Junkanoo is a cultural dance and music celebration unique to The Bahamas that dates back hundreds of years. Its history is hotly contested and there are several theories about its origins. One is that it is named in tribute to John Canoe, an African tribal chief. Another is that it derives from the French gens inconnu, meaning “unknown people” in reference to the masks that were worn in the original Junkanoo parades of the 18th century. Some say it began as a slave celebration on one of the few holidays from work they were granted during the year. No matter its beginnings, it’s always been a celebratory masquerade tradition and a can’t-miss cultural event.
Influenced by West African drum rhythms, American blues, and Caribbean culture, Junkanoo music incorporates drums, cowbells, brass horns, and whistles. One of the nicknames of the Islands of the Bahamas is “The Islands of Song” and music is an essential part of the fabric of the Bahamian lifestyle—something that's never as evident as it is during Junkanoo. The music of the Junkanoo Carnival is as lively as the beautiful costumes you’ll see and it will definitely make you want to get up and dance! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for these distinctive musical instruments and styles:
Goombay is named after the drum used to create its sound, the goombay drum, which is a large drum held strapped over the shoulders and played with bare hands. Traditionally, goombay drums were made by stretching goatskin over a wooden barrel.
Rake’n’Scrape is distinctive Caribbean music traditionally produced by bending a handsaw and scraping it with a small object, like a nail or butter knife, to produce a variety of sounds.