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Caribbean Dances & Cultural Dance Styles
Aficionado(s), Cuba Amateur(s), lovers of the dance, the arts, etc.; not very professionally trained.
AfroCubanismo, Cuba African and African-based predominance within Cuban culture.
Agan, Curaçao Musician percussion instrument, part of the plow, used in Tambu.
Aguinaldo, Puerto Rico Puerto Rican folk dance related to the seis; usually sung during Christmastime.
Anansyism, Trinidad and Tobago Tricks, especially by political or public figures, from the stories from Ghana about Anansi, the spider.
Arará, Cuba Major dance/music tradition in Cuba from West African ethnic groups with corresponding religious system; shoulder movements and cylindrical drums characterize the family of dance.
Areito,Cuba Indigenous dance and song ritual of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico; also related to mitotes and batocos of Mexico and South America.
Atabal, Dominican Republic A Dominican term of the long drum, generally synonymous with palo.
Babylon, Jamaica Biblical derivation of an oppressive state of being.
Bachata, Dominican Republic Traditionally a raucous backyard dance party of the lower social sector of the capital city and environs, accompanied by metal-stringed instruments, principally the guitar. In the past twenty years, the term for its music and dance as a genre, increasingly commercial. It derived from the Cuban son and danced similarly.
Baile, Puerto Rico Popular dance. The word danza is used for performance dance.
Baile de palos, Dominican Republic The couple dance accompanied by the Dominican long-drums (palos or atabales). It is traditionally performed unembraced as a “dance of respect” because of the sacred association of the long-drums with Afro-Dominican religious brotherhoods.
Balakadri, French Caribbean Guadeloupean popular balls during which quadrilles were the main genre performed.
Bal boutche, French Caribbean Martinican dance party for members of a community. At the end of the ball, a boupuet was thrown and the person who received it was responsible for organizing the next party.
Quadrille, beguine, maziouk, and waltz were the only genres performed in a bal boutche.
Ballet, Cuba Derived concert dance form from nineteenth-century Europe.
Balsie, Domincan Republic The term for two different types of medium-sized Domincan drums of two different types of instrumental ensembles, both called pripri, that accompany social dances of the eastern/central-southern and southwestern regions, respectively.
Bamboula, Virgin Islands An African-derived dance. The term was applied to dance as well as to a drum from various islands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is now used for a revived dance in the Virgin Islands.
Bambulá, Dominican Republic A recreational Dominican dance of Haitian origin. The dance is characterized by a caller (a bastonero) and accompanied by long-drums played horizontally, lain on the ground with the drummers seated atop. Formerly more widely known in the Dominican Republic, but today performed only in the Samana peninsula; undoubtedly imported by Haitian homesteaders in 1824-25.
Banco, Dominican Republic The anniversary-if-death ritual (more generally called cabo de ano) of the Afro-Domincan Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of greater Villa Mella for deceased adult members.
Banda, Dance of the Guedes of Gedes, a division within the pantheon of Haitian Vodou spirits. The dance is characterized by erotic hip movement.
Bandolas, Cuba European string instrument that was associated with son music.
Bandurria, Cuba String instrument of Europe that was brought to Cuba.
Bantu, Cuba In Cuba, refers to Kongo, Kongo-Anglican, or Central African descent; in Cuba more than a linguistic term for Bantu speakers, though elsewhere, in Africa and the United States, for example, the term more often refers to related linguistic groups of central and southern Africa. Also another name for Central African religion that developed in Cuba (Palo and palo Monte)
Barril, Puerto Rico A goatskin barrel drum that is the basic instrument of Puerto Rican bomba music.
Barrio, Puerto Rico A district or neighbourhood, urban or rural.
Bas, Haiti A low-pitched, handheld frame drum. Provides a bass sound in a Vodou drum ensemble.
Bass Pipe, Virgin Islands Also known as the “ass pipe” or “tail pipe,” a rhythm and percussion instrument made out of an actual metal tubing or exhaust pipe from and automobile.
Bastel, Curaçao Bull or cow horn used as a musical instrument.
Bastonero, Puerto Rico A director or caller of a dance. The caller in certain Dominican social dances such as the southwestern carabine and the bambulá of Samana.
Batarumba, Cuba A combination of Yoruba bata drumming with Cuban rumba drumming; a combination of Yoruba, Cuban rumba, and casino dance movements.
