What Types of Music Originated in the Caribbean?

types-music-originated-caribbean Credit: Niko Guido/E+/Getty Images

There is a vast range of music that can be traced back to Caribbean cultures, from more traditional genres such as calypso, salsa, merengue, Afro-Cuban jazz and rumba to more contemporary genres such as dancehall, reggae and mizik rasin. Some of these genres, such as reggae, which originated in Jamaica, have a specific point of origin within the Caribbean, while others may have wider roots.

In some cases, a specific genre developed in a particular location, but its musical themes can be traced back further. For example, rumba was largely developed by African slaves who lived in Cuba during the 1800s. The genre can be said to have developed in Cuba, but that simple explanation does not tell the entire story of the music's African legacy. Other genres, such as ska, were developed from local Caribbean musical traditions in combination with influences from other parts of the world. Ska takes cues from Caribbean calypso and blends that with American jazz.

In many cases, Caribbean music is made to accompany dancing. The instrumentation of Caribbean music may vary by location, but generally, percussive instruments are an important component of these genres.