary Encyclopedia (Transatlantic Relations Series), volume I, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Denver, Colo.: ABC-CLIO, →ISBN, page 224, column 1:
      Calypso has, however, been linked to the kalinda, to which stick-fighters chanted and fought. The chantwell, or lead singers, of the stick-fighting groups functioned as social commentator and haranguer and so may be considered very early calypsonians. The chantwells, however, were thought to possess supernatural powers, and so their pronouncements of the injury the opponent would receive were taken seriously.
    • 2013, Rochelle Rowe, “Cleaning Up Carnival: Race, Culture and Power in the Trinidad ‘Carnival Queen’ Beauty Competition, 1946–59”, in Imagining Caribbean Womanhood: Race, Nation and Beauty Contests, 1929–70, Manchester: Manchester University Press, →ISBN, page 48:
      Subaltern jamette women predominated as the chantuelle, the singers of topical song, who led bands of people in Canboulay rituals, including kalinda (stick-fighters). The chantuelle were the forerunners of the predominantly male calypso artists who emerged as popular singers in the twentieth century.

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