Saturday, January 24, 2015


The music of Guyana is a reflection of its people and its environment.  Not surprisingly, the music here has a strong Caribbean flair but also heavily mixed with Latin and Brazilian as well as Indian music. 

Because of its location, Guyanese music is very much influenced by some of the styles from Trinidad and Tobago. Calypso music is a fairly popular genre in Guyana, and relies heavily on the lyrics, mostly satirical in nature. Generally the lyrics to many of the calypso songs are sung in English and Hindi. Another style borrowed from Trinidad is called chutney-soca. This particular style combines soca music with styles from India and utilizes certain Indian instruments such as the dholak and dhantal. Like Guyanese calypso, the lyrics are also sung in English and Hindi. Likewise, steel drum bands are also pretty popular in Guyana as well. 

Shanto is a type of Guyanese music that is also related to calypso and another style known as mento (a type of Jamaican folk music that was the predecessor of reggae and ska). Shanto music, often accompanied by a guitar, is most often performed in vaudeville shows, characterized by its lighthearted lyrics.

There are many dances of African origin that were brought over to Guyana. The Kwe-Kwe event is a premarriage ceremony involving a lot of singing and dancing and borrowed from many of these traditions. It’s mostly seen in the Afro-Guyanese communities, and the songs are sung in Guyanese Creole. Both music and dance are intertwined in this famous ceremony. From what I can tell from this video, women dance in a circle with subtle movements while singing. There is one person in the middle with a variety of (possibly sacred?) items on a mat.  

I actually found a lot of Guyanese music on Spotify: some old, some new. There were several albums/artists listed who performed calypso and other styles. Most of the music is sung in English. Bing Serrão and the Ramblers have a very Latin Caribbean sound. Most of the lyrics are either love songs or about Guyana. Aubrey Cummings is one of the most famous Guyanese musicians. He has been involved with many bands in the past as well as performing his own solo work.  

Yoruba Singers sing mostly in Creole from what I can tell. Also highly influenced in calypso and similar Caribbean styles, the music often features a lead singer with backup singers in response, a style often utilized in African music.

In listening to the music of today, a lot of what I found was highly upbeat dance music that seemed to be a cross between Bollywood and reggae or dancehall. Two artists who fall into this category are Terry Gajraj and Ravi B. As a general fan of Bollywood style music and dancehall, I really liked it. Eddy Grant is a reggae musician who also has a few songs that I liked.  

Up next: the food

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