Music is the way Bahamians tell their story.
It connects them together through rhythmic Goombay beats, playing together with rake and scrape, and sharing joy in jungle beats. Music is the preserver and protector of Bahamian heritage. Moreover, Bahamian music is evolving as the next generation create interesting and stylish sounds which intensify the Bahamian story and its connection to music.
What is Bahamian Music?
Bahamian musicians themselves are still asking themselves that question, even after fifty years of independence. Some say that Goombay music is the official Bahamian music. However, that assumption is still heavily debated.
It is 2016, and still, there is no precise definition of what is Bahamian music. Of course, there is Junkanoo the original Bahamian music art form, rack and scrape which influenced RnB and Hip-hop. However, we cannot pinpoint what makes a music Bahamian, so to speak.
We can better understand Bahamian music if we examine its parts. Three sections include Bahamian music. First, Soca is the national dance music of Bahamas as well as the Bahamian Quadrille and the Heel and Toe Polka. Second, Junkanoo is the most prominent form of Bahamian music which are also the national festival music. Third, rack and scrape which is the most popular form of Bahamian music in the world today, if we considered Goombay the heart of Bahamian music, then rack and scrape is the body.
Bahamian music also contains the traditional and folk type of music. Like African rhythms, folk songs, Caribbean Calypso, and Christian spirituals.
Goombay is the word for rhythm in the local culture. Its name derives from the drums which are made of goatskin. It is one of the earliest forms of Bahamian music. When rake and scrape bands, having few resources, would create their instruments from metal scraps, saw, and junk. Music always finds a way.
The primary instrument in rake and scrape is the saw. The music itself was brought back by immigrants from Caicos Islands.
Music was thriving in the Bahamas during the 1970’s; it was the golden age. Tourists from everywhere came to enjoy the music. Many bands would perform local music in a festival atmosphere. The nightclubs were packed every night.
Some of the notable bands and musicians were The Chocolate Dandies, Ronnie Butler, Lord Cody, Eloise Trio, Curl Brice, The Lou Adams Orchestra, Freddie Munnings, Cat & Fiddle and the list goes on.
It is a little bit frustrating that the dynasty of Bahamian music has come to an end, but that is life.
This is the part of Bahamian music that I did not appreciate until my maid service lady made me aware of it. Bahamian music has been the vessel for Bahamian history. In its essence, Bahamian music is the art of storytelling. Every song is a story; Bahamians are adepts at making a story out of each situation and make a story out of it. Story-telling is the most apparent aspect of Bahamian Music. Therefore, Bahamian culture can be summarized in the music.
In the end, Bahamian music is alive, colorful, and rebellious. It is the story of the Bahamians themselves.