The genre of Caribbean Music encompasses a diverse variety of musical styles and traditions from islands that are located in the Caribbean Sea. The styles range anywhere from traditional folk genres such as the Puerto Rican aguinaldo and Jamaican mento to more contemporary music such as salsa and reggae.
In many aspects, it is more common to see a marked diversity than a marked unity in Carribean music. A few generalizations can be made, however. Most music of this region combines features of music from Africa with features of music from the West. This combination began with the European colonization and slave trade but still continues into the present.
The history of Caribbean music begins with the Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the islands. Traditional tribal music which featured percussion instruments developed but perished along with most of the Native Americans in the 1600s. Subsequent Caribbean music emerged as a result of new relationships between African slaves and European settlers. The settler communities, as opposed to the plantation towns, attracted large numbers of very different people and harbored a very lively music culture.
The next key development came in the twentieth century with the advent of mass media, particularly phonograph records and radio broadcasts. This stimulated the creation of popular dance styles. During the mid-twentieth century, the immigration of Cubans to large cities played a major role in spreading the music of the region. New York City, in particular, emerged as a large center for Latin and West Indian popular music.
Most Caribbean styles may be grouped into the categories of folk, classical, or commercially popular music. Folk styles were derived primarily from African music and tend to be dominated by percussion instruments as well as call and response vocals. Included in this category are the traditional Cuban rumba, the Puerto Rican bomba as well as music associated with Afro-Caribbean religions (such as Haitian, voodoo, and Cuban Santeria). A few styles, however, reflect a more European influence. The Puerto Rican jiharo music and Cuban punto are two key examples.
Local forms of classical music were created in the nineteenth century in Cuba and Puerto Rico as formally trained composers began to infiltrate the area. The most prominent styles in this category are the Cuban contradaza and the habon (a lighter and more rhythmic but also Cuban style).
The best known forms of Caribbean music are the modern, popular genres. They are mostly from Cuba and include the con (the most popular style of Cuban dance music). The chadracha, the listera (a romantic, languid style), and the mambo (an instrumental big band style). Since the mid-1960s, styles like salsa and merengue have become widely popular. The most internationally famous style of Cuban music has clearly been reggae. This style emerged in the late 1960s in Jamaica as a reinterpretation of American R & B music. Singers such as Bob Marley have helped push this style into the international arena.
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