Batey, Dominican Republic An indigenous community surrounded by land, adopted as the term for the Dominican sugarcane community, surrounded by cane fields.
Batocos, Cuba Indigenous dance and song of Mexico, Caribbean, and South America; related to areitos and mitotes.
Batty, Jamaica Buttocks. Other Jamaican patois; bwoy – boy, couda – can do, fi – for, mek – make/allow, mi – my.
Bele or Bel Air, Trinidad and Tobago A social dance found among the African/French (Creoles slaves) in Haiti, Martinique, and other islands. It is maintained in folk celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago.
Bele Lino, French Caribbean African-derived set dance of northern Martinique. The set comprises the belia, the gwanbele, and the bidjin bele.
Bele Lisid, French Caribbean African-derived set dance of southern Martinique. The set comprises the bele and the gwanbele.
Bele Twapa, French Caribbean Martinican rural dance to the sound of the bele drum, rarely included in the bele lino set.
Benta, Curaçao A one-stringed instrument played with the mouth and a stick called maingueta from Curacao. A bamboo instrument played at Jamaican wakes in Jamaica.
Biguine, French Caribbean A syncopated two-beat dance from the French Caribbean islands characterized by a light elastic, spring-like motion in the knees on or between each beat. The rhythm of beguine is derived from rural bidjin bele and resembles that of Haitian banda. It is danced with hands on hips or in couples.
Bolero, Cuba Slow, romantic song form in Cuban somg complex, la cancion cubana; also slow couple dance. Puerto Rico, boleros traveld to Mexico and spread to the rest of the Latin America. It peaked in popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. They still epitomize romantic love songs throughout the region.
Bomba, Puerto Rico An Afromestizo drum-dance genre of Puerto Rico that incorporates call and response singing, drumming, and percussive dancing in which dancers’ movements are interpreted by a lead drummer or subidor, also a name for the barril drum basic to rumba music.
Bombazo, Puerto Rico A communal bomba party. A new word devised for the current revival of bomba.
Bongo, Trinidad and Tobago A dance of strength, virility, and agility, the bongo is another wake dance that arouses great excitement among the participants and onlookers alike. The basic movements closely resemble the Russian Cossack dances.
Bossale, French Caribbean An African enslaved in the French Caribbean who was not yet baptized.
Bozal in the Dominican Republic, the same in colonial Santo Domingo.
Boula The smallest, highest drum in a Vodou drum ensemble, usually played with two sticks.
Bula, French Caribbean Guadeloupean drum for gwoka music. It provides the rhythm for the make.
Buleador, Puerto Rico The low drum used in bomba music, also the person who plays the basic rhythm on this drum.
Buroo drums, Jamaica The rocking drums accompanying Pocomania rites.
Cabildo(s), Cuba Both religious and ethnic organization of enslaved Africans in Cuba; storage structure for unique music and dance traditions over centuries, as well as repository of African beliefs and customs.
Cabo de ano, Dominican Republic The Dominican folk-Catholic ritual held for the first anniversary of death.
Calenda, French Caribbean The term was often used in the past to refer to African dance in the New World. Today in Martinique, there are three genres called calenda, two in the Northeast and one in the Southwest.
Calinda, Cuba An ambiguous dance form mentioned in the writings from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries that on hand signalled a dance of a couple in flirtatious sensuality, but also referred to a martial dance.
This term, also spelled calenda and kalenda or kalinda, was used historically to refer to dance of different types on many islands. Call and Response – see Voye/ Reponn.
Callao, Dominican Republic An unaccompanied segment of the zapateo dances of sarambo in the Cibao (North) and guarapo in the Eastern city of El Seybo, in which virtuosic turns and flourishes (flores) are performed.
Calypso, Trinidad and Tobago A type of protest song with a standard accompanying rhythm that originated in Trinidad and Tobago and developed also in Jamaica. It is a major popular music form of the Anglophone Caribbean.
Campesino, Cuba A Cuban country farm worker; the name for the country folk music/dance tradition of Western and Central Cuba, with closest roots in European dance of Spain; also called punto guajiro.
Canboulay, Trinidad and Tobago A colourful march through the streets, depicting what actually took place on estates when the sugar cane fields were being burned prior to harvest to remove trash and insects. The name comes from the French “cannes brulee”, burning of the sugar canes.
