The classic introduction to the Caribbean's popular music brought up to date

Caribbean Currents

Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae

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Revised and Expanded Edition

Peter Manuel with Kenneth Bilby and Michael Largey

Outstanding Academic Books, Choice, 1996

Gordon K. Lewis Memorial Award for Caribbean Scholarship, Caribbean Studies Association, 1996

"[T]he many helpful discographies throughout the book—not to mention the cool photographs!—contribute to making this an essential text on some of the world's most irrepressible rhythms."

Music is the most popular and dynamic aspect of Caribbean expressive culture. From the well-known genres—salsa, merengue, reggae, calypso, and bachata—to more localized forms like chutney and kaseko, this wide-ranging book surveys Caribbean music's prodigious diversity and colorful history.

Enhanced with numerous illustrations and musical examples, Caribbean Currents is an up-to-date overview of the region's music, covering Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, Suriname, and smaller islands like Martinique and Guadeloupe. Engaging descriptions of musical forms and innovations, festivals and dance halls, as well as musicians and fans, are situated in the context of the modern genres' relationship to issues of race, regional diversity, gender, and socio-political conflicts.

This revised and expanded version features:

  • Twenty-seven new illustrations

  • Recent developments in the region's music, such as the emergence of reggaetón and timba

  • A new and extensive study of Jamaican dancehall



Read the Preface and the Introduction (pdf).



Praise for the First Edition:

"This is an exciting text that offers an excellent survey of the popular musical styles of the Caribbean.... The authors assert that Caribbean music has something to offer everyone, and this text is intended to cater for a very broad audience ranging from Caribbean music lovers, to students of Caribbean and/or pan-American society, to readers of Caribbean descent who wish to learn more about their unique and dynamic music-culture."
The World of Music

"There is very much to admire in this comprehensive and insightful work. Caribbean Currents blends musical and sociocultural analysis, draws significance from fascinating song lyrics, and traces the social history of many of the Caribbean's most important genres of music and dance. The result is a package perfectly suited to classroom settings that should serve for some time as the standard text on Caribbean music."
The Yearbook of Traditional Music

"Professor Manuel is a superb ethnomusicologist with several important books to his credit. He is well versed in the intricacies of hybrid music forms on the Caribbean... This is an excellent summary volume on Caribbean music."
Raul Fernandez, Professor of Social Sciences, University of California at Irvine

"This excellent book encompasses Caribbean music in all its diversity and complexity. Manuel shows a great deal of contemporary sensibility and sensitivity in covering this fertile region of world music—he is able to relate the many musical traditions present in the region to those that are present in world music today."
Juan Flores, Director, Centro de Estudio Puertoriqueños, City University of New York

"This is an excellent resource for any who would understand the background of the musical styles which have emerged from this region, providing the connections necessary to understand the events and individuals involved in Caribbean music's evolution."
Midwest Book Review

"Manuel presents a good overview of the array of Caribbean musical styles and their place in 'world cultural history.' Students and general readers will find this book appealing, and the inclusion of bibliographies, discographies, and a glossary enhance its educational value."
The Journal of American Folklore

Praise for the Revised and Expanded Edition:

"The revised edition addresses the most important and significant new developments in the 21st century Caribbean, and will be welcomed by those who enjoyed the original due to the considerable additions and enhancements in the revised edition....undoubtedly a valuable resource."



Preface to the Second Edition
The Caribbean at a Glance

1. Introduction: The Caribbean Crucible
The Indian Heritage • The African Heritage • Patterns of Musical Retention • The European Heritage • Creolization • Bibliography

2. Cuba
A Day in Havana, 1986 • The Cuban Crucible • African-Derived Musics • Rumba • A Music Festival in Santiago de Cuba • European-Derived Musics • The Son and Modern Cuban Dance Music • "Socialism with Pachanga" • The "Special Period" and Its Special Music • Coda: Revisiting Havana—and Miami, 2004 • Bibliography • Records and Films

3. Puerto Rico
Cuba and Puerto Rico: "The Two Wings of the Same Bird'' • European-Derived Musics • The Fiesta de Santiago Apóstol at Loíza Aldea • Plena and Bomba in the Dance Hall • Music and the Puerto Rican Diaspora • Puerto Rico Rocks and Raps • Bibliography • Records and Films

4. Salsa and Beyond
The Son Sires a Son • Ruben Blades: The Cutting Edge • Style and Structure • The Salsa Life • Salsa Lite? • Latin Rap and Reggaetón • Nueva Canción • Bibliography • Records and Films

5. The Dominican Republic
The Merengue Típico • The Merengue as National Symbol • The Modern Merengue • The Merengue Explosion • Merengue Style and Dance • Bachata: Songs of Bitterness, Songs of Love • Juan Luis Guerra • The Return of the Repressed • Bibliography • Records and Films

6. Haiti and the French Caribbean
Music in the Streets of Port-au-Prince • Haitian Cultural Crossroads • Creolization in Haiti: Language • Creolization in Haiti: Religion • Carnival and Rara • Misik Twoubadou • Haitian Dance Music • Politics and the Haitian Diaspora • Contemporary Haitian Popular Music • Misik Rasin, Rap, and Ragga • Music in the Lesser Antilles: Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St. Lucia • Bibliography • Records

7. Jamaica
Kumina Culture, 1976 • Roots Music in the Mid-Twentieth Century • Music inna Downtown Style: Recording the Unrecorded • Roots and Culture: Downtown Triumphant • Rasta and Revolution • The End of an Era and the Dawn of a New One: From Reggae to Ragga • Tellin' It Like It Is, from "Consciousness" to "Slackness" • Female Degradation or Liberation? • Love Music—or Hate Music? • Sound Systems and Sound Clashes • Dancehall inna Foreign • Bibliography • Records

8. Trinidad, Calypso, and Carnival
The Development of Calypso and Carnival • Calypso in Colonialism • Modern Calypso and Carnival • Woman Rising • The Carnival Context • Steel Band • Calypso and Carnival outside Trinidad • Bibliography • Records and Films

9. East Indian Music and Big Sounds from the "Small Islands"
East Indians in the West Indies • Small Island Traditions • Indo-Caribbean Bibliography • Indo-Caribbean Records and Film • Small Island Bibliography • Small Island Recordings

10. Five Themes in the Study of Caribbean Music
Unity and Diversity in a Continent of Islands • Race and Ethnicity • Music, Sex, and Sexism • Caribbean Music International • Music and Politics



About the Author(s)

Peter Manuel is Professor of Music at John Jay College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of five books and many articles on musics of India, the Caribbean, Spain, and elsewhere, including East Indian Music in the West Indies (Temple). He also plays sitar, jazz piano, and flamenco guitar.

Kenneth Bilby is Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution.

Michael Largey is Professor of Music at Michigan State University, East Lansing. His publications include the award-winning Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music and Cultural Nationalism.

Subject Categories

Latin American/Caribbean Studies
Music and Dance



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