Caribbean music is a beautiful blend of sounds from a variety of instruments. This alluring melody is capable of evoking powerful changes to one’s mental and emotional state. The rhythm and vibrations produced by this unique type of music has been said to bring about feelings of bliss. For this reason, many resorts and other establishments use soft, smooth Caribbean music to create an airy, stress-free atmosphere.
On the other hand, some genres of Caribbean music, such as Soca, is said to energize the listener. This is one of the reasons why Caribbean music entices many listeners to dance almost instinctively. During Caribbean carnival celebrations, energized listeners can be seen dancing and singing in the streets for hours.
Caribbean Music Genres
Caribbean music consists of a number of different genres. This is due to the fact that music from the Caribbean stems from a number of different cultures. The African and Indian cultures are two major influences in Caribbean music. Popular genres in the Caribbean include Soca, Calypso, Reggae, Zouk and more recently Dancehall.
Reggae music originated in the island of Jamaica in the 1960’s. It developed from an earlier type of music known as Ska. Its strong four beat rhythm is one of the things which make reggae music so distinctive. Another thing which makes reggae stand out is the guitar strum or keyboard strokes played in between the drum beats. Reggae music is often associated with Rastafarianism since it was (and still is) used by many Rastafarians to promote their views and beliefs. Indeed, Bob Marley, the man who brought Reggae to an international audience was himself a Rastafarian.
Calypso is one form of Caribbean music which blends African and European musical traditions. Sometimes, these songs may resemble English ballads in that they are simple songs with simple musical accompaniment. Many calypso melodies follow local speech tones and patterns and this is a reflection of their African influence. The style and content of calypso lyrics can be traced back to African patterns as well. These songs are often imaginative and witty. Often calypso music pokes fun at leading figures in society. Calypso music dates all the way back to the days when slavery existed in the West Indies. As emancipation drew near, slaves made up songs about their masters, local events and prominent figures in the emancipation process.
One Caribbean country which is known for its long tradition of calypso music is Trinidad. This country has produced many celebrated calypsonians such as Black Stalin, Chalkdust, Singing Sandra, Lord Nelson and many others. Arguably one of the most celebrated and famous calypsonians in the world is the Mighty Sparrow who was born in the small island of Grenada.
Calypso music is very closely linked with the various Carnival festivals celebrated in the different Caribbean countries. Calypso competitions are an integral part of Carnival celebrations and after several rounds of competition, one calypsonian is crowned Calypso Monarch. This Calypso King or Queen must then try to defend his or her title the following year.
Soca music developed from calypso music. It is sometimes described as a modern, up-tempo form of calypso music. Though the origin of Soca is somewhat disputed, it is widely believed to have been developed by a Trinidadian called Garfield Blackman in the early 1970’s. He experimented with the calypso rhythm, adding in some elements of the music brought over by East Indian indentured labourers. Soca music has become inseparable from the annual Carnival celebrated in many Caribbean territories. In fact, one can say it is the music that we dance to during Carnival season. There are Soca competitions during Carnival season where Soca Monarchs are crowned. Famous Caribbean Soca artists include, Ricky T from St. Lucia, Allison Hinds from Barbados and Machel Montano from Trinidad.
Zouk is a very rhythmic style of Caribbean music which originated in the 1980’s in the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. As such the lyrics are usually the French creole which is spoken in these islands. The word Zouk actually means “party” in their French creole language and this type of music really is party music as the name implies. Zouk is similar to and may have originated from Kizomba, a type of music which originated in Angola in southern Africa. The tempo of Zouk music may vary from quite slow to very fast but either way, the music is meant to be danced to. One of the most famous Zouk bands ever to grace the stage is a group known simply as Kassav.
Dancehall music originated in Jamaica in the late 1970’s. Singers like Yellowman, Shabba Ranks, Admiral Bailey and Supercat helped to make it popular in the 1980’s. This type of music is characterised by a singer, singing or rapping over raw, repetitive musical accompaniment known as a riddim. These riddims are much faster than reggae music and are made for dancing as the name implies. In the 1990’s singers like Buju Banton, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man took Dancehall to new heights. Today, popular Dancehall artists include Sean Paul, Shaggy and Vybz Kartel.