Cancion cubana, Cuba A large family or tradition of sung repertoire in Cuba that does not involve dancing the music, but concentrates on varied structures of singing, dramatic speaking and instrumental accompaniment; Cuban song complex.
Capoeira, Cuba/Brazil A Brazilian martial arts form with Kongo-Angolan roots.
Carabali(s), Cuba A major music/dance tradition of Cuba with roots in Cameroon and Nigeria along the Calabar River; another name for Abakuá or Nanigo culture in Cuba.
Carabine, Dominican Republic A Dominican social dance of the Southwestern region in duple tempo. It is characterized by a caller (bastero), with no fewer than six couples. Today played in the Southwest in triptych with the mangulina and the valse or danza.
Cariso, Virigin Islands Also called Caruso, a song form sung a capella or accompanied by music. Mostly performed by women, it can express protest, political commentary, or gossip.
Casas de cultura, Cuba Municipal, provincial, and nation culture houses of Cuba. Places where artists, writers, poets and dramatists present their artistry and where the Cuban public has access to the arts at minimal cost.
Casino, Cuba Cuban, salsa; dance type in the son family.
Casino de la rueda, Cuba A circle form of casino or group salsa dancing in Cuba Casse corps, Cuba/Haiti Literally, “broken body” in French; to dance as if the dancer had no spine, dancing fully and expressively in all body parts.
Catá, Cuba A cylindrical wooden or bamboo instrument played on a stand with sticks. It is characteristic in rumba, also called guagua.
Chachachá, Cuba Popular twentieth-century Cuban dance; indentified by three quick running steps, followed by two slow steps. Performed by dancing couples to charanga and son music.
Changii, Cuba A regional form of son from the Eastern provinces of Cuba.
Chapi, Curaçao Percussion instrument from a hoe.
Charanga, Cuba Cuban orchestra type of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that emphasized the piano, violin and the flute with Cuban percussion instruments, guiros and maracas; also called orquesta tipica, orquesta tipica francesa.
Chay o pye, Literally, “foot charge”. Danced by the majo jon (baton major) in Rara, it is a display of intricate footwork.
Chenche matriculado, Dominican Republic A nineteenth-century Dominican folkdance in supposed imitation of the schottische as danced by occupying the Spanish troops during the Spanish Annexation of 1861-65.
Chipping, Trinidad and Tobago Shuffle-type dancing. Usually one steps in time to the music, but slowly, with the weight on the toes. The name came from the chip, chip sound that shuffling feet make.
Chivo, Dominican Republic A type of merengue of the Samana peninsula.
Chutney Current popular dance and music of Trinidadians and Guyanese with ancestors from the Indian subcontinent. The dance is mostly wining, but may incorporate Indian hand gestures or other Indian or Middle Eastern influences; it can be danced to soca or the hybrid chutney-soca or to Indian-influenced music played on North Indian instruments.
Clave(s), Cuba A pair of sticks used as a musical instrument; also the name of the organizing rhythmic patterns of Cuban music.
Cofradia, Dominican Republic In southern Spain and Catholic Latin America, a lay religious brotherhood. The Afro-Latin American versions serve a mutual aid and burial societies. The Dominican version is not parish-associated, it is symbolized by long-drums (palos) and their music. It is characteristically led by a woman.
Columbia, Cuba The traditional male form of Cuban rumba that is fast and exceedingly virtuosic, sometimes danced with knives or around bottles. It originated in the rural areas of Matanzas and Havana provinces during the early nineteenth century.
Commandeur, French Caribbean A man who calls the steps and dance routines in the quadrilles of the French Caribbean.
Comparsa(s), Cuba A Cuban processional dance form; also called conga(s). It is common during provincial and national carnivals and at the Day of the Kings celebration on January 6th in Cuba.
Complejo, Cuba The Spanish term for “complex” and the basis of classification of five large divisions of Cuban dance/music.
Conga(s), Cuba Processional dance and music or a comparsa in Cuba; also a group of barrel-shaped drums from Kongo-Angolan heritage, called alternately tumbadores.
Congos, Cuba Cetral African groups with similar cultures; also Kongo or Kongo-Anglican cultures.
Congos, Dominican Republic The Dominican long-drum variant ensemble associated with the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit in Villa Mella and environs; unique to this region.
