Various Artists

Caribbean Island Music: Songs and Dances of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica

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The island songs and dances are taken from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, and they make for some fascinating history. From the first two tracks, the African influence is evident in the call-and-response singing and the massed drumming. However, the remainder of the Dominican Republic cuts show how deep the Spanish sound goes. Haiti, on the other hand, was once a French colony, and that's apparent in both "Les Deux Jumeaux" and "Josephine," although adapted to the ideals of meringue and bolero, making for a curious but lovely mix. The meat of the matter is tastiest in the last nine cuts on the disc. Jamaica yields great treasures -- not only the African-inflected work songs like "Emmanuel Road," but also the profound depth of British influence. That's obvious from the melody of "Mango Time," adapted to the mento rhythm, and in the form of the song "When I Was in Colón." Curiously, however, the most historic British form, the mummer's play, was recorded in the Dominican Republic, continuing a tradition that's alive on St. Kitts. Thought slightly altered, the roots and references are unmistakable -- and the alterations aren't even that great -- except for the drumming, which swings in a manner beyond any Morris dance troupe. Fascinating, and wonderfully listenable, too.

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