The Caribbean, for a small geographical space, has many different musical cultures.
Most people only know the big boys, the Reggaes, Reggaetons and Merengues but there are numerous other genres that deserve a little blog attention.
Here is a list of 10 I think you should check out.
10. Masquerade – Guyana
There are not many artists or musical genres from Guyana that are known outside of the country. Masquerade is a folk genre similar to Tuk and other fife and drum music types in the Caribbean. Like others, it is heard on festive occasions.
9. Kaseko – Suriname
Kasesko is a music out of Suriname. Its rhythm is based around the snare and an indigenous drum called the skratji. Leading artists include Carlo Jones and Yakki Famirie.
8. Calypso – Costa Rica
The construction of the Panama canal had a profound effect on the culture of the Caribbean as thousands of men left their agrarian lives to work for the Yankee dollar. Another Central American country touched by this Anglo-Caribbean transfer was Costa Rica, as shown beautifully by Costa Rican calypso.
7. Tambú – Curacao
Tambú is a folk form from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. At one point controversial, it is gone on to be part of Curacao’s cultural heritage, especially for its African descendants.
6. Ra Ra -Haiti/ Ga Ga – Dominican Republic
Ra Ra, as it is known in Haiti, or Ga Ga, as it is known in Dominican Republic, is a street music heard at Easter. It features keyless trumpets as well as bamboo tubes known as vaccines. Call and response is of course a big part of this form and like other street music types in the Caribbean, it is great fun.
5. North Caribbean Soca -St. Kitts and US Virgin Islands
In the northern Caribbean countries such as the US Virgin Islands there is a derivative of Soca that I think deserves special mention. It obviously borrows from the American pop sub genre crunk and therefore its melodies are more shouted than sung. It also sounds “loud” as the mastering engineer probably has all the gains at maximum.
4. Jonkonnu – Jamaica
While Reggae and the whole Ska complex are widely known, the folk and traditional forms of Jamaica are not nearly as popular. Jonkonnu is one of the oldest musical practices in the Caribbean and is a fife and drum music with relatives in Bahamas, the Carolinas and Barbados.
3. Bouyon – Dominica
Bouyon is a fusion genre. The group which promoted and performed this, WCK, sought to bring various Caribbean popular elements together. Bouyon really is a sub-genre of Soca but I still think it worthy to put on this list.
2. Gwo ka – Guadeloupe
Gwo ka is a drum ensemble music. It usually does not feature harmonic instruments. It is in the tradition of other large-scale drumming ensembles from the Afro Diaspora such as samba from Brazil and comparsa from Cuba.
1. Spouge – Barbados
Spouge is a popular form that lived and died in 1970s Barbados. It is played around November in Barbados, the time of national celebrations where things Bajan take centre stage.
So there they are, if you like what you hear, go check out more artists from these genres!
You will not be disappointed.