Like many Caribbean countries, the music of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines shares roots with the Caribbean, African, and European countries. There are three main styles heard here: calypso, soca, and big drum.
Calypso is a mix of African and French styles with lyrics often built on satire and often mixed in socio-political commentary. Steelpan music was built upon calypso styles and is used as accompaniment. Soca music is a very popular type of dance music. It also incorporates a lot of calypso into it as well, and it’s pretty widely heard throughout the Caribbean with a few variations. Big Drum is similar to calypso in the fact that its lyrics are also social commentary and/or satirical. However, the music here is performed on (gasp!) big drums. These drums were originally made out of tree trunks, but now it’s more likely they’re made of rum kegs.
Dance is such a part of their culture that it’s performed at many of the festivals and celebrations throughout the year. In fact, the entire month of September is designated as a Dance Festival Month. Schools, community groups, and dance troupes across the islands come together to showcase their work. Dances include a variety of styles like traditional dances, folk, modern, Latin, and ballroom.
As far as modern music goes, I listened to several bands and musicians on Spotify. One of the groups I came across is Mattafix. They’re actually a duo from the UK, but one of the members grew up on St. Vincent before moving back to the UK when he was 18. Their style mixes a little reggae, R&B, hip-hop, soul, world rock, and dancehall. I really liked their sound. I listened to a couple of their albums while I was working the other day.
Another artist who I didn’t immediately recognize his name is Kevin Lyttle. But when I heard his most famous song, “Turn Me On,” I knew it right away. There are a few other songs on that album in the same style, which I like. It’s a little reggae, a little dancehall, a little something else. You can tell there is definitely a Caribbean flavor to his music. Overall, I liked the album.
Skarpyon is a ragga soca musician I came across. I thought his music was pretty catchy, definitely something you can dance to. He’s performed across the Caribbean, and I can see why I imagine he’d be pretty popular. I also listened to several songs by Jamesy P., another soca musician. His song “Nookie” is pretty catchy, and I can see why. It actually charted in the US (#54) and the UK (#14). Skinny Fabulous should also be added to the list as well. His music is in the same genre. He’s won a few awards and has released a ton of singles.
One artist I enjoyed listening to was Maddzart. His music is reggae and dancehall and makes me think I should probably play this with the windows open. Never underestimate the therapeutic power of playing a good reggae and dancehall playlist on the open road.
Up next: the food