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Edited by Annie J. Randall Music, Power, and Politics


Barbadian Tuk Music – A Fusion of Musical Cultures

Sharon Meredith

Chapter Excerpt

Unlike the music of other Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, which is renowned for reggae, Barbados’s music is not world famous and has not enjoyed comparable levels of exposure and development for two key reasons. First, the long, unbroken influence of British culture suppressed local musical forms in the face of what some perceived to be superior Western musics. Barbadian musics were often dismissed as being inferior, generally because much of that music was the music of the working classes, who were predominantly black. This contributed to the beliefs, still held by some Barbadians, that if something doesn’t come from “outside,” then it’s “no good,” and that Barbados does not have its own indigenous music. Both were expressed to me many times during my fieldwork.1 Second is the heavy influx of North American music during the twentieth century with the advent of radio and television, and the increased availability of recorded music. Greater mobility and movement of people in and out of Barbados also led to wider exposure to different musical cultures.Much of this happened at a time when Barbados was working to achieve independence from Britain and was gradually realizing that the African heritage of the majority of the population had been lost or suppressed during three hundred years of colonialism. After gaining independence in 1966, steps were taken to establish a Barbadian national identity by drawing on this African heritage and reviving aspects of culture that had disappeared or had been kept alive by a small minority.

One such aspect of culture was tuk, a fife and drum music. This chapter examines the history of tuk, exploring its African and European heritage. I consider the factors that have influenced tuk’s status in Barbados today, the issues surrounding its revival and recontextualization as the indigenous music of Barbados, and its role in the country’s cultural heritage and national identity.

    * [Footnotes omitted in this excerpt. Please see full book.]


All three selections performed by Ruk-A-Tuk International.

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