An Introduction to the Analysis of the Caribbean Music

The genre of Caribbean Music consists of a diverse variety of musical styles and traditions from islands that are located in the Caribbean. Most music of this region combines features of music from Africa with features of music from the West. This combination began with the European colonization and slave trade but still continues into the present time. One of the music styles is called Calypso. Calypso rhythms can be traced back to the arrival of the first African slaves brought to work in the sugar plantations of Trinidad. Calypso can be a means of communication and to mock the slave masters . The year 1914 was a significant year in the history of calypso. This is the year that the first calypso recording was made. By the late 1930s, the most remarkable artists of calypso; such as Atilla the Hun, Lord Invader, and the Roaring Lion were making a fast impression on the calypso music world. Lord Kitchener rose to fame in the 1940s and conquered the calypso scene until the late 1970s. Since then the United States and the rest of the world has identified calypso with the Caribbean. The most popular and most recognized calypso artist in the Caribbean would have to be Harry Belafonte. In 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded his Calypso song, the famous Banana Boat Song probably the most internationally well known calypso song in all time. His Calypso album also became the first album ever to sell over one million copies. Today, calypso music has expanded to a religious setting. According to an article written by Michael Troussant, A classical referent is the rhythmic redefinition accompanying the rendition of traditional hymns and praise songs by Shouter Baptist and Shango Baptist congregations of Trinidad during worship. There is a tendency of individual singers to begin singing from any point in a bar of music, on the so-called wrong beat or accent, and to maintain their individual phrases Another popular form of Caribbean music styles is called Reggae. It was originated during the 1960s in Jamaica. The term reggae is said to have had a major influence of a particular music style that originated the development of ska and rocksteady (which are two other popular forms of Caribbean music style). The most popular and decorated reggae artist would have to be none other than Bob Marley. A popular biography written by Timothy White titled Catch a fire: the life of Bob Marley gives a tremendous insight on the life and death of the reggae artist.

ave the people of Jamaica something to stand for with his controversial claims of the Jamaican government. One of his famous hymns stated To divide and rule could only tear us apart, in every man chest there beats a heart so soon well find out who is the real revolutionaries and I dont want my people to be tricked by mercenaries. Reggae music claims its dominance in Jamaica but has a wide range of influences in the Caribbean as well (especially the Hipic speaking counties). The characteristic of the reggae music in the Hipic Caribbean is the expression of a realization apparent by the unity of interests among the roots Rasta reggae artists. Several Latin American have invited reggae singers and DJs from other countries in the region to participate in their musical productions. According to an article by Samuel Fure Davis titled Reggae in Cuba and the Hipic Caribbean: fluctuations and representations of identities stated that The Mexican reggae artist Jah Fabio, for example, collects on his album Rasta para ti a variety of Latin American voices and messages from Mexico to Chile, including Cuba. Moreover, Kaweskar (Chile) is not alone on his CD Taksu (2006) but also features among the Cuban voices that of Principe Carlos from the band Insurrectos (The Insurgent), now renamed Herencia (Legacy) . This was an extremely informational article of how the roots of reggae stemmed out to the neighboring nations. The diverse musical familiarity extends throughout all of the Caribbean islands and also throughout the mainland. Another popular form of Caribbean music is called Soca, a more modern and up-beat musical style that comes from the ethnic groups of Trinidad and Tobago. Soca is a fusion of American soul music and traditional calypso and became very popular during the 1960s. The father of soca music is none other than Garfield Blackman a.k.a Lord Shorty which became a great success with his music. Lord Shorty rose to fame in 1963 with his recording of Clock and Dagger. Interesting key elements about Lord Shorty written by Lorraine Leu said that, Ras Shorty I (Lord Shorty later changed his sobriquet when he embraced Rastafarianism). In the last ten years or so, soca music in Trinidad has seen the increasing predominance of a sub-genre within soca, which one could call party soca, immensely popular songs at the fetes with a furiously fast pace . Calypso and soca have their similarities and also their differences.

Many music historians would compare and judge the form of soca music claiming of its false originality. They both have a fixed rhythmic group as their well-known feature. The bass, kick drum and snare give rhythmic emphasis and the high hats, bells, conga and strum contribute to texture and timbre. Soca has a similar structure as calypso, but the rhythmic patterns are in a cycle of four as opposed to two beats in calypso. The vocal melody is integrated into the rhythmic pattern in calypso, but soca is largely instrumental. One other popular and rhythmic music style is called salsa. Salsa has gained its popularity in the U.S. over the years but little is known about the origination. The source of salsa music comes from Cuban and Puerto Rican descents but many scholars claim its origin mostly from Cuba. The question of whether salsa is Puerto Rican or Cuban causes heated debates among musicians, aficionados, and scholars. One particular article makes clear and definitive points on the argument, While the Cuban son and rumba are the foundation of the music that is known as mambo and later developed into salsa, Puerto Ricans also closely identify with this music. That could be very much true which still to this day raises debates. The author also states that, There are many reasons for this. A large number of musicians in the early New York scene where this music first emerged were Puerto Rican. From well-known composer Rafael Hernandez to Tito Puente, the undisputed king of mambo, Puerto Ricans have long adopted the music of other communities and become proficient at them; in salsa, Puerto Ricans Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, and Willie Colon are among the most popular and iconic musicians.

Washburne is able to take the well-known fact of Puerto Rican involvement in salsa and show how it plays out in today’s dynamic scene. Salsa’s most direct predecessor is Cuban son. Large son bands were very popular in Cuba beginning in the 1930s; these were mostly septetos and sextetos, and they rapidly increase to the United States. A narrative biography encompasses the rich history and origin of Tito Puente. Tito Puente is generally considered to be the godfather of salsa, devoting more than six decades of his life to performing Latin music and earning a reputation as a masterful percussionist. Tito Puente was born in New York City’s Spanish Harlem in 1923, where the hybrid of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Puerto Rican music helped create salsa music. By the time Puente was ten years old, he played with local Latin bands at neighborhood gatherings, society parties, and New York City hotels. Puente first performed as a young boy with a local band called Los Happy Boys, at New York City’s Park Place Hotel, and by the age of 13, he was considered a child prodigy by his family, neighbors, and fellow band members. As a teenager, he joined Noro Morales and the Machito Orchestra. Puente was drafted into the Navy in 1942 at the age of 19 to fight in World War II, which entailed a three-year reprieve from music . There are numerous diverse music styles of the Caribbean which relatively all compare with each other in some way. Different sounds, rhythms, beats, voice all encompass the variety of Caribbean music. Its rich history of art and music gave many opportunities for young or old to express their feelings on a personal note or for a political stand point. To this day, Caribbean music influence artists across the globe and also gave way to different walks of life a feel good rhythm and music. The music of the Caribbean is an assorted combination of musical styles. They are each influences from African, European, and native influences, shaped by the descendants of African slaves. Calypso, Soca, Reggae, and Salsa music are just some of many different styles of the Caribbean.

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