Come late October, as soon as the Halloween decorations are half-price, stores everywhere start blasting Christmas tunes. It doesn’t matter where you go– you’ll probably hear classics like “Silver Bells”, “Feliz Navidad”, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” blasting over the airways.
We’re not saying that we don’t love the sound of Nat King Cole crooning “The Christmas Song” for the thousandth time, but…sometimes things can get a bit repetitive. Radio stations play the same songs over and over, like Christmas dinner leftovers that kids everywhere are forced to eat over and over again until they (finally!) run out.
Caribbean Christmas Music
But down in the Caribbean, holiday revelers are literally celebrating to the sounds of a different drum (or two). That’s not to say that no one who lives in the sunny Caribbean islands has never heard classic carols– to the contrary. It’s just that they also have their own “tropical” versions with some Caribbean flavor. In addition, many Caribbean radios play original Christmas tunes that many folks in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world may never have heard.
Music genres can include soca, reggae, or calypso, salsa, or latin music, to name a few. Some songs are written in Creole, others in English, Spanish, French or Dutch. Some are a mixture of several languages, a testament to the “melting pot” culture of many Caribbean countries.
Even if you can’t take a Caribbean vacation for Christmas this year, you can bring some “island style” to your home with Caribbean Christmas music!
Read on to discover some “Caribbean-flavored” Christmas songs to add to your playlist!
Christmas tunes– Caribbean style
Here are some well-known and beloved Christmas songs that you’ve probably already heard. However, they’re recorded with a twist– a change of rhythm, style, lyrics, or even language.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas– Jacob Miller & Ray I
The lyrics of this reggae version of “We wish you a Merry Christmas” may sound slightly unfamiliar. That’s because this laid-back Christmas tune comes from a 1978 RAS Records Album called “Natty Christmas”. The song and the album were popular both in Jacob Miller’s home country of Jamaica as well as in North America. The lyrics are a mixture of English and Jamaican Patois.
//We wish you a irie Christmas//
And a dancehall New Year…
(“Irie” is a Jamaican Patois word meaning “fantastic” or “excellent”.)
Angels We Have Heard on High– Baron
This fun twist on an old Christmas carol will easily get you into a “Christmasy” mood. Baron’s “Angels We Have Heard on High” maintains traditional lyrics while adding soca rhythm.
The song comes from an album called “Christmas with the Baron”, released in 1967 by the well-known Trinidad and Tobago singer Baron. The album is a collection of “old favorites”, including “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Auld Lang Syne”, remixed with upbeat soca arrangements.
All I Want for Christmas– Salsa Style
This upbeat salsa version transform’s Mariah Carey’s famous song completely! Although it was recorded by Norwegian singer Silya Nymoen, salsa itself comes from the Caribbean island of Cuba. The song belongs to an album called “Slynger julen inn” (Slinging the Christmas in), released in 2017 by Hovedøen Social Club. It’s perfect for some spirited Christmas dancing!
Original Caribbean Christmas Music
There are also plenty of Caribbean Christmas songs that aren’t covers of well-known Christmas carols or tunes. These can be some of the most fun songs to jam to because they aren’t like anything you’ve heard on the radio over the years (if you’re from the United States, at least).
Christmas Greetings- Lord Kitchener
This classic Christmas song harkens back to old times, when Christmas was more simple. The singer, Lord Kitchener (born Aldwyn Roberts in Trinidad and Tobago) was known as the world’s best known Calypso singer, along with artist Mighty Sparrow. You can find the song on the Vintage Caribbean Christmas Songs album released in 2017.
Santa Looking for a Wife– Bindley Benjamin
Poor Santa, he’s got so much work to do. Who’s going to help him? This song poses a solution: Santa’s looking for a wife– and a Caribbean one at that. Bindley Benjamin’s catchy tune came out in 2009 and was in instant hit in Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands. Composed in soca style, it mentions the fact that there’s no snow in the Caribbean during Christmas– it’s always “nice and warm”.
Gaita PotPourri from Aruba
Although the music style known as Gaita is originally from Venezuela, it’s incredibly popular in Aruba, especially during Christmas time. You can find a plethora of Gaita music to sample on youtube, and it’s probably unlike anything you’ve heard before. Gaita bands are made up entirely of women singers, although men can play the instruments to accompany them. They don’t use just any instruments, however. The furucu, cuarta, bass, piano, tambu, raspa, timbal, and conga give this Christmas music a unique sound. Gaita bands travel all over Aruba from late October to January, playing live in malls, businesses, and music venues.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year– Lee Perry and Sandra Robinson
This reggae classic from 1998 features a catchy rhythm and memorable melody with a simple message: enjoy your holiday season this year. Add this one to your Christmas playlist and imagine yourself relaxing on the beach this Christmas, without a care in the world.
Burrito Sabanero– Juanes
This song is an oldie but a goodie in Latin American countries. If you travel to any Spanish-speaking Caribbean country, such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, or Aruba, you’ll probably hear this hit on the radio. And most likely, it will be the version sung by Juanes, a famous Colombian artist. The song’s title translates to “The Little Donkey from the Savannah” and was first recorded by Venezuelan folk singer Simón Díaz in 1972. The lyrics tell the story of a traveler on his way to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace. A donkey accompanies the traveler as he makes his way to town, singing happily as he follows the Christmas star.
Don’t just listen to Caribbean Christmas music– experience it live for yourself! Book your holiday accomodations with KeyCaribe today.