Music of Guyana
The music of Guyana encompases a range of musical styles and genres that draw from various influences including: Indian, Spanish, African, and Amerindian music. Popular Guyanese performers include: Terry Gajraj, Harry Panday, Eddy Grant, Dave Martins & the Tradewinds (Johnny Braff, Ivor Lynch & Sammy Baksh), Aubrey Cummings and Nicky Porter, Shameer Rahman and Trinidadian chutney singer Ravi Bissambhar.
The Guyana Music Festival has proven to be influential on the Guyana music scene.
A number of popular Guyanese dance bands, including: BG Musicians Band, Harry Banks Orchestra, Al Seales & His Washboard Swing Orchestra, Bert Rogers & His Aristocrats Dance Orchestra, and Mr. Gouveia's Orchestra formed in the early 20th century. By the 1960s, these large bands, with their prominent horns and woodwinds, had become less popular than the newer string bands, which included: Jet Stars, The Oracles, The Rockets, Bumble & the Saints, Sid & the Slickers, Bing Serrao & the Ramblers, Combo 7, Rhythmaires, Dominators, Curtis MG's, Rudy & the Roosters, Yoruba Singers, Little Jones, Mischievous Guys, Cannonballs, and The Telstars.
The Rockets, led by Michael Bacchus and lead singer Johnny Braff, along with Bumble & the Saints, led by Colin Wharton, were perhaps the most influential groups in this shift. By the end of the decade, new instruments such as box guitars (introduced by Bing Serrao & the Ramblers) had taken over, while heavy guitar work by the Rhythmaires and Combo 7's complex drum solos proved influential.
Other bands of the 1960s and 1970s were: The Jetstars, Cannonballs, Curtis MG's, Dominators, Little Jones, Mischievous Guys, Rhythmaires, Rudy and the Roosters, Sid and the Slickers, Telstars, and the Yoruba Singers.
The 1980s - 1990's saw a new wave of Guyanese artists living in the United States who had established themselves both in Guyana and abroad: Ebanie aka KASEY - his first single "Heavyload" released in 1985; "Kool Lover" featuring Kasey & Floydie Ranks, another Guyanese artist, released in 1995; Floydie Ranks "Super Fresh" released in 1992; and Papa Elijah "Must Catch A Thing" & "Wine & Caress" released 1984.
Shanto is a form of Guyanese music which is related to both calypso and mento music. It became a major part of early popular music through its use in Guyanese vaudeville shows; songs are topical and light-hearted, often accompanied by a guitar.
Calypso, which was imported from Trinidad, is especially popular in Guyana. Calypso is satirical and lyrically-oriented, often played during celebrations like Mashramani, while chutney is played and performed at private events, usually with lyrics in English and/or Hindu. Calypso is also singing out lyrics that have a meaning. Two musicians who sing songs with strong lyrics are Stella and Sparrow.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname Chutney-Soca music is a crossover style of music incorporating Soca elements and Hindi-English lyrics, and Chutney music with Indian instruments like the dholak and dhantal. Before it was labeled as such, Chutney music was popularized by singer songwriter The Mighty Enchanter.
Indian music arrived with immigrants from South Asia. This originally included folk music played with dhantal, tabla, sitar, harmonium and dholak, and later - tassa drums. Music was mostly Hindu songs called bhajans, as well as filmi. The tan singing style is unique to the Indian community in Guyana and Suriname.
Popular Indo-Caribbean music began with the Surinamese star Ramdew Chaitoe in the late 1950s with his album, The Star Melodies of Ramdew Chaitoe, and accelerated with that country's Dropati and, later, Trinidad's Sundar Popo. It was not until the late 1970s, however, that Neisha Benjamin, the first major Indo-Guyanese performer, began releasing hits like "O'Maninga". She often addressed political issues, like the socialist policies of Forbes Burnham of the People's National Congresswhich were perceived as oppressing the Indian community because restrictions on flour and dall (split peas). Neisha was mainly a singer of love songs.
Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady. Reggae is based on a rhythmic style characterized by regular beats on the off-beat, known as the skank. Reggae is normally slower than ska, and usually has accents on the first and third beat in each bar.
Reggae song lyrics deal with many subjects, including religion, love, sex, peace, relationships, poverty, injustice, and other social and political issues.
Terry Gagaraj is one famous Guyanese musician and entertainer. Sammy Baksh was known to be one of the Guyanese proponents of rock-reggae fusion music. He is well regarded for his song from the 1980s titled, “To Be Lonely”. One member of his lineup was a guitarist named Azad Mohamed, who toured across Guyana with him. Baksh, as well as Mohamed are currently working on new music in hopes of revitalizing their careers as musicians.
El Sadiek & De Sugar Cake Girls
El Sadiek & De Sugar Cake Girls from Guyana was a unique formation of entertainers, singers, dancers, musicians including the Sugar Cake Girls - Fiona, Sarah and Kamla. The diversity of El Sadiek music repertoire of Filmi, Chutney, Soca, Reggae, Hip Hop, and Soul music. El Sadiek lead keyboard player, Shabana, is the only female Indian keyboard player in Guyana and perhaps the Caribbean. El Sadiek also includes the singer Kerida who Chutney and Filmi beats. Other talented lead singers were Sheik and Dj Poopsie.
Guyana is home to many unique music traditions, but music has tended to receive little support in schools. Music studies are offered as part of teacher training at CPCE, and a fledgling National School of Music was opened in 2012.
- Manuel, Peter (2006). Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 1-59213-463-7.
- Manuel, Peter. East Indian Music in the West Indies: Tan-singing, Chutney, and the Making of Indo-Caribbean Culture. Temple University Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56639-763-4.
- "The African Folk Music Tradition from Guyana: A Discourse and Performance". Brown Bag Colloquium Series 2003-2004.
- Seals, Ray. "The Making of Popular Guyanese Music"
- Guyana Beat website documenting Guyanese culture