Due to the fact there is so little literature on Caribbean music (I have contributed however with my book, Caribbean Composers’ Handbook, shameless plug) and it is not taught with the biblical authority as with some other subjects within our school system, there is always debate as to what makes up a Caribbean genre.
This post cannot detail how genre works in the ENTIRE Caribbean, that would be 3 books and a thesis, however, what it can do, and is going to do, is show that a song does not belong to a Caribbean genre because of its music alone.* To prove this, here is a YouTube collection of some songs, which while having certain “Caribbean” rhythms, are certainly not seen to be part of any Caribbean genre.
Exhibit one, Artic Monkeys, “Do Me A Favour”
From a brief first listen, one could hear the distinct rhythmic pattern pictured below (taken from my book Caribbean Composers’ Handbook). This pattern is of course common within the Classic Soca Sound. However, I don’t, and not many others would consider “Do Me a Favour” a Soca song.
The same can also be said of the next song by Heather Myles which I don’t think was released for any Carnival.
Then of course there is the South Mediterranean and North African traditions, which use the main Classic Soca sound drum beat. Take a listen to traditional ballos from Greece.
Here also is Sam Bass from the Alan Lomax Collection doing a song that is certainly not from Trenchtown, although it has a reggae strum.
It is clear from these examples that music is not the only thing which defines a genre. So whenever you hear someone saying, “Listen to this, you heard this record of an American playing reggae?” remember that it is not only the music that makes a song fall into a genre but a whole bunch of other stuff too.
* check Fabian Holt’s, “Genre in Popular Music” or any discussion on this subject by David Brackett for greater understanding (Questions of genre in Black Popular Music).