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Cedelle Petersen-Christopher, Virgin Islands Cariso Singer and Culture Bearer

  • Broadcast in Culture
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According to Mrs. Cedelle Petersen-Christopher, "Cariso is a melodic memory of our African past. It is an art form that was brought to the Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean during the enslavement of West Africans. It is a form of communication that was done secretly so that the slave master could not understand. It is an art form that was sung by the ancestors to transmit secret messages of rebellion; freedom songs of historical and current events; storytelling of long, long ago; and to make biting and stinging social commentary."

"Cariso which means 'carry it so' was sung by women exclusively in a call and response style accompanied by the men playing the barrel drums. At times the women would compete with each other and use their wit, poetic skills, and singing ability. It is on the sugar cane fields, towns, and villages, vegetable and fish markets this art form was practiced throughout the Caribbean. Long ago it was called Cariso and today it is called Calypso."

"It’s important for me to share this art form that was handed down from generation to generation.  It must be continued for the preservation of the history of the Virgin Islands."

Cedelle Petersen-Christopher, born on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands to Edna & Pierpont Petersen, was the 10th child of the family. Almost all of her siblings were in the music industry whether singing, drumming, limbo dancing, or playing bass, you would hear the rhythms throughout the house. Cedelle, with her sister, Sherryl Petersen, joined the St. Croix Talent Club in the 1960s to sing blues & R&B in local shows & many Caribbean islands. After graduating high school, she attended UVI where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Education & a Master's in Education from Cambridge College. Cedelle taught as a school teacher for 31 years before retiring in 2014.