Originally posted in 2009, play lists added 2014 and completely revamped November 2018. On any playlist first click, allow a few seconds to load.

From Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos

B A H A M I A N    M U S I C

CALYPSO: For this writer it all started back in the late 60's. As an unexpected consequence of my first Caribbean trip, I fell in love with the music. I remember thinking, "It was where rock should have gone - simple lyrics with a great beat". I now had a dilemma, where to buy the music. Luckily I stumbled on a NYC radio station, WLIB 1190, that broadcast the "Caribbean Top Ten" every Saturday morning to the large West Indian audience living in Queens and Brooklyn. Many of the shows sponsors were record shops. This meant a fifty mile trek every now and then.

The king then was Trinidadian Calypsonian, Slinger Francisco, affectionately known as the Mighty Sparrow. (Music)
(Bio) Those were the days of big band percussion. The only thing electronic was amplification. The horns you heard were the real thing not a key board, and a drum was a drum. I remember dancing to Sparrow's "Miss Mary" being played on Miss Emily's juke box on Green Turtle Cay in Abaco back in '74. Other Calypsonians of those days of note and deserving of no less honorable mention here are: Lord Kitchener (Music) (Bio) and the late Lord Shorty (Music) (Bio)

The mid 70's infused electronic percussion and changed Calypso to it's modern day counterpart called SOCA, originally referred to as Soul Calypso. The calypso beat remained only more "galloping" exaggerated and electronically precise. The horns, an integral part of the Caribbean sound, still remained only now produced by a keyboard. Here is a great Caribbean Soca Sampling of mine from the 80's, all from LP's.

During those times, the only way was to listen to music was by LP or Radio. Some of us will remember listening to a late night music being broadcast over long distance (1000+ miles). The resulting sound would pulsate due to atmospheric conditions. That same pulsating sound was captured unbeknownst by Jamaicans in what we have come to know as Ska or Rock Steady which eventually evolved into Reggae. The early groups, names we've come to know, were the Wailers, Maytals and the Hepptones with the pioneers of the genre being Toots Hibbert, Peter Tosh, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Issacs and Bob Marly

A little later chronologically, the French Islands of Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe started producing music of their own which we've come to know as the “hi stepping” Zouk
sample. In the French Antilles, Zouk means "party," but it also means a kind of dance music developed for partying. It is light and lively, blending modern technology with traditional instruments, rhythms, and melodies.

It goes without saying, the Spanish speaking Caribbean & mainland countries also went through an evolution of their own. Suffice it to say, that subject would be too much to cover here with its myriad's of music from Rhumba and Samba to Meringue, Salsa, Cumbia to Reggaeton. Another time maybe.


During the evolution of Caribbean music, the Bahamas under went a metamorphose of its own but first some background. The traditional Music of the Bahamas is Goombay, which combines the musical traditions from Africa with that of European colonial influence. Goombay, also refers to the type of goatskin drum used to produce the rhythm of this type of music. Of Goombay there were primarily two types: First, Rake -n- Scrape (sample from our VIDEO Page) which features musicians playing a goombay drum and scraping a carpenters saw while playing melodious tunes on the concertina (a small hexagonal accordion with bellows and with buttons for keys). A second type, louder and more boisterous is commonly called Junkanoo (sample) generally associated with the parade of the same name. Junkanoo is also a primitive music of tom toms, cowbells and whistles. Think of Junkanoo as the music of the event. A whistle or horn is sounded in cadence with the percussion which, in its purest sense, has no melody.

Of those two primitive types, rake and scrape dominated and its influence is not uncommon in today's music combined with Caribbean and U.S. influences as you will hear in some of the songs sampled here. In this writer's opinion, the biggest obstacle to Bahamian music is, it has no name, just "Bahamian Music". Yes it can loosely be called Rake & Scrape which conjures up "acient or vintage". There is no genre to be recognized or marketed by like Calypso, Soca, Reggae, Zouk and the many latin rhythms.

