The Beat of the Caribbean

Hey there!

Today’s topic is one that should really peak your interest. I say this because I feel like almost everyone can relate to it. You’ll also gain a little insight into the importance of music within the Caribbean context. After all… you’re here to learn more about the Caribbean aren’t you?


That’s right… Music! Music is the art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and colour. According to Phillip Alperson “music is the universal language, the language of emotion.” Garfias states “If we look at all the societies and cultures known to us and look at all the historical societies of the past we can discern, with a high degree of certainty that music has always played an important role in human society.” Have you ever heard quotes like the ones below?


For me, these quotes actually reinforce the fact that culture and identity are shaped and expressed through the very art form of music. Did you know that? Furthermore, during my readings I found that Garfias argues “if culture is the sum of the things we do and we know and what we pass on for adoption and modification then it naturally follows that music is a part of all this.”

Caribbean Context

The Caribbean is one society where the significance of music has long been rooted in the days of slavery, when it was a mode of mental survival and restoration. Often times when people think about Caribbean music the image below comes to mind.

Bob Marley

I love that Bob Marley is still a representation for Caribbean music. His music alone has been and still is an inspiration to people all across the world, not only to us Caribbean people. Moreover, today there is an intricate cultural blend that can be heard in almost every musical style found within the Caribbean. Take for example in Trinidad and Barbados, where the Indian sounds compliment the melodies of Calypso & Soca, while in Cuba and Puerto Rico, the Latin beat underlie the salsa rhythms that are produced in these countries. Moreover, the vocal styles of modern rap can be heard throughout Jamaican dancehall vibes.

3-musiciansCaribbean music addresses political, social and economic issues that the islands face. Depending on where the artist lives, their music gives voice to the people within that specific island. The music genre of Calypso is categorized as “the voice of the people.”

Meanwhile, reggae music highlights our past and present struggles. On the other hand, apart from our struggles, music here in the Caribbean highlights our joys. Music like Soca features ways in which we have fun, free up ourselves (relax) and enjoy our lives to the fullest.

Barbados in Context

In emerging Caribbean and Latin America nations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, local elites seized upon hybridized AfricanEuropean 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). The Barbadian national music is Tuk. However, this music has quickly faded away in our society but it is still regarded as apart of our national identity. Tuk bands are not obsolete, this type of music can be heard at cultural events in hotels in Barbaods because it is closely tied to tourism. If you ever visit Barbados, you can find the Tuk bands accompanied by folk characters said to be of African origin, such as Mother Sally and the Tiltman. These are attempts by the government to keep this whole idea of Tuk being our national music alive. However, the reality is that this generation knows little to nothing about this genre, instead they appreciate music like Bajan Dub that is sexually explicit and Soca music.

One thing that I find interesting the influence of globalization on our radio stations here in Barbados. I can’t speak for other islands but I know this is true for mine. So my family and I realized that during our Crop Over season we are blessed to hear our cultural music such as calypso and soca playing on the radio stations, which is great (unless it’s a gospel station then that kind of music is definitely a no no). However, after the Crop Over season has come to an end in August, the music on our radio stations go back to what is usually played, what my mum calls “American music” haha. Thank God our independence is in November because we get to hear our music once again.

I’ll end by saying this  “music, in short, is not just something young people like and do. It is in many respects the model for their involvement in culture, for their ability to see beyond the immediate requirements of work and family and dole.” (Frith in Grossberg, L., C. Nelson, et al 177).

I know this post was really long but thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! 🙂

1st Photo Credit:

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2 thoughts on “The Beat of the Caribbean

  1. Hey Portia, interesting blog to read! For me, the Caribbean music was new when I came here, so it nice to read about it. Especially the part about ‘Caribbean music addresses political, social and economic issues that the islands face.’ I had never thought before about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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