THE CARIBBEAN is made of:     

  • 4 regions – the Lucayan Archipelago, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the ABC Islands.  The ABC islands are the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean Sea that lie north of Falcón State, Venezuela. In order alphabetically they are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.
  • 13 sovereign states
  • 17 dependent territories

Languages: English, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Andillean Creole


Geographically the area is referred to as Archipelago which is an expanse of water with scattered islands (Webster Dictionary)

Music overview:

  • Known as Melting Pot of cultures
  • Every island and stretch of coastline have at least one signature style (
  • All the music has dance-friendly rhythms. Really can’t listen to the music without moving.
  • Reggae-Jamaica (Bob Marley)
  • Calypso-Trinidad and Tobago (Harry Belafonte)
  • Salsa-Cuba
  • Bachata Dominica Republic
  • Merengue-Dominican Republic (CUE #1) BP Renegades – Winning Panorama 2019 

1)  DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (CUE #2), La Bilirrubina with Juan Luis Guerra  (Cue #3)

Bachata: music of love and broken hearts in the hinterlands. Born in poorestneighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. Country music.

  • Slow romantic style played on Spanish guitar
  • “Songs of bitterness” considered low class until Juan Luis Guerra brought it into popularity, Juan Luis Guerra (CUE #4)


Calypso style:  Harry Belafonte, Jump in the Line (CUE #5)  Banana Boat Song (Day O)

The Calypso in Trinidad and Tobago, is mainly of African origin, and can be traced to the traditions of West Africans in terms of music, structure and function. Calypso, which has been called a poor man’s newspaper in times when literacy was not wide spread, traces its roots to African traditions of improvised songs of self-praise and scorn for others, brought here by enslaved peoples. It developed to become both a dance and cultural record of events at first in single tone style with implicit meanings and a spicy flavour.

The roots of “Calypso” are diverse. Some argue it came from “kaiso” a Hausa word for “bravo”; some say the word came from the French “carrousseaux” a drinking party; or the Spanish “calliso” a tropical song; or the Carib “carieto”, meaning the same thing.

Calypso is a form of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago. The start of the genre came from the arrival of African slaves who were forbidden to speak to one another in their native languages, so they communicated through songs.

Typical calypso instruments are the trumpet, trombone, flute, saxophone, bass guitar, Spanish guitar, conga, bongos, steelpan, violin, maracas, cuatro, concertina, bamboo sticks, glass bottle/spoon, claves, and jawbone. Nowadays, calypso music is changing a great deal to incorporate all kinds of instruments.


  • 4/4 time with syncopation.
  • acoustic and bass guitar or band with trumpets, saxophones, electric guitars, drum kit and Latin percussion.
  • often uses three-beat rhythms with two long beats followed by a short beat.
  • often uses call and response.
  • simple harmony.
  • verse and chorus songs., Mighty Sparrow, King of Calypso (documentary), BP Renegades Steel Orchestra / International Panorama Competition / arranged by Maestro Duvone Stewart.  BP Renegades Steel Orchestra, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. (CUE #6)

Steel drums originated in Trinidad, in the West Indies, in the 20th century and are played in ensembles, or steel bands, of about 4 to 100 performers. Drums are commonly made in four sizes from bass to treble, called boom, cellopan, guitar pan, and ping pong.

3)  CUBA

Salsa – considered a newer version of older Afro-Cuban forms and rhythms

  • Cuban roots but developed in New York City in the ‘60s with Cuban, Puerto Rican and South American.  Travelled back to Cuban, Puerto Rico and South American and continued to evolve into particular salsa styles.
  • Salsa, as in the spicy sauce used to give food zing, would be shouted out to “spur dancers and musicians on to more frenetic activity.”
  • Instruments:  Clave, maracas, conga, bongos, tambora, bato, and cowbell. Marimba, vibraphone, bass, guitar, violin, piano accordion, and flute.  Trumpet trombone, and saxophone.
  • Instruments and singers imitate call and response patterns of traditional African songs and then go into a chorus.
  • Basic rhythm is 1-2-3,1-2.  Fast tempo-exuberant musical energy
  • breaks down Montuno’s combined rhythmic elements – claves, piano and drums.

Salsa recordings, Marc Anthony video (music from recording, probably also a single) Vivir Mi Vida (CUE # 7), Celia Cruz with Luciano Pavarotti, Sexteto Habanero is a good exemplar of son (CUE #8)


Goombay is a form of Bahamian music and a drum used to create it. The drum is a membranophone made with goat skin and played with the hands.

The goombay name has also evolved to become synonymous with local Afro-Caribbean music related to calypso. In The Bahamas, its most famous practitioner in modern times was Alphonso ‘Blind Blake’ Higgs, who performed at the Nassau International Airport for many years.  His style was a mix of Dixieland jazz, calypso/goombay, and American folk. 05:15 – 8:44 (Mama, What a Pain I Got)

Junkanoo Festival

The true origin of the word Junkanoo is disputed. The two more popular theories are: 1. it is named for a folk hero named John Canoe, who was a slave trader responsible for granting the slaves  holidays on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and at New Years. The second most circulated theory is that the term is derived from the French “gens inconnus” (unknown people) because masks are worn by the revelers., highlights from 2019 New Year’s Junkanoo Parade (CUE #9), Best Calypso Music – Trinidad & Tobago – Steel Drums (CUE #10)