African-Derived Music of Jamaica and Brazil:
All contemporary music can be traced back to cultures that came before. Most music eventually turns into an amalgamation of styles as cultures borrow best practices from each other and then put add their own flair. Such is the case with the current style of music known as Reggae, particularly that found in Jamaica and Brazil. Although contemporary artists have added their personal touches to the genre, its roots can be traced back to the forced migration of millions of slaves during the early 17th century. As these slaves settled in Latin America and the surrounding areas, they brought their African music with them. Eventually, traits of this music was adopted by local musicians and integrated into their music. Although there are distinct differences between the music found in Jamaica and Brazil, the similarities between the two cultures is pronounced. A culture’s music can be viewed as a definition of their identity. Much more than just musical attributes finds its way into the musical expression of a society. Religious beliefs, psychological phenomena, societal expectations and mores – these all factor into the artistic expression of a specific culture or region. This is definitely that case with both Jamaica and Brazil, as the music in each country has been shaped by a variety of factors – over and above just music. These factors will be compared and contrasted in regards to the music of both countries in order to provide a complete breakdown of each. One of the biggest musical influences across cultures is religion. A society’s shared religious beliefs and traditions often filter into most, if not all, types of expression. In Jamaica, for instance, African slaves brought with them their religious spirits and fetishes. For example, the kumina dance is still practiced throughout the island as a curative. Its history as a religion can be directly traced back to Africa. Native Jamaicans, many of which still refer to themselves as “Africans,” whole-heartedly believe in the healing power of the kumina. As explained in the book Three Eyes for the Journey: African Dimensions of the Jamaican Religious Experience, “When a person experiences grave misfortune, in terms of physical or psychological illness or any other person problem, a Kumina queen may organize a ceremony at the request of the client or based upon her own assessment of the problem,” (Stewert 151). A crucial part of the Kumina religion is drumming, especially in terms of a master drummer. In her book Rock it Come Over: The Folk Music of Jamaica, Olive Lewin describes the critical role of the drummer, "the cyas drummer is crucial to the success of a bands. He must not only be conversant with information about spirit activity and rhythm requirements, but he must also learn the African language and interpret immediately,” (37). This religious drumming has become one of the most identifiable parts of Jamaican Reggae music. In fact, it is such a distinct and inimitable system; many of the best non-Jamaicans have trouble performing it. In the book Reggae Bloadlines, this exclusivity was discussed, “Reggae is Jamaican soul music, a sort of tropic rock and roll with accents on the second and fourth beats, a metric system so flamboyant and unique that only seasoned Jamaican drummers can keep it together and flowing” (Davis 12). The distinct drumming found in Jamaican Reggae is a prime of example of religion influencing music. Another religious body that has had a direct impact on Jamaican Reggae is the Rastafarians. If there is one religion closely tied to Reggae, it is this religion. In his book The Rastafarians, Leonard E. Barret Sr. discussed the religion and its ancestral ties to Africa. Barret said, “The Rastafarian cult is a messianic movement unique to Jamaica. Its members believe that Haile Selassie, former Emperor of Ethiopia, is the Black Messiah who appeared in the flesh for the redemption of all Blacks exiled in...
Cited: “An In-Depth Look at the Carnival History.” RioCarnival. 2012. Web. 17 April 2014.
Barret, Leonard E. Sr. “Paradise Island.” The Rastafarians. Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2002.
“Brazil Religion.” Brazil.org, 2001. Web. 19 April 2014.
“Candomble at a Glance.” BBC Religions. 15 Sept. 2009. Web. 19 April 2014.
Davis, Stephen. Reggae Bloadlines: In Search of Music and Culture in Jamaica. DaCapo Press,
Giepel, John. “Brazil’s African Legacy.” History Today, 47:8 (1997). Web. 18 April 2014.
Lewin, Olive. Rock It Come Over: The Folk Music of Jamaica. West Indies Press, 2000. Print.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document