Music is a diverse form of expression that takes in many styles. It's a popular field that can only be briefly sampled in a short article.
The Caribbean Islands are an important part of the Americas. Over the thousands of miles that they cover, the islands harbor a fascinating history and variety of cultures. In 1492, they became a major part of world history, when Christopher Columbus departed the Canary Islands, sailed for 30 days and landed in the Bahamas. Since that fateful day, life in the Americas has never been the same.
When Bob Dylan wrote Caribbean Wind, it is highly unlikely that he was commenting on the history of the Atlantic Basin. Over the years Bob has penned many historical protest songs, but Caribbean Wind is not one. The lively tune is just a Bohemian tale of a short romance in the American subtropics. However, for those who want to learn about the torrid history of the region, those songs are out there also. This selection includes both.
"Caribbean Wind" by Bob Dylan
Over 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus rode the Trade Winds and discovered the Caribbean islands, as well as Central and South America. As we can see from this group of Native American rockers, "discovery" may be nothing more than a point of view.
Generally speaking ,"Pan-Indianism" (using one viewpoint to encompass all pre-Columbian residents of the Americas) is a risky and precarious place to go. However, Tom Bee of the American Indian rock band XIT handles the situation with grace and humor, as he presents an alternative view to the "Great Admiral of the Oceans."
Shortly after Columbus, came the Conquistadors. They were not nice guys, for left their bloody mark, all the way from Peru in the south to the upper reaches of the Rio Grande in present-day New Mexico. Not a lot has been done musically about their brief "moment-in-the-sun", except for this Neil Young masterpiece.
"Cortez, the Killer" by Dave Matthews Band
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
Columbus died before the Spanish slave ship crossed the Atlantic from Africa to the New World. Nonetheless, the slave trade to the Americas went first to the islands of the Caribbean, where numerous sugar cane plantations were established to produce the popular sweetener. Eventually, people of the islands learned how to distill rum from the cane and a whole new era of triangular trading was initiated.
This popular lament written and performed by the O'Jays in the 70s, specifically deals with the latter years of the slave trade, when the newly-formed United States was the major destination of the slave traders. Still, much of the song applies quite well to what first went down in the Caribbean.
"Ship Ahoy" by the O'Jays
The Golden Age of Piracy
Though many of the great buccaneers did not like slavery, the Golden Age of Piracy ran concurrent to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and had died off, long before the great agricultural wealth of the United States was tapped, creating a large demand for African slaves.
Some pirates, like Blackbeard, even went as far as raiding slave ships on the high seas and offering some of the the males a better deal. Nonetheless, among these three major historical eras, the life of the pirates is most frequently romanticized, today. Nowhere is this more evident than in this 2 Cellos performance done aboard an old Spanish caravel. The neo-classical composition is actually the theme song from The Pirates of the Caribbean, a popular series of American movies.
Pirates of the Caribbean
A Different Era
The Modern Era
The Caribbean is a very different place today. Agricultural and marine products are still exported around the world, but Tourism is also important to the region attracting visitors from all over the world.
Music is also a saleable export. From Calypso to Reggae, Caribbean music hits have found popular appeal around the world, bringing much needed revenue into the islands. Following are five contemporary songs from musicians and songwriters, who have visited the area and been subsequently inspired to express their experience in music.
Eddie Lovett was a successful reggae performer and recording artist. As a young man he attended the University of Miami, where he found his first musical success with a band called Eddie Lovett and the Tropics. Over the years he wrote and recorded many reggae songs for K & K also from South Florida. Mr. Sea is a popular tune that has been covered by other reggae artists.
"Mr. Sea" by Eddie Lovette
No way around it, discovery of the trade winds, changed Caribbean life, forever. They definitely increased trade with Europe, but the price was high for the new arrivals brought disease, destruction of the Native populations, an unlimited quest for gold and many slaves to work the newly formed plantations.
Today, the trade winds still blow offering sailors an opportunity to ride the waves across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean. In this latter spirit, Jesse Rice and the Pirate Sessions have put together this modern-day sailing story.
"Next Tradewind" by Jesse Rice
Always an Island Person
Born and raised along the Gulf Coast, Jimmy Buffett has always been someone that has always cherished life next to the sea. The theme permeates his work. The song, "One Particular Harbor", was created after a trip to French Polynesia, Tahiti, to be exact, but in reality, this story could be set anywhere that there is salt water, warm weather and a touch of magic.
"One Particular Harbor" by Jimmy Buffett
A Journey to the Sea
Despite being born and raised in the Southern Appalachians, Kenny Chesney found his way to the Atlantic Basin via a Greyhound bus and never looked back. One of his bigger hits, Pirate Flag, Island Girl, fits his easy-going lifestyle and philosophy quite well.
"Pirate Flag, Island Girl" byKenny Chesney
An Old English Hit
Back in 1972, the Sutherland Brothers, Gavin and Iain, wrote and recorded the song, Sailing. A later release in 1975, propelled the song to number one in several countries including the UK and the Netherlands. Since then the song has been covered by the likes of Rod Stewart and Joan Baez.
According to the two original songwriters, Sailing is not so much about romance, as it relates to spiritual awakening and awareness.
"Sailing" by Rod Stewart
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Harry Nielsen
James C Moore from The Great Midwest on June 25, 2020:
I remember the O'Jays "Ship Ahoy" song from back in the day. I recall most its haunting title melody. Ironically, I didn't know what this song was about even though my grade school classes of that time discussed or rather brain washed us concerning Christopher Columbus. Fortunately, Bob Marley's music was available to impart some truth.