WINE, JOUK, DIP: The Powerful Music of the Caribbean

The joy, the pain, the hope of the human spirit-- it can all be found in music and movement. I have never seen happiness so fully personified than through dance. It can welcome birth or death, revere love, celebrate longstanding cultural traditions, or, simply be one of the most compelling things to do after a few drinks. While traveling, you might not be able to speak the same language, but you can always connect through music and dance. Here are just a few examples of its very power around the world.


Punta is a type of music and dance celebrated in Belize, as well as other Central American countries like Honduras. It originates from the Garifuna people, descendants of West Africans who escaped slavery and settled first in St. Vincent before migrating elsewhere. I was mesmerized by the drums and punta in Dangriga, Belize, the rapid movements of the waist and feet while the upper body remains still. It is a spirit filled dance you cannot forget.


Where to begin? The joy, the love, and rum drinking that soca inspires cannot be contained. Ever. Soca, which means soul of calypso, originated in Trinidad and Tobago and combines elements of calypso and East Indian music. It is the life force of Carnival and a call to wine, jump up, wave yuh flag and live life to the fullest. And it is impossible, absolutely impossible to be still when you hear it.


Bachata is a style of music and dance originating from the Dominican Republic.  The basics to the dance are three-steps with a partner, followed by a tap including a hip movement on the fourth beat. Bachata originated with a basic eight step movement (side, side, forward and side, side, back) within a square. Today, the movement can include more footwork and faster music.


In the 1950s, Haitian born musician Nemours Jean Baptiste’s made konpa (or compas) music popular. The melody maintains a big band feel with a brass orchestra, and almost always a saxophone leading the tune. Movement to konpa is very similar to merengue dance.


photo by Beth Lesser

photo by Beth Lesser

Dancehall music originated in Jamaica in the 1970s as an offshoot to the roots reggae style. It is named after dance halls where recordings were played on booming sound systems . Years later, especially with the rise of artist Yellowman, it became more digitized with faster rhythms that made it impossible not to buss a whine. It typically features a voice over a "riddim" (rhythm) performed by a number of artists over the same beat.