Sugar cane was brought to the "new world" by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493 (Umbilical 99). The introduction of this new crop would bring about dramatic change the Caribbean. During the 1600's the Caribbean sugar industry thrived. The native people of Africa's western coast were targeted for slavery. The plantation owners needed slaves who could handle the work to keep sugar cane maintained. The African people were captured from their homes and brought to the Caribbean and America where they were sold. While in the Middle passage, from Africa to the Americas, millions died from the terrible conditions. This horrible journey could take months. When they reached the plantations the work was unbearable to withstand. This painful piece of history would add a new dimension to the rich African culture.
Music played a very important role during and after the slavery era. For example the slaves in the Virgin Islands used a form of song, Caruso, to pass messages among each other, without the slave owners or the overseer's knowledge (Umbilical 14). Because the plantation owners did not want them practicing their African beliefs, they combined Caruso with European influence. This form was known as Quelbe which is the official music of the Virgin Islands. This music helped make plantation work a little less unbearable. A little farther south of the Virgin Islands in Trinidad and Barbados, Calypso was used to express personal feeling about slavery.
There are several versions of the origin of calypso which emerged as an identifiable genre towards the end of the nineteenth century. Calypso represents a mixture of several folk songs in African tradition (history of Carib music 1). There are a few theories to where the word calypso originated. The Carib word "caieto" meaning a joyous song and the French patois "carrousseaux" from the archaic French word "carouse" meaning a drinking party or festivity (Trinidad Calypso 8).
The calypso style of music began around the time of the French settlement in Trinidad during the late 18th century. At this time this type of music was not yet pronounce "calypso". In a good calypso song the lyrics would grasp three main dimensions. The first is extempore. If the individual could produce lyrics at the spur of the moment it was greatly admired by the listeners. Second, added comments of social and political issues were slid into a verse. Thirdly the calypso singers would trade insults. This would later lead to what would become known as calypso wars. Today the lyrics of calypso contain so much information on political issues and news about what's happening in the world that some islanders consider these songs a reliable news source.
Ska is a form of early Jamaican music combing the elements of rhythm and blues with that of Calypso. The beats of Ska and folk music were combined to start the beginning of reggae. It was around the 1960's when reggae was nationally recognized due to Bob Marley. This was a point in history that would declare a musical independence for Jamaica, the loudest island in the world.
Rastafari has played and important role in the development of reggae. It has acted as a philosophical guiding force in the lives of music creators (Jah Music 36). Reggae explores the themes of suffering of ghetto dwellers, slavery in Babylon, Haile Selassie as a living deity, and the hope to return to Africa (Reggae Music 1.) Many people are responsible for the popular music that came out of the Caribbean island of Jamaica. The Wailers with Bob Marley wrote lyrics about the Jamaican...