Even if you haven't been to the Caribbean before, or not very often, chances are you've heard of Jamaican reggae music. And probably salsa from the Spanish islands. And maybe you've learned how to shake your booty – or “body line,” as they call it in the islands – to these two beats. But there are a lot more steps to learn down in the Indies. Did you know each of the islands has its own music?
Here are 10 more of the Caribbean's most popular music genres:
First are two biggies, soca from Trinidad-Tobago and merengue from the Dominican Republic. The first – a meshing of soul and calypso music – has a fast, brassy beat, while the second, also brassy, is usually a bit slower. Both can be widely heard in combinations or “fusions” with tunes from other islands.
Zip over to Tortola and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands and you'll hear funji – those islands' classic, African-influenced, call-and-response music. It's often backed by banjos or guitars, sometimes both. And big thumping drums. (If funji turns you on, you'll love a chestnut called “Cookie Jar” by a local band known as the Lashing Dogs.)
Actually, just about all of the Caribbean rhythms have African roots, having been brought there during the slavery era. Sometimes, you can even identify specific origins, such as the distinct West African flavors of zouk from Martinique, Guadeloupe and the other French-speaking islands. (One of the peppiest beats in the Caribbean, zouk – known for its pulsating, brassy tunes and distinctive back-beat – literally means party.)
Coming in fifth is the accordion-backed music of the Caribbean rim country of Belize. It's called brukdown, said to mean something like “broken down calypso.” Whatever it means, you can't help shaking your body line to tunes like “Good Mornin' Belize,” played there each morning on a number of radio stations to help get their listeners' juices flowing for the day. Another particularly spunky brukdown tune is “Sailing Ship,” recorded by the father of the genre, Mr. Peters.
How do you dance to all these kinds of music? A good way to find out is to visit the music video website and plug in brukdown, funji and the other three rhythms mentioned so far.
If you had fun figuring out moves to those five, you could go on to five more of the Caribbean's music genres, like spouge from Barbados, compas from Haiti, tumba from Curacao, quelbe from the U.S. Virgin Islands and the carnival-like junkanoo from The Bahamas.
A tip: Learn how to dance merengue, and it's pretty easy to bluff your way through the nine other dances.