Beyond Reggae: The Traveler's Guide to Caribbean Music

Caribbean music is more than just Bob Marley. It incorporates a variety of genres, including rock, jazz, and blues.

The history of calypso music traces back to the 1700s. Calypso music is identified as the music of the oppressed, giving voice to African, French, and Caribbean peoples around the world. The calypso style of music creates a soulful harmonized melody similar to African spirituals sung during the days of African slavery. It combines spiritual elements with bongos, Spanish guitar, bottle and spoon, maracas, and trumpets. It uses drums made from steel oil drums, leading to the name “Steelpan."

Soca music originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1970s. It combines funk, soul, and calypso to create a style of music that is both soulful and catchy. Soca is made with a combination of Indian instruments and trombones, trumpets, and Trinidadian lyrics and vocals.

The Zouk style of music became popular in the 1980s, when its quick-paced, Carnival-style music entered the Caribbean jam scene. The Zouk style of music incorporates a traditional rhythm section of drums and bass with synthesizers and “shakers,” making the music fun and upbeat.

Salsa originated in Cuba in the 1970s. Salsa combines congos, maracas, saxophones, and other instruments to create a fast-paced, quick-stepping style of music and dance with Latin and Caribbean roots. Salsa translates to “spice,” and the music and dance style is spicy with quick steps, passionate movements, and an all-around excited feel.

Dancehall music is a form of high-energy reggae that originated in Jamaica in the 1970s. It is characterized by quick rhythms, synthesizers, and drums. Some people consider dancehall music radical because of its political message and its uncontrolled rhythms.

Ska originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and was the predecessor of modern reggae. Ska combines elements from American jazz, blues, and traditional calypso music. Inspired by the rhythm and blues music scene in the U.S., Jamaican musicians created ska by combining choppy guitar riffs, horns, drums, and piano, all played at some point in the music in an upstroke off-beat.

Source: Beyond Reggae: The Traveler's Guide to Caribbean Music
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