If African music is said to have roots in almost all music, then undoubtedly a branch extends directly into the heart of the Caribbean Islands. All the islands have a spice of African influence, but due to length constraints, we " ve chosen to confine our discussion to Afro-Caribbean music in Jamaica and Cuba. History and Musical Cultural Context: Jamaica: From the early 1400's to the middle 1600's Jamaica was island under Spanish control. That was until 1655 when the British took control. After a brief period of experimenting with indentured European labor, the British turned to large scale importation of Africans to be used as slaves on the sugar plantations. The plantation dominated economic life in every sense.
It occupied the best lands, the laws supported the slave system, and in general all commercial and other economic activity depended on the rhythm of activity of the plantation. Upon Emancipation, many of the ex-slaves settled down as small farmers in the mountains, cultivating steep hill slopes far away from the plantations. With many Africans settling into the beautiful landscape of Jamaica, new musical dawns were on the horizon. While enslaved, Africans developed a new form of music and dance which was known as Mento. Mento remained popular until the 1940 s, however, during the early 50 s, popular music in Jamaica was usually of US origin. In the late 1950 s "Ska" another Jamaican musical innovation emerged.
In the mid 60 s"Rock Steady"-a slower tempo with emphasis on syncopation-grew out of "Ska." However, by the late 60 s, yet another new Jamaican musical form had emerged-"Reggae", the most famous of the musical styles developed on the island. Reggae spans the globe and has influenced the music of internationally famous performers in the US, Japan, UK, South America, and the rest of the world. Cuba: For most of the eighteenth century, Cuba was a relatively underdeveloped island with an economy mainly based on cattle raising and tobacco farms. However, towards the beginning of the nineteenth century cultivation of sugar began to run the Cuban economy.
With the intensive cultivation Cuba began to turn into a plantation society, and the need for African "slaves" skyrocketed. The slave trade with the West African coast exploded, and it is estimated that close to 400, 000 Africans were brought to Cuba during the years 1835-1864. By the end of the nineteenth century, it was estimated that Cuba had over 100 different African ethnic groups. Cuban dance music stormed the globe following World War II. Led by Benny Mor'e and others, a new, vibrant rumba emerged, which brought together the European-inflected son and the African rumba guaguanc'o. Traditionally percussive music, Cuban son rides on congas and bongos.
Distributed widely by record and radio, this music with its exuberantly African heartbeat had a special and enduring effect on Africa, which was beginning its process of independence from the colonialists. Here was a music that they could lay a claim to, which was rooted in their own rich rhythmic heritage. While the popularity of Cuban music eventually waned in other parts of the world, in Africa (especially in the Congo's, Guinea, Mali, and Senegal) it went on to influence the development of a variety of pop music such as Congo jazz, makos sa, souk ous, mba lax, and horn-based high life. Since the salsa is also a descendant of the rumba explosion, many say that it is a cousin of those African pop forms. Main Musical Elements and Characteristics: One of the most popular types of drum that is found in Cuba is known as the Bata drums.
They are hour glass shaped and double-headed. The base of the drum is made of either cedar wood or mahogany. Across the top is stretched a male goat or deer skin. These drums are always played in a set of three. The iya is the largest drum and holds a steady beat while letting the other rhythms know when to come in.
The middle drum is known as the ito tele. This drum answers the calls and rhythm changes of the iya. Osti nato patterns are often repeated through out the music by the smallest drum known as the okonkolo. Two other similar groups of Cuban drums in afro-Caribbean music are known as the Iyesa drums and the Yuk a drums.
These drums are very similar to the Bata drums in that they are played in sets of three. Occasionally a fourth drum will be added for certain songs. The Iyesa drums are not played with the hands; instead they are played with sticks. They have a more unified sound than the free spirited playing of the Bata drums. For addition sound a pice of metal is added to the side of the drum. While one musician is playing the drummer another will be playing a beat on the metal piece.
Also they are often accompanied by other instruments such as the Agogo. The Agogo is also known as the dance gong. This instrument gives out several different pitches that flow with the rhythms of the drums. The drum is the main tie of Jamaican music to Africa. A majority of the drums are one headed cylindrical drum with goat skin stretched across the top. Although drums are crucial to Jamaican rhythms they are not the main focus of the music.
Many other instruments accompany the drums. Some village bands use instruments such as maracas, marimbas, graters, triangles, and glass bottles (hit with a stone or hard object). These simple instruments add a fullness to the music with there extra sounds. Bamboo sticks are also used as instruments in some villages. The musician plays the instrument by striking it with other sticks as well as a metal machete. When the bamboo is leaned against the ground the sounds is amplified.
Another popular instrument is called "the boom pipe." This is a Jamaican stamping tube. The instrument is played two ways. One way is by buzzing your lips as you blow into the tube. This produces many different notes. Sound can also be made by simply stomping one end of the tube on the ground. Animal horns are also are used and have been a tradition for hundreds of years..