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The Origins of Caribbean Music

The impact of artistes and the music from the Caribbean on the world of popular music has been phenomenal. The accomplishments of Harry Belafonte, Bob Marley, Eddy Grant, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Wyclef Jean, Shaggy and Lauryn Hill speak volumes for the significance of Reggae, Salsa, Merengue, Soca and Calypso in popular music worldwide.

Caribbean Music
is a diverse variety of styles encompassing the traditions of the English, Spanish, French and Dutch Caribbean islands along with those of Guyana, Belize and Suriname.

The history of Caribbean music dates back to the days of the native Americans who inhabited the region before the arrival of Columbus. They made drums and other instruments from hollow logs and other material available to them.

Today, Caribbean music ranges from traditional folk genres to contemporary forms such as reggae, calypso, soca, chutney, salsa, merengue, compas and zouk.

The Caribbean's Indian population, descendants of indentured laborers, also has its own musical heritage including folk songs and the modern chutney, a form of Indian soca. Chutney's popularity continues to grow rapidly beyond the Caribbean. However, it is reggae, which emerged in the 1960's in Jamaica which is the Caribbean's most internationally famous music.

Its popularity stems from a combination of its infectious rhythms and its focus on struggle, resistance and the need for social justice. Calypso and soca which originate in Trinidad and Tobago and whose lyrics often address topical socio-political and economic issues, have also become popular internationally. Hundreds, if not thousands of tourists visit the Caribbean each year for Carnival in the various islands. Caribbean music also attracts massive crowds in major North American and European cities where there are Hispanic Festivals and Caribbean Carnivals.

These various music forms have evolved over the years from the region's experience with slavery, indenture- ship and the inter- action of African slaves and Indian indentured servants with the European settlers, as well as, more recently, the influence of popular music from the United States. But it is the African influence which dominates in most Caribbean music.

Africa is perhaps best maintained and evolved in Caribbean sounds and rhythms especially through drumming. Reggae and calypso music have globalized the ideas of Caribbean 'livity' to the extent that the musical texts are universally recognized as a cultural lingua franca for the African diasporic resistance. Caribbean folk music such as the Cuban rumba, Guyanese shanto and Jamaican mento are influenced by the region's African roots.

from Welcome to the Caribbean.com