Conquistadores, Cuba European explorers who exploited indigenous Native Americans and initiated the forced migration to Africans to work the mines, and plantations of the emerging economies within the Americas.
Continentals, Virgin Islands The term customarily used for people of the continental United States; North Americans, most often whites.
Contradanza, Cuba A popular Cuban dance at the turn of the nineteenth century that mixed French court figure dances with Cuban percussion; also called contradanza cubana, part of the Danzon dance/music complex.
Contradanza, Puerto Rico A type of figure dance of the eighteenth century that originated in Britain as a country dance and became popular throughout Europe, especially in France. It was introduced to Spain and brought to Latin America during the colonial period. Modified by Africans and Creoles in the Caribbean, it was influential in the development of Puerto Rican (danza), Cuban and Haitian musical/dance forms.
Contredanse, Cuba A group of French court dances, originally evolved from the English country dance and taken to Cuba with French and Haitian colonists and their European families; males and females in dancing lines performing set figures to European instruments; also contradanza francesa.
Coro, Cuba Chorus, answering or responding group of singers who respond to a lead singer. Creolite, French Caribbean A poetic movement that promotes self-investigation of all the cultural components of the metis (mixed) society of the Caribbean, in an attempt to recompose their fragmented identity. Creolite is at the foundation of the composite Caribbean identity and results from the abrupt encounter of a variety of cultures on the same territory.
Crucian, Virgin Islands Something/someone native to St. Croix. Cuadrilla, Dominican Republic Cuaresma Chiquita, Dominican Republic The fifty-day period between Easter and Pentecost. Within a couple of Afro-Dominican religious brotherhoods, this period, especially its seven Fridays, includes significant ritual moments and builds up to a big event on the Friday before Pentecost.
Cuatro, Puerto Rico A Puerto Rican musical instrument that evolved from the Spanish guitar. It is the main instrument in plenaand jibaro(country farmer) music.
Cultural music, Virgin Islands Local or Caribbean music Cumbia, Cuba/Colombia A Colombian dance of African and Spanish heritage, related to son. Cumfa, Jamaica/Guyana An African-derived possession dance from Guyana.
Dance culture, Cuba A continuum of dance traditions with distinctive types from specific geographical areas and usually among distinct groups of people.
Dancehall, Congolese/Jamaica Jamaican popular music and dance form evolving from reggae that often uses samples from rap or rhythm and blues.
Dans, Haiti Generally, “dance.” Specifically, the full-scale Vodou ceremony that invokes the complete pantheon.
Danza, Cuba A Cuban concert form, called in the United States modern dance. Also, a salon dance that developed in the formation of the nineteenth-century danzon complex, the first in which a couple danced in each other’s arms.
Danza, Puerto Rico A Creole musical/dance form that evolved from the European contradanza into a new synthesis incorporating African elements. Although the genesis of the form was a result of complex cross-fertilizations, in Puerto Rico the danza became one of the most popular social dances of the upper classes and, more importantly, was adopted by the elite as the national dance.
Danzon, Cuba The national dance of Cuba in the nineteenth century, identified by alternation of walking and dancing patterns and by soft, elegant instrumental sound. This is also the name of a Cuban music/dance complex.
Danzonete, Cuba An elegant salon couple dance in the nineteenth century danzon complex in Cuba, mainly differentiated by the variation of lead instruments in the rondo-like musical organization.
Danzoncha, Cuba Part of the danzon complex; mainly differentiated by the addition of a vocal lead within the third section of the musical organization; elegant salon couple dance of the nineteenth century Cuba.
Decima, Cuba A literary form from Spain with a 10-syllable line in a 10-line verse; basis of Cuban and Puerto Rican song formation.
Diablitos, Cuba Literally, “little devils,” but another name for the masked spirit dancers of the Abakuá society; also called Iremes and Nanigos.
Dinkimini, Jamaica An African-derived dance danced at Jamaican wakes.
Djouba / Djuba, Haiti Dance of the Djouba division within the Vodou pantheon. Its spirits represent the Earth and the peasantry. Some movements mimic those of farmers at work or at play.
Dub, Jamaica Reggae beat.
Enkrikamo, Cuba The small invoking drum of the Abakuá spirit dancers or Iremes.
Enlazadas, Cuba Locked or laced together in dancing couple position.
Etu, Jamaica A Yoruba-derived dance in Jamaica.
