Last month I contributed to an article written by Sharine Taylor from Noisey.
Here is the link.
There have been a number of notable deaths this year and in Caribbean music none more significant than the recent one of Juan Formell.
As this blog’s readership is made up of mostly English speakers, (the global stats indicate this), many of you may have not heard of Juan Formell before.
Formell was the founder, composer, arranger and leader of the most popular post-revolution music group ever to come from Cuba, Los Van Van. This group, which has been around since the late 1960s is to Cuba what Bob Marley is to Jamaica, Kitchener to Trinidad, Blades to Panama and Red Plastic Bag to Barbados. If you doubt me, take a brief look at minute 20 when they managed to get 270 000 people to a concert in Santiago de Cuba.
In short, Formell was immense. Thanks for the music Juan, a Caribbean music great. Music aLive, now and forever more, Amen!
In Peter Wade’s book, “Music, Race and Nation,” he makes the observation that many of the Caribbean and Latin-American countries have very similar types of “national music.”
I never realized how similar they actually were until I read this, and with the intervention of that great illustrator, YouTube, I was able to see this as well in living html video.
Here they are:
First up is this lesser known Big Drum style from Cariacou.
Also bearing some similarity to this is the Tambú tradition from Curacao.
Not to be left out, here is Bomba from Puerto Rico with none other than Big Bird in attendance.
From the South American continent, here is festejo from Peru.
This list can go on and on, not indefinitely of course as the region is limited, but we can also add merengue tipico from Dominican Republic,gwo ka from Guadeloupe and Rhumba from Cuba. All of them are:
- Acoustic based
- Clearly polyrhythmic
- Have women in flowing skirts and men in straw hats
- Have call-and-response songs
In short, it is ironic how these expressions which are so closely linked to parochial nationalism are less unique than the states which promote them like to say. In fact, there is a strong argument for a Latin American and Caribbean culture over a nationalist one, but alas, difference is far too appealing, but don’t they look similar?
I posted these videos on my earlier, now deceased, blog.
Here they are together for the first time,
Video from Baraguá, Cuba showing the retention of Anglo-Caribbean culture.
This video was recorded on my visit there in 2012 with the EBCCI, University of the West Indies group. Enjoy! (The cake was baked in Havana however by the Castillos)