The early Bahamian king in the music department is
Ronnie Butler. He is one of the Bahamian's cultural icons. His songs border on folk with with his distinctive Rake & Scrape background beat and most tell a story of life in the Bahamas like My Bahamian Thing and his 70's classic Burma Road, both sampled in our player. Ronnie has been no less of an influence on Bahamian Music than the Mighty Sparrow was on Caribbean music and he is still going strong today. He draws big crowds where ever he appears. For more info check out Chris Justilien Anthology of Bahamian Music.

The ‘90's took Bahamian music to a new level where it is today and featured in most of the songs in the player to the right. A popular group that brought Bahamian Music to the U.S. was the Baha Men and their number one hit worldwide “Who let the Dogs Out”. I wouldn't call that song Bahamian but it put them and the Bahamas on the musical map. It's more of a novelty song as compared to their first Bahamian hit, Mash de Roach which is more true to the Bahamian flavor. It too is one of their songs sampled here. Recent hits have featured songs for “group dance”, Mash the Roach and Hold Your Head and the Pineapple Song, featured in the 2005 movie “After the Sunset” with Pierce Brosnan and others. Other movie exposure by singer song writer Stileet having appeared in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" parts 2 and 3 (2005) and "Way of the Dolphin"(2006) written about below.

In 2013 the Crème de la Crème of Bahamian meistro's got together to sing "Get Involved". A Bahamian answer to We are the World", fearuting K.B, T'Rez Hepburn, Funky D, Veronica Bishop, Ira Storr, and Ronnie Butler to name just a few.


Since this page is part of my Abaco Guide, I should mention the Abacos. Well, I'm often asked where one might find a band especially from folks planning a wedding in the Abacos. My standard reply is the Gully Roosters. They perform primarily on Green Turtle Cay and have been around since I can remember. They have never produced a commercial CD like other out island groups (Avvy - Inagua, The Brilanders - Eleuthera etc), yet their trade mark song will most assuredly be heard by any visitor; "Let's Go Go to Abaco". It is sampled here and can sometimes be found as a homemade CD single in the Abaco gift shops. Stone McEwan is another Abaconian artist of the "One Man Band" variety you'll see at Nippers and elsewhere through the islands. He's been on the Abaco scene since the 90's after immigrating from the next island over, Grand Bahama. His signature song is "Hangin' Out in Abaco".

The good news is, bands are popping up all the time. A few years ago, a band sprang up which is often found at the Sea Spray Resort on Elbow Cay. The Hope Town Islanders, as they are called, I hear tell was organized when an American homeowner was planning a party and wanted a band. So with the help of Junior, the manager at Sea Sprays and who happened to be a drummer, put together a group of old high school friends. Only problem no drums! So the party-giver had a set sent over from the States. That's the way I heard it. Like I said Bands are popping up all the time especially on the mainland who will often ferry over to the Cays for a gig. And the "big names" of other islands, Nassau and Freeport will often show up during festival times in Marsh Harbour.

Finally, there is another category I'd call Tropical Folk or Country Tropic, or Jummy Buffett style. This style of island bar hopping is personified by a fellow who goes by the name of the
Barefoot Man. His CD's are in every gift shop in the Abacos. He once lived and worked in the Abacos on Green Turtle Cay although nowadays he hangs his hat in Grand Cayman. Still he shows up in on Guana Cay a couple times a year and performs a lively concert at Nippers. His island hopping life story is featured on our book page. It makes for fascinating reading. His songs about the Abacos and the Caribbean are amusing. However, to fully appreciate the Bahamian side of his clever lyrics and music, you have to have been to the Abacos and the places mentioned in his music and in this website's home page. Each song will trigger a nerve or memory of a good time in Abaco. Similarly, in the same vain in case you didn't know, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown, Scarletta, Jake Owen and Billy Currington have taken to shooting their music videos in Abaco on Green Turtle Cay. Like said, this genre best reflects more Buffett than Bahamian, yet their songs about island hopping, boating, fishing and getting drunk in some off beat tiki hut or bar, is the stuff a good many of us can relate to.      - - Sandy

GET INVOLVED | Multi Bahamian Artists
SEX ON THE BEACH - T-SPOON | Carib (old but super)
OTTAWAN - HANDS UP | French Caribbean (in English)

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