Flag Corps – see Ko Drapo Flamenco, Puerto Rica/Spain The most important song and dance expression of the province of Andalucia in Southern Spain. Evolved from many diverse sources, it incorporates Arabish, Jewish, Christian and Gypsy elements. Flamenco consists of singing (cante), dancing (baile) that includes intricately rhythmic footwork (zapateado) and guitar playing, accompanied by hand clapping (palmas) and verbal encouragement (jaleo).
Foklo, Haiti Folklore. The term may refer to Afro-Haitian culture in general, or more specifically to other representation of that culture in modern theatrical contexts.
Folkorico, Cuba The dance/music traditions that comprise the varied roots of Cuban dance culture in their historical and classic manifestations; also the name of the Cuban national dance company that specializes in Cuban folk and popular dance.
French quadrille, French Caribbean Most popular ballroom dance in France from the early nineteenth century. It derived from contredanse, it is a set dance composed of five numbers; la pantalon, l’ete, la poule, la trenise and the finale.
Fwape, French Caribbean A step in which foot is alternately raised knee-high and sideways, then immediately lowered as the dancer strikes the ground vigorously with both feet.
Gaga, Dominican Republic A Lenten Vodou-like, ritual society dedicated to a deity of the Petwo family, and the society’s music and dance, imported by Haitian seasonal workers to Dominican sugarcane communities.
Ganja, Jamaica Marijuana.
Gayap, Trinidad and Tobago A coming together of village folk to accomplish a communal task for the benefit of an individual or group, also called Lend Hand. Camaraderie and feasting lighten the tasks, while binding the people closer.
Gerreh, Jamaica A dance danced at Jamaican “dead yard” ceremonies or wakes.
Groun’dation (Groundation), Jamaica A ceremonial schooling in the tenets of Rastafari.
Guagua, Cuba A small cylindrical musical instrument played with sticks on a stand, also called cata.
Guaguanco, Cuba The most popular type of rumba, in which the male dance chases the female and makes the vacunao gesture; also a particular rumba clave.
Guaracha, Puerto Rico/Cuba Cuban musical/dance genre associated with light, humorous lyrics and stimulating dancing.
Gurapo, Dominican Republic A type of zapateo dance of El Seybo, danced unembraced. A balancing step alternates with one of ritual pursuit in constant movement; the man’s arms hang at his sides while the woman holds her skirts.
Guateque, Cuba A type and style of son from the Central region of Cuba; in the Western region, a gathering of rural families with country music (punto guajiro), in which instruments include the laud.
Guedes / Gedes, Haiti Spirits of death. Most belong to the rada rite.
Guira, Dominican Republic The Dominican metal version of the gourd scraper, the guiro, common throughout the Caribbean region.
Guiro, Puerto Rico A Puerto Rican musical instrument inherited from the indigenous Taino culture. It is made from gourd and scraped to create a particular sound commonly found in plenas, seises, and aguinaldos. Guiro, Virgin Islands, is a rhythm instrument made from dried gourd with grooved sides, played with a wire comb.
Gwoka, French Caribbean African-derived set dance of Guadeloupe; also, drums that play lewoz music.
Habanera, Puerto Rico/Cuba Cuban Creole rhythm derived from the European contradanza in combination with rhythms of African and Arabic origins. It became popular in the nineteenth century in all of Latin America as well as in Spain and Europe.
Haute-taille, French Caribbean Quadrille of Southern Martinique Heru, Curaçao Iron; in this context the collective name of the percussion instruments, all made of iron, used in tambu.
Higher Heights, Jamaica A lofty place of being (Rastafarian).
Hispanidad, Dominican Republic A cultural policy promoted by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (1930-61) and his mastermind and successor, president Joaquin Balaguer, in which Hispanic racial and cultural purity was promoted as the epitome of the most authentically Dominican, in juxtaposition with black and African influences via Haiti, viewed as contaminants of Dominicanness.
Hofi, Curaçao A name of a former plantation now used for social activities; also a garden, orchard, courtyard, or vegetable garden.
Holandes, Puerto Rico A bomba rhythm, brought by slaves from Curaçao , played very fast and in 2/4 time.
Hounfor, Haiti Vodou temple. In current Kreyol spelled oufo.
Ibo Dance of the Ibo division within the Vodou pantheo. Dramatizes the pride, sometimes extreme, of the Ibo people (originally from Nigeria), who bore a reputation for resistance to slavery.
