An overview of Caribbean folk music focussing on the musical sounds with a bit of identity. Presentation done for post-graduate Cultural Studies students at the Unviersity of the West Indies Cave Hill.
Caribbean Folk Music
Sounds, Commonalities, Spaces and Identity
• Caribbean Folk music is seen to have been produced by a meeting of
• Creolisation is the dominant narrative where the majority of Caribbean folk
music is seen to be from African and European Cultural practices.
• Creolisation equation says different European music culture + different
African music culture = Different Caribbean genre
Africans musical concepts (retentions)
call and response with repetitive lyric
an emphasis on drum and bass
a close connection of MUSIC with specific DANCE and movements in a group
• emphasis of ORAL and AURAL qualities
• distinct Vocal QUALITY and TEXTURE
Important Western European Musical
MELODIC Structures and TONALITIES
Curacao – Tambú
Barbados – Tuk
Trinidad – Lavway/Calenda
Cuba – Rumba
Carriacou – Big Drum
Jamaica – Jonkanoo
Puerto Rico – Bomba y Plena
Folk Music and Nationalism
• In emerging Caribbean and Latin America nations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, local elites seized upon hybridized African-European musical genres and
proclaimed them "national" musics. The national forms were an exercise in the symbolics of
nationhood and a means of coming to terms with the multiracial character of the New
World societies (Averill 32-33).
• Categorization of music, dance
practices, and, by indexation, people as “folkloric” was deemed useful and necessary for
creating a new national order, for mobilizing the masses, for integrating the rural“
indigenous” peoples and paradoxically for unification and stratification. The concept and
category of “folklore” became a crucial politico cultural term, encompassing rural
“indigenous” practices and peoples throughout Mexico. (Randall 52)
Hegemony and Homogenisation
• National processes of homogenization may work on heterogeneity ...If
marginal persons and groups insist on their ownership of certain cultural
elements in the national mix, these are devalued and their owners defined as
"not 'true' members of the ideologically defined nation." (Wade 8-9)
• Though political independence has not led to economic or cultural
autonomy, it has forced the Creole elite to turn to the black masses as a
political constituency rather than sharply differentiating themselves as they
did previously. (Safa 120)
• Averill, Gage. A day for the hunter, a day for the prey : popular music and power in Haiti. Chicago,
University of Chicago Press, 1997.
• Lewin, Olive. Rock it come over : the folk music of Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica, University of the West
Indies Press, 2000.
• Marshall, Trevor G, Peggy L. McGeary, and Grace J. I. Thompson. Folk Songs of Barbados. Kingston,
Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 1981. Print.
• Randall, Annie J. Music, Power, and Politics: [...]. New York [u.a.: Routledge, 2005.
• Safa, Helen. I. "Popular culture, national identity, and race in the Caribbean." New West Indian Guide, 1997.
• Wade, Peter. Music, race & nation : música tropical in Colombia. Chicago, University of Chicago Press,
• Pinterest – Stefan Walcott
• YouTube, SlideShare and Vimeo – Stefan Walcott