Caribbean Music

Published: 2021-10-02 11:20:09
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Category: music, Sound, Caribbean

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Music of the Caribbean region differs from island to island. The Caribbean got its name from the term “Carib”, which is the name of an old Native American ethnic group. Today the region is divided into four different parts: Spanish, French, Dutch, and British Caribbean.
The Spanish Caribbean consists of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic; the French Caribbean consists of Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana; the Dutch Caribbean contains Suriname, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Maarteen, and St. Eustatius; and the British Caribbean is the largest and consists of Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, British Virgin Islands, U. S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Turks and Caicos Islands. (CLASS NOTES) The Caribbean has a variety of different instruments and genres that make up its music and dancing culture. Caribbean music has several distinctive characteristics to both its sound and its dancing styles.
Their techniques are not predetermined and the musicians improvise as they make their music. Dancers typically do not have a lot of body contact and the waist and pelvic region are the main body of center of attention. Fast rhythmic dancing is a big part of Caribbean dancing. Both music and dancing are influenced from a variety of other worldwide cultures, including African, European, and later Asian. (CLASS NOTES) Caribbean music features complex short combinations of rhythmic patterns.

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This is demonstrated in video ML 3475 . J88 1995 Vol. 4 : The Caribbean. One of the most prominent instruments within Caribbean music is the large array of drums, including Steel, Conga, Timbales and Bongo Drums. All these types of drums distribute very different kinds of sounds. The steel pan, also known as a steel drum, is made from oil drums heated and hammered into an instrument with multiple pitches played with rubber-headed mallets (Mahabir). Today, the steel drum is a very sophisticated musical instrument. It is a unique instrument with origins in colonial Trinidad. The steel drum was used as communication for African slaves (Idaho State University).
Turns out the steel drum doesn’t only evoke images of beaches and pina coladas. The drums haunting and echoing sound means so much more. The Congo drum is a Cuban barrel-shaped, one-headed hand drum. This instrument is played in sets of two or four. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which mean each drum possesses its own unique sound. (Demonstrated on CD-2260, Drums defiance) The smallest Congo drum is called Nino and the largest tumba. This type of drum is played by striking the drumhead with one’s fingertips or palms instead of a mallet.
The Bongo is a set of small one-headed drums that is held between the musician’s knees and is played by hand like the Congo drum. These drums are also important in Latin music, particularly music deriving from Cuba. (The Bongo Page) Bongo drums usually have a wooden or metal base, and can be tuned by tightening the skin over the drum. The sizes of these drums also vary according to the musician’s preferences. The drums are each named hembra for the larger drum and macho for the smaller drum.
These are Spanish words meaning female and male, respectively. Hembra has a much lower tone then macho. The Bongo Page) However, both drums are significantly higher then the Congo drums. Reggae genre was first formed in Jamaica in the 1960’s. This genre of music is based on a rhythmic style, with spurs of off-beats. Typically it is a slower beat, with the guitar, and other instruments such as the drums influencing the sound. It is very similar to “rock steady” but the use of complex bass line and speed is what separates the two (Bradley). The reggae vocals are less dramatic then the influence from the instruments. It is very common to hear dialects, which could sound slang to some Americans.
Something different from most singers is, reggae singers use tremolo (volume oscillation) instead of vibrato (pitch oscillation) (Bradley). The Calypso genre music was started on the Island of Trinidad (Dudley). This genre is also rooted in West African traditional music like Reggae. It was used for different aspects of life, such as communication and also for entertainment. Calypso is generally played on folk instruments such as the guitar, banjo, and other percussions. It is typically heavily rhythmic but still melodic. Since the genre was often used for communication the lyrics were often political in nature, but often masked.

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