Iremes, Cuba Masked spirit dancers from Carabali (Abakua or Nanigo) tradition in Cuba.
Ital, Jamaica Pure
Jaleo, Dominican Republic In the orchestrated merengue, the third of three sections, characterized by virtuosic turns and figures.
Jouvert, Virgin Islands/Trinidad and Tobago Carnival tramp behind band before break of dawn.
Juba (Djouba), Dominican Republic A widely spread social couples dance in the colonial Caribbean, characterized by a medium-sized drum, the juba drum. The Dominican retention is the pripri of the East.
Juego de mami, Cuba “Peanut butter game,” the martial art form of Cuba with Kongo-Angolan heritage.
Kadans, Trinidad and Tobago An early stage in the evolution of konpa music, from the 1950s.
Kalinda, Trinidad and Tobago Dance game/fight with sticks, done at wakes.
Kanaval Carnival. Public festival held between the end of Christmas season and the beginning of lent. Traditionally, bands of many kinds challenge the social order.
Kanzo Vodou initiation rites.
Karko, Curaçao Conch shell imported from Bonaire, used to replace the bastel.
Kase / Casse “Break.” In Haitian tradition rhythm and dance, a pattern in direct opposition to the main pattern. In Vodou, the kase stimulates possession. In stage performance, it delineates form.
Kaseko, Cuba/Surinam A popular dance/music of Surinam and also Francophone Caribbean nations. Ke Chorus in a call and response singing.
Ko drapo, Haiti Flag Corps. The military-style parading of a Vodou society’s sequined flags. Flags are oriented to the four cardinal points of the cosmos.
Kokomakaku, Curaçao Stick dance, a form of Tambu.
Konbit / Coumbite A labour cooperative, found primarily in rural Haiti. A favourite subject of folklore troupes, since music accompanies both work and the feast that follows.
Kongo / Congo, Cuba A major amalgam of Central African cultures in Cuba; also called Kongo-Angolan or Bantu in Cuba and refers to a dance/music tradition. Also, a dance of Kongo division within the Vodou pantheon. A gently seductive hip movement has made the dance popular in secular as well as sacred contexts.
Konpa / Compas A dance made popular by commercial dance bands in Haiti since the 1950s. It synthesizes elements of Haitian twoubadou music and Dominican and Cuban secular styles.
Koreografi, Haiti In Haiti, a stylized representation of a folk dance, complete with floor design and movement elaborated for the public.
Kouri lawond, French Caribbean At the beginning and end of a Martinican bele lino set, the dancers circle the dance area clockwise, then counter clockwise to the sound of the drum. This is called kouri lawond.
Kreyol, Haiti One of the two official languages of Haiti (since 1987) and the language of most Haitians. An amalgam of a number of different languages, including European, indigenous, and African, with a largely French vocabulary, but structured differently than French. Now spelled in a standardized phonetic way, reflected in Haitian entries in this glossary.
Kriye, French Caribbean Lead singer (shouter) in African-derived music of Martinique.
Kumina, Jamaica A danced Kongo-derived Jamaican rite of ancestral worship.
Ladja, French Caribbean Fight dance of Martinique that bears a strong resemblance to the kadjia of Benin. Also called damie and formerly spelledl’ag’ya. Lalinkle, French Caribbean In the Northeast of Martinique, a series of dances performed at night, at funeral wakes and swarebele. The dances are: karase-yo, benezuel, woule mango, ting-bang, mabelo and kanigwe.
Lanflanmansyon, French Caribbean Creole for “the ignition”. Nickname by which quadrille dancers call the finale, because it is in a very fast tempo.
Laplas Vodou sword-bearer. Nearly always a man, he dances between the two flag-bearers in the Flag Corps.
Latin Jazz, Cuba A major division of jazz music that integrates basic structures of Cuban music, including clave organization and the use of percussion in the full range of the African traditions of Cuba.
Laud, Cuba A string of instrument with rounded back from North Africa via Spain, played characteristically in punto libre or freestyle song form in the Western region of Cuba.
Leggo, Virgin Islands “Let go”; to let go of all inhibitions, be free to behave in any way one feels without the fear of consequence or reputation.
Lewoz, French Caribbean African-derived set dance of Guadeloupe. The set comprises tumblak, kaladja, kadjenbel, graj, woule, lewoz, and mennde. It is called lewoz-au-commandement when performed with a caller.
