Various Artists, Bongo, Backra & Coolie: Jamaican Roots, Vol. 1

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Caribbean sounds that never lost touch with their African roots.

Following the abolition of slavery there was a desperate need for cheap workers on Jamaica's plantations, a need that was filled by indentured laborers from Angola and India — who were essentially slaves in all but name. The Angolans brought both their music and religion, known as Kumina. It's raw, just percussion and voice, a sound that's never lost touch with its African homeland. Kumina might be a tiny rural subculture in today's Jamaica, but it remains an important part of its history (you can hear its influence in dancehall). The same is true for the Indian Hindus who were brought over and remained. Their music (called coolie by the Jamaicans) transformed into a hybrid, very Africanized in its rhythms, but still redolent of the homeland in the voice and melody instrument (there were far more Indians in Trinidad, where their music evolved into a modern soca strand called chutney). It's another piece in the Caribbean mosaic.