Saturday, March 17, 2018


The music of St Lucia is a mix of African musical traditions, European styles, and native Caribbean music. Children learn music from an early age and often use music throughout their lives. 

Some of the instruments you’ll hear in St Lucian music are string instruments like the fiddle, the guitar, the mandolin, the banjo, and the cuatro (a 4-stringed instrument similar to a guitar or lute that’s popular in the Caribbean and South America, although sometimes it’ll have more strings). You’ll also find a variety of percussion instruments like the chak-chak (a type of rattle) and bones (yes, actual bones in most cases -- I found a video about North Carolina folk music teaching how to play bones that I included below), tambourines, various types of drums, and a gwaj (scraper). There are also some wind instruments like bamboo flutes and the baha (a kind of wooden trumpet). Vocal music is also quite a strong tradition, and there are some folk styles composed entirely of vocal music. 

Folk music in St Lucia is highly integrated with folk dancing. It’s really pretty hard to separate the two. One type of informal musical style performed at social events like dances and wakes is called the Jwé. There are several different parts to it, but essentially it’s a form of comedic improv where the lyrics are often cutting, almost like a roast, maybe. The Jwé is a very important part of the St Lucian culture. The Kwadril is another style, roughly based on the European dance of a similar name, the quadrille. Compared with the Jwé and other music/dances, because the quadrille that it’s based on grew to be a dance of high society, this one is completely choreographed and memorized; improvisation is not encouraged with the kwadril. Bèlè is another traditional music style that is mostly performed at funeral wakes. There are also two rivaling societies that meet regularly to sing and/or play instruments and are based on the rivalry between the colonial powers: La Rose is English side, and La Marguerite represents the French side.

So, as far as modern music goes, I did happen to find a few bands on Spotify. The first one I listened to was Tru Tones. This was some true disco music. I’m not a huge fan of disco, so I thought the only thing that would make this better would be to turn it into some deep house track. (House music got its start from disco anyway.) However, I kind of question whether what's on Spotify is the same as I found on YouTube. Here's a video showing a little different side of their music.

I also listened to a band called Disturbing Joan. They sing in English, and their style in kind of a mix of rock and funk with some reggae layered on top. I really liked what I listened to, and I’m willing to bet they give a good live show.

Ricky T is a soca musician from St. Lucia who has won numerous soca awards for his work. The thing about soca music is that it’s so upbeat – like I can’t listen to it until its warm, I have an entire afternoon free, and I have a drink in my hand. And I believe soca musicians can and will make a song about pretty much anything, though.

I thought I added the music of the St. Lucian musician Prolifik to my playlist. However, upon further research, I found out I added another rapper who goes by the same name. There are actually a couple of rappers who go by that name. And all I could find was a grainy video from ten years ago. But there are many other musicians from St. Lucia, but I have a feeling many of them are local or underground. However, there are also several steel bands that have earned some kind of notoriety. And the island hosts a huge jazz fest every year.

Up next: the food (finally!)

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