A Musical Mélange

The Guianas have some of the most interesting and unexpected ethnic musical mixes in South America: Caribbean and East Indian, Amerindian, Dutch and Javanese, West African, Hmong, French, British and Garifuna. While the music is strongly influenced by the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica (through reggae and dub) and Trinidad (through calypso and soca), the music of the three countries reflects this diversity. In Georgetown you’ll hear Jamaican reggae alongside Bollywood film music and South Asian Guianese music from the likes of Berbice-born Terry Gajraj (, whose spicey mix of soca, reggae and Indian singing is known as chutney music. And you’ll hear shanto, Trinidad calypso with a Guyanese spin and mischievous lyrics, and local pop, reggae and soca from a diverse roll call of musicians from established names like Eddy Grant (who had big international hits with Baby Come Back and I Don’t Want to Dance) and newer faces like Fojo. Grant and Fojo live outside Guyana (Barbados and Trinidad respectively), as do other musicians with Guyanese roots, such as UK-based dub producer The Mad Professor and Canadian artist Melanie Fiona.

In Cayenne and Paramaribo there’s energetic French Antillean zouk which swept out of Guadeloupe and across France in the 1990s, and kaseko, one of the most exciting sounds on the continent, a swirling, fast-paced fusion of African and Caribbean music played by the likes of Yakki Famirie, with a called vocal and choral response sung in Papamiento, Creole or Dutch over frenetic percussion. It is impossible to keep still to. Kaseko was first popularized by Lieve Hugo (also called Iko, Julius Theodoor Hugo Uiterloo, 1934-1975) and as well as percussion includes piano, guitar and brass instruments. Another popular kaseko band is Sabaku.

The most traditional form of Surinamese music is kawina, which is just singing accompanied by a wide variety of percussion instruments; listen to Sukrusani or Ai Sasie. Kaskawi is a blend of kaseko, kawina and other styles and has a strong spiritual element, as does the music played in Javanese communities. The annual Suriname Jazz Festival blends local styles with jazz each October. Other styles you may come across in either Suriname or Guyane are bigi pokoe, the Maroon-influenced aléké and the traditional music and dance of the Maroon culture. Finally, there’s Caribbean carnival music. Cayenne prides itself on having one of the best Caribbean carnivals outside Trinidad, which takes place every spring. 
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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