The Bahamas music is primarily linked to a famous event and celebration called the Junkanoo, which is celebrated on the 26th of December and on January 1st New Year’s Day. The event starts around early morning, parades with colorful costumes and circling dancing to the Bahamian beat marks the ceremony. Bahamas music from groups like the Baha Men, Ronnie Butler, and Kirkland Bodie has gained enormous popularity in the United States, Japan, and elsewhere.
The Junkanoo celebration has much to do with Bahamas music; it has greatly influenced its promotion and preservation through the events unending blast of all Bahamian beat, sounds, and music. Bahamas music has been decreasing recognition throughout the 20th century partly because of the great influence of American Culture. The Bahamas’ proximity to Florida’s TV and radio stations, whose signals can be picked up in the Bahamas, has lessened the popularity of Bahamas music, not to mention the arrival of other musical forms such as reggae, soca, and calypso from Jamaica, Cuba and Trinidad among other Caribbean islands. Tourism has also much say in this decreased popularity of the Bahamas music, Japanese, European and North Americans forms of cultural expression with music has been brought into the Bahamian music world. However, Bahamian performers like Joseph Spence have become underground stars playing Junkanoo, Christian hymns, and ant’ems of the local sponge fishermen which include “Sloop John B” later made famous by The Beach Boys, is still making an impact on Bahamas music.
The Bahamas music in the celebration of Junkanoo is played with a type of goatskin drum called Goombay which is used to produce a rolling rhythm for music. Goombay is the traditional Bahamas music which combines musical traditions from Africa with that of the European colonial influence. Goombay is also the Bantu word for “rhythm”.
During the time when African slaves had very few resources to craft musical instruments, rake and scrape bands were used to play the goombay music. The rake and scrape bands had a drum shaped out of a pork barrel and goatskin. A carpenter’s saw was scraped with a metal file, rhythm sticks, maracas, and homemade bass violin which was a washtub with a string through it that was tied to a three foot stick. Today’s rake and scrape bands use electric guitars, saxophones and other instruments aside from saws and goombay drums.
Attending a Junkanoo parade will let you witness and hear the much louder, more energetic version of the goombay Bahamas music. The parade participants do more of a ‘rushin’ that is not quiet a dance, which consist of two steps forward followed by one step back. From the early morning start of the parade till it ends at dawn, is an experience of amazing Bahamian culture which portrays greatly in the loud, unending beat of Bahamas music filling the streets of the city.