Music & Dance
come find your holiday rhythm
Come and discover the island through our endless amounts of great music. From rocksteady to reggae and island “riddims,” hear for yourselves why we’re the peaceful and world-changing paradise we are today.
Jamaican music is world famous, not only for making you want to sing along and shake your hips, but also for being a powerful tool for ‘change.’ Although Reggae is commonly used to define Jamaica’s music, the island’s traditional or folk music is rich – heavy with the substance of African rhythms and collective experiences – and has continued to evolve into an extraordinary legacy. Drawing from several different influences, our music reflects the tides of the time with the sounds and rhythms, each possessing its own distinctive beat.
Folk is the earliest music form in Jamaica and remains one of the most influential aspects of our heritage. Its beat shakes social barriers and unifies our nation with its intensity and ingenuity. Its power to heal, inspire and incite makes it an essential part of the Jamaican identity. The music is characterized by three main groups – tunes for work and entertainment, religious melodies, and dance music. Each group has its own harmony, but all share a commonality in the types of accompaniments used, primarily the drum and small wind and string instruments.
Towards the turn of the 20th century we soaked up calypso, tango and samba, fusing to create a vibrant Jamaican music form called Mento. Its medley of banjos, hand drums, guitars and rhumba boxes created a fascinating beat with light-hearted and often times comical lyrics.
Awaiting our Independence during the 1960's, we became saturated with optimism. Filled with high hopes and huge dreams, Ska’s buoyant jazz rhythms, though influenced by American Rhythm and Blues, became Jamaican naturalized. Everywhere you went it was ska, ska, ska! When the sound hit abroad, it spread like wild fire through London’s underground scene, scoring ‘big time’ with Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’.
The ‘giddy-up’ bug took a hiatus, the music beat slowed and a heavy bass emerged in the 1970’s. Social messages were turned into song. Dance moves became languid and ‘rude boys’ found kinship with the new sound that epitomized the times. This was Rock Steady but this epoch was transitory, for it had to make way for the inevitable scorching, rebel music – Reggae!
Reggae remains popular on the international scene from roots rock to dancehall. It has gained success abroad and has been credited for the birth of the popular American genre, ‘Hip-Hop’. Modern artistes continue to fuse the reggae rhythms with other music forms to create new sounds, infusing their messages and spreading cool island vibes.
Come Experience It
The National Dance Theatre Company showcases Jamaica’s colourful history and contemporary ideas, while groups like the Jamaica Folk Singers and University Singers perform traditional song and dance that honour the country’s past. Kingston's lively theatre scene offers a rich variety of locally themed and topical plays. A hallmark of Jamaican theatre is the Ward Theatre’s LTM Pantomime- an annual Jamaican folk musical with original song and dance and dramatic costumes. The season opens each year of December 26th and runs for several months.