Dancing to the Beat of Junkanoo



       Junkanoo, the annual parade celebrated throughout the islands of the Bahamas, is a key cultural component that binds us all together.

      It is composed of a variety of aspects that merge together and contribute to our enjoyment as well as allowing us to feel connected to our roots. This article will be focusing on the dance and musical aspect of Junkanoo as well as how they correlate.

Costumed dancers celebrate the New Year with the Junkanoo Parade on January 1, 2013 in Nassau, Bahamas  The carnival like festival is celebrated in the early hours of the New Year lasting until the late morning and dates back to slavery days


Junkanoo music is one of the components that makes Junkanoo so enjoyable. It reflects our identity as Bahamians and allows it to be seen from different perspectives and incorporates melodious rhythmic sounds. Different genres of music are tied together, producing one of the sweetest beats ever heard to the typical Bahamian ear. 

In the 17th century, Junkanoo consisted of musical instruments such as the cowbells, conch shells, and more. As time passed, instruments were added to the band – the goat skin drums, whistles, brass instruments, several types of horns and more. In fact, more instruments are still being added to the Junkanoo music groups today. 

 Most of the basic instruments used in Junkanoo are made in The Bahamas. The drum, for example, is made of metallic oil barrels. Goat, cow, or sheep skin is stretched over the barrel’s end and strong tape and a nail gun is used to secure & complete the instrument.

Shown on the right is a snippet of the 2017 New Year’s Junkanoo Parade. Featured in this video is a variety of musical instruments used in Junkanoo, such as clarinets, cowbells, brass instruments, and more.

The Valley Boys
New Year’s Day Parade


      In addition to music, the dancing component of Junkanoo has also proven to hold some weight when it comes to our enjoyment purposes. 

During its creation in the 18th century the dancing aspect of Junkanoo was unorthodox in every manner. There was no choreography whatsoever and participators would dance wildly in the streets to the sound of the music being played. 

It wasn’t until the 1930’s that choreography was introduced by to Junkanoo by women when it became a commercialized event and dance moves like the Heel toe Polka and the Bahamian Quadrille  were incorporated 

Today, the dances performed has become modernized and has influenced by other cultures to maintain is relevance. Because of this, many across the Bahamas watch in anticipation and amazement the moves preformed by the dancers, as they beautifully combine the dance moves performed by our ancestors with a modern twist.

figure 2 junkanoo

Roots Junkanoo Group

Junkanoo summer festival -2016

Displayed on the right is a part of the dance aspect of Junkanoo. Featured in this video are some of the choreographed dancers from the Saxons Junkanoo Group.

Saxons Junkanoo Group
New Year’s Day Parade

Both the dancing and musical of aspect of Junkanoo has proven to be equally important when it comes to the preservation of such a rich part of Bahamian culture.

During the organization of this event, each participating group pick a theme that they wish to preform. Members of these groups then work together in order to portray a story through the infectious beat of the drum which is considered the very soul of the parade which combines  with other instruments as mentioned above to create a rhythm that no one can resist to dance to.

While the music plays, the dancers move their bodies in various ways as to convey the story that the groups wish to tell by incorporating dance styles performed by our ancestors in addition to adding a modern twist, incorporating dances from different cultures. For example, Tempa Wine and the Willy Bounce that originated from countries like Trinidad and Jamaica.

Despite the changes that have happened to Junkanoo, it still remains relevant to our culture and will always be an important piece of our history.

Kingdom Culture New Years Performance 2015