What is Junkanoo without the music? The music is what binds us and excites us. It is what allows all of our emotions and experiences to flow so freely and openly. It’s what was used by our ancestors to cope with the troubled times of their era and empathize with one another. The experiences shared by our ancestors is what connected them through the music. It can be hard going through a troubled experience alone but through the time they spent celebrating the little bit of free time they were spared, they found that they were not alone and that they shared a mutual feeling. Therefore, with the music today, we should continue to honor their past and their strength through all of their sufferings.
“Goin’ down Burma, Goin Down Burma road ain’ ga’ lick nobody.” Most of us recognize the lyrics stated from a popular Bahamian song called “Goin down Burma road” by Ronnie Butler. What some of us might not know is that behind the skillful rake n scrape sounds, these lyrics play a meaningful message behind it. For instance, most Bahamians who lived the 1942 era witnessed or engaged in the riot that took place because Bahamians wanted equal paying jobs and also the destruction of racism and segregation. However, the Bahamians used sounds, lyrics, and rhythmic beats to express their feelings, frustrations, and views through Bahamian colloquial music. These songs are mainly played at the Junkanoo cultural event. With both our own cultural event and meaningful lyrics the Bahamians created their own identity. The Bahamian lyricists spun the English language and used it to their own advantage to help shape an identity through music so that their own kind can truly understand where they came from and why we are supposed to be fighting so hard to keep it. Our identity was passed down to us from our African roots there is no need to be embarrassed by our heritage which is an aspect of our future that played the main role in shaping who we are as a whole nation, bringing peace upon our Bahama lands, and also providing unity for the Bahamian people. Upon attending the Junkanoo event it gave Bahamians a sense of belonging to a group that shared the same nationality, struggles, and beliefs.
Cultural Diversity in Junkanoo
Junkanoo music in the Bahamas has been developed around one main genre, which is rake and scrape. However, over the years Junkanoo itself has embraced songs from different cultures that have been integrated into the music. Based on personal experience, In 2016 when I went to a Junkanoo Celebration, I can recall hearing songs like Beat it from Michael Jackson and Hello from ADELE. These songs are from the genre rhythm and blues and have adapted from New Orleans in the 1950s. In addition, the song ” Life is a Highway” is played by Kingdom Culture. These songs from different cultures represent a cultural diversity in the music of Junkanoo. Junkanoo is the Bahamas’ main way of attracting tourists and this integration of different cultures displayed in the music gains more attraction from the tourists. Though cultural diversity is conspicuous, Bahamians still maintain their Identity through their dancing skills, costume making, and the Bahamian Creole English; which is pronounced in most of the lyrics of Bahamian songs, like the song ” Boom Pine Apple Wine dollar fifty all the time.” The sweet soul, jazz and calypso music of Junkanoo is culturally significant and represent a cultural identity.