/Caribbean Music

Caribbean Music

The music of the English-Speaking Caribbean region is a reflection of its diverse history and its cosmopolitan culture. These rich mixes of factors have given rise to some of the most celebrated music known across the globe: calypso, reggae, dancehall, and soca, to name a few. This is not to say that the usual types of music known to the west like “crooning” or “soul” or even gospel have not been performed by Caribbean artistes.


“Calypso” was originally “kaiso” and is said to have originated from efik “ka isu” meaning “go on” and Ibibio “kaa iso” which means “continue, go on”. The term “calypso” was first recorded in the 1930’s. Calypso is said to be afro Caribbean in origin and is native to Trinidad and Tobago. It goes back to the arrival of Africans in the time of slavery who communicated with each other through song. It evolves as the Africans adapted to the environment with which they found themselves with their colonial masters which allowed them to take advantage of French, Spanish and British music styles. The French brought carnival to Trinidad and calypso grew in popularity in the post abolition period.

The official birth of calypso was in 1912 when Lovey’s string band recorded the first calypso type song while visiting New York City. Calypso then evolved as it became a medium for social commentary for challenging politicians and for describing scandal, gossip, innuendo and the local scene. This genre of music really took off in the 1930’s when people like Roaring Lion, Lord Invader and Kitchener came on the scene. By the 1950’s the Mighty Sparrow was ruling the roost and he is responsible more so than any other for the spread of calypso, even though in the 1940’s the Andrew Sisters and Harry Belafonte did their versions of calypso music.


Reggae is said to have developed in Jamaica in the 1960’s and followed the development of Ska and Rock Steady. The origin of the word “reggae” is attributed to a variety of sources but the genre of music is easily recognised in Jamaica and the rest of the world because it has been performed by some of the most celebrated artistes such as Neil Diamond, the Beatles, Barbra Streisand, Lucky Dube of South Africa and many others. The greatest exponent of this art form is Robert Nestor Marley, even though one must acknowledge the contribution of such people as Peter Tosh, the Maytals, Clancy Eccles, Ashton Barrett and Lee “scratch” Perry to this popular Caribbean music genre. Reggae is said to have been responsible for such spin offs as hip-hop and rap, dancehall, ragamuffin and reggaeton music. Reggae has made Jamaica into a global cultural force.

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