African Music The next ingredient in the combination that would eventually emerge as Latin and Caribbean music is music from the African diaspora. As the Spanish killed off the natives of the islands, they brought slaves from Africa to work in their place. The Spanish needed large numbers of workers for plantations that grew sugar cane and other valuable crops. Between the early 1500s and the 1830s, around four to five million African slaves were brought to the Caribbean islands to work in Spanish, Dutch, French, or British colonies. Black communities in the Caribbean have exerted a strong influence on music all over the world. The Caribbean is the birthplace of musical icons ranging from the Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley to the current hip-hop figures Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. The latest dance music is as likely to reflect the rhythms of reggae as modern electronica. While earlier historians were likely to argue that enslaved black communities did not retain great degrees of their traditional African cultural roots, newer interpretations reveal rich cultural and musical backgrounds that persist today. There are many specific characteristics in Latin and Caribbean music that can be traced to Africa. In religious music like that associated with Haitian Vodou and Cuban SanterĂ­a, listeners can find many melodies and words that even exist in African songs today. In secular music, the influence can be felt as well. In African villages, music was usually an act of community participation. While soloists and featured performers had their part, most music was the work of the whole community, where people would contribute by singing, clapping, dancing or playing instruments. This can be heard today in music like Cuban son, which is characterized by heavy rhythms, a call-and-response structure, and large musical groups.


Chapter 1: The Roots of Latin and Caribbean Music

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