Salsa, soca, calypso…you’ve probably heard of those Caribbean music styles before. Maybe you’ve even danced or sung to Caribbean tunes from time to time. Furthermore, who could deny the success of genres like reggae and reggaeton?
However, you probably aren’t aware that the Caribbean has produced many other unique music styles as well. They may not be as well-known, but they are just as awesome!
Here is a list of some of the many, many Caribbean music styles that exist today:
- baithak gana
Caribbean music styles you may not be familiar with
Let’s take a look at some lesser-known Caribbean music styles. Scroll through and discover something new! Who knows? One of these just might become your new favorite style…
Zouk is also called “zouke” It gets its name from the French verb “secouer,” which means to shake intensely and repeatedly. This Caribbean music style comes from Guadeloupe and Martinique. These two Caribbean islands have French ties. Invented by the French Antillean band Kassav, the style was most popular during the 70s and 80s.
Zouk is fast-paced and danceable. In addition, it’s normally written in French. Today, it is often referred to as “zouk-love”. Usually, it involves playing a synthesizer, guitar, bass, a big drum called a Gwo ka, and the shak shak. The shak shak is an Antillean instrument similar to maracas.
Pichakaree has a very interesting history. Followers of Hinduism from India created it in Trinidad & Tobago for their traditional festivals. Therefore, it has both Indian and Caribbean roots.
The name “pichakaree” comes from the long tubes used to spray abir (colorful powder) during celebrations of Phagwa. Phagwa is a traditional Hindu holiday. In Trinidad & Tobago, devoted Hindus play pichakaree during Phagwa each year. RaviJi, a spiritual leader of the Hindu Prachar Kendra, invented this Caribbean music style as a way of responding to derogatory calypso songs about Indians sung in Trinidad during Carnival.
Pichakaree songs often tell stories, using Hindi, Bhojpuri, and English words.
This joyful music style comes from the Caribbean island of Dominica. It was created during colonial days on slave plantations. Jing-ping musicians normally played several accordions together. Other instruments used are the tanbal, a type of goatskin drum, a large bamboo flute called a boom-boom, and the gwaj, a type of shaker. Today, jing-ping music may be played using modern instruments like a drum set and synthesizer.
Jing-ping is often accompanied by the circle dance, also known as the flirtation, or the Dominican quadrille.
Baithak-gana originates from Indian settlers in Suriname. Some consider it a combination of chutney music from Trinidad & Tobago and music from North India. Lyrics are most often written in Bhojpuri, a north-eastern Indian language.
Furthermore, this style traditionally uses various instruments of Indian origin. For example, the harmonium, a free-standing keyboard, often plays the accompaniment. Two percussion instruments called the dholak and dhantal serve to keep the beat going.
Interestingly, baithak-gana has made its way to other countries outside the Caribbean. This happened because Indo-Surinamese people moved to other countries. Therefore, today you might hear baithak-gana in the Netherlands, the United States, and Canada. Modern baithak-gana players often use electronic drums and synthesizers.
Punta music was born in the 18th century in Central America. It spread throughout Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Punta combines African beats with Caribbean instruments. Furthermore, it began with the Garinagu. The Garinagu came from the original inhabitants of the Caribbean, the Arawaks and Caribs. Their culture, often referred to as Garifuna, has been preserved through the sounds of punta.
Because the Garifuna ethnicity can be traced back to many nations, the lyrics of punta may be written in several languages. For example, the most traditional songs contain Arawak and Carib words. In addition, the lyrics may be Kriol, English, Garifuna, and Spanish.
Palo is a type of religious Caribbean music from the Dominican Republic. It has african roots. However, European countries have also influenced its melodies. Today, you might hear Palo music during religious ceremonies related to folk Catholicism, or during festivals or parties. Consequently, the lyrics of the music often honor Catholic saints.
Palo music is somewhat simple. For example, usually only drums or other percussion instruments accompany the singer or singers. Furthermore, the name “palo” comes from a hollowed-out log drum called “palo” in Spanish.
This music style originated in Jamaica in the 1970s. It began as a variation of reggae. Its name comes from the Jamaican dance halls of the 1950s and 1960s. In these halls, young people came together to dance to both western and Jamaican music.
When digital instruments became popular in the 1980s, dancehall evolved to contain fast rhythms and a hip-hop like feel. Today, it has come along way from its calmer reggae roots. In addition, the lyrics are almost always Jamaican Patois.
Today, the genre has managed to break into western mainstream music. The first dancehall single to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 was Sean Paul’s “Get Busy”, released in 2003. And no–that song doesn’t contain a bunch of “gibberish” as many Americans might think it does. The lyrics are Jamaican Patois, the hallmark of Dancehall.
Lastly, let’s take a look at compas. It is a Haitian-African music style. Compas is dance music, similar to méringue. The band Conjunto International made this genre popular in the 1950s. Nowadays, you can hear it in many other Caribbean countries, like Dominica. In fact, zouk music comes from compas.
Today, compas is well-known in many countries. These include Portugal, Canada, France. In addition, many people listen to it on the North American, South American, and African continents.
Furthermore, “compas” refers to the beat found in much of Caribbean music. Therefore, it uses many percussion instruments. For example, the conga, horn instruments, synthesizers, bass guitar, and cowbell are some of the instruments of compas music.
Main image source: Roseau City Guide
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