Bahamian People, Art & Dance
ost Bahamians are of African descent — about 85 percent. The remaining white population is directly descended from Loyalists, Eleutheran adventurers and sailors. Some families have been Bahamian for over two centuries.
Bahamians are a dynamic, independent and friendly people who love music. Religion is an important part of their lives and churches are plentiful.
English is spoken throughout the islands.
Many Bahamians have an artistic side, which they express through their colourful art, infectious music or exuberant dancing. When you visit The Bahamas, take time to view the local artwork. Not surprisingly, you’ll see brightly coloured art that reflects the beauty of the people and their islands.
Original Caribbean Art by Romeo DownerSome artists — like Amos Ferguson, Maxwell Taylor and Stan Burnside — have attained international acclaim. Ferguson’s works are on permanent display at the Pompey Museum in Nassau.
The Baha Men a few years ago won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording!
No matter what adventures you enjoy during your trip to the Bahamas, one of the most unforgettable memories you’ll take home with you is the sound of island music. From world-famous Reggae and Calypso to native Junkanoo and Rake ’n Scrape bands, the music of the Bahamas is a joyful celebration unlike any other!
Junkanoo is without a doubt the most popular style of music you’ll hear in the Bahamas
Junkanoo is without a doubt the most popular style of music you’ll hear in the Bahamas, because it’s been around for hundreds of years and is a vital part of the heritage of the islands. Some say the word derives from the name of a freed slave, John Canoe, but others insist that it comes from the word “junk”—the discarded cans and materials used to create instruments for the first Junkanoo celebrations in the 18th century. A Junkanoo “rush” is a slow march accompanied by Junkanoo rhythm and percussion instruments, and many hotels feature a 5- or 10-minute rush through their restaurant or main lobby at least once a week.
Don’t head home without dancing to a Rake ’n Scrape band, another trademark style of Bahamas music featured at many local clubs. The bass instrument is created from a piece of wood, some fishing line, and a worn tin tub. A conch shell is used as a horn, an old comb covered with paper serves as a harmonica, and an old carpenter’s saw is scraped with a piece of metal to produce a truly unique melodic sound. The rhythm is provided by drums made of goatskins stretched over wood and heated over a flame. Rake ’n Scrape instruments are a good example of the ingenuity of islanders in using materials at hand to make whatever they need. A visit to the Bahamas wouldn’t be complete without hearing them!
The Performer original painting by Romeo DownerNative music has a long and colorful history in the Bahamas. When Freeport began developing its reputation as an exotic vacation hotspot, the musicians of Grand Bahama made their living by playing Calypso standards and other popular island songs favored by tourists.
They entertained hotel visitors around poolsides during the day and in lounges at night. The “father” of this musical trend was Gil Robinson of Eight Mile Rock, whose witty, distinctive musical style and skill in working an audience influenced many musicians. His protégé, Marvin Henfield, is an internationally known entertainer who has opened for many renowned performers. If you’re planning a trip to the Bahamas, be sure to include an evening at the Club Tropicana to enjoy his must-see show.
Many other musicians have contributed their distinctive sounds to the islands’ music and carried those sounds around the world. “Calypso Rose” Simmons displays her many talents in “The Calypso Rose Revue,” a variety show at WRLK. Lil’ Joe Cartwright is the star attraction at the Port Lucaya Marketplace, where the open-air Count Basie Square bounces to a tropical rhythm every evening with mini Junkanoo parades, limbo dancing, and a wide variety of local entertainers. And the sounds and rhythms of the Bahamas are enjoying worldwide acclaim thanks to the Bahamas’ own Grammy-winning Baha Men, whose vivid costumes and music reflect the festive carnival of Junkanoo.
You can sample various flavors of island music at discos and nightspots such as the Arawak Dining Room in Lucaya, where the duo of Ozzy & Elliot performs jazz tunes. The Yacht Club Pub at the Green Turtle Club on Abaco features the smooth Bahamian sounds of the legendary Estin Sawyer, and the number one band in the nation, the Gully Roosters Band, performs under the stars every Wednesday night. They guarantee to get you out of your seat and dancing to the latest hits from the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Come enjoy some melodic fun in the sun in paradise! Your visit to the Bahamas will fill your mind with images of sparkling white beaches, smells of exotic tropical flowers, and tastes of barbecue and fried fish. But underneath it all, your heart will be dancing to the rhythm of the music of the islands!