Libertos, Puerto Rico Men and women freed from slavery.
Limbo, Trinidad and Tobago A competitive dance originally seen at waking ceremonies for the dead, passed to the realm of entertainment. Passing below a bar held by two individuals progressed in nightclub acts to the “human limbo” with the dancers’ bodies replacing the bar.
Lucimi(s), Cuba An African ethnic group that has come to be synonymous with Yoruba in Cuba; the name of a dance/music tradition that is also called Yoruba, Oricha, or Santeria in Cuba.
Lwa, Haiti A Vodou spirit. The older spelling is loa.
Madruga, Cuba A metal cross-shaped shaker instrument, used in rumba to set the place and assist the division between singing and dancing sequences.
Majo jon, Haiti Baton major. Costumed in a cloak made up of sequins or bits of mirror, and spotting sunglasses, he twirls his baton and dances the chay o pye.
Make, French Caribbean The dominant in a Guadeloupean gwoka ensemble. It plays the rhythmic variations in response to the dancers’ movement.
Makuta, Cuba A Kongo-Angolan dance that survives on Cuba Mambo, Cuba A twentieth-century type of son music with two variations in the dance: a bouncy, playful quality in Cuba, a smooth and suave quality elsewhere, also a selection of the son music where brass instruments take the lead and make improvisational developments.
Manbo / Mambo A Vodou priestess.
Mangulina, Dominican Republic A Dominican social dance of the South-western region in 3/8 time, perhaps derived frm the Andalusian seguidilla. Today performed in a triptych with the carabine and the valse or danza.
Mani, Dominican Republic A spiritualist party of Dominican Vodu that celebrates initiation, healing, or a patrons saint’s day. Traditionally public and characterized by music and dance with either palos or, in the Central-south, salves ensembles.
Manman The “mother” drum of the Vodou ensemble, played by the master drummer. Largest and lowest pitched, it executes the kase and leads conversations with the segon drum.
Maraca(s), Cuba Handheld shaker, musical instrument usually played in pairs.
Marimba, Dominican Republic The Dominican term for the marimbula not to be confused with the wooden xylophone widely known as a marimba in Cuba), the Cuban-originated adaptation of the African thumb piano or mbira in a giant form. Developed to serve as a bass instrument in a social dance ensemble.
Marimbula,Cuba A percussion instrument with metal prongs over an opening of a wooden or gourd structure that is plucked or hit with music sticks.
Maroons Escaped slaves who formed their own communities.
Mas, Trinidad and Tobago The Carnival costume; from masquerade.
Maskawon Dance associated with a prominent Carnival band. Displays a trembling of the shoulders.
Masumba, Jamaica Jamaican Maroon form of the limbo dance.
Mayi/Mahi One of the dances associated with the Rada division within the Vodou pantheon. Named after the Mahis of West Africa, it uses a kind of backward pedalling foot movement.
Mayoacan, Dominican Republic The wooden, horizontal slit-gong that accompanied the Taino areito song-dance ritual.
Maziouk, French Caribbean Mazurka. European-derived dance of Martinique, similar to the Lakonmet pitche of St. Lucia. In the past decade a new version has developed, called maziouk-zouk because it has borrowed rhythmic elements from zouk.
Mazouk, Cuba A contemporary mazurka with Caribbean instrumentation, in ¾ meter.
Mereng, Haiti In French, meringue, a frothy pastry that possibly gave its name to a popular dance around the time of Haitian independence. Represents a fusion of slave dances and French ballroom forms.
Merengue, Dominican Republic Currently the most popular Dominican social dance. It is the variant of the northern Cibao region that has become nationally popular, and there the original guitar family instruments of the nineteenth century were replaced by the accordion starting around the 1880s. In the early twentieth century a process of adaptation to the ballroom began, leading to the development of a commercial, orchestrated meringue, which diverged from the folkloric meringue tipico (also known as perico ripiao), with which it now coexists. Both are in 2/4 meter.
Minuetes, Cuba Minuets; court dance form of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, performed by colonists in the Americas up to the nineteenth century.
Mitotes, Cuba Ancient indigenous dance/music form in Mexico and South America; resembles native dance descriptions in Cuba at time of contact; see areitoc and batocos.
Mizik rasin, Literally, “roots music.” A late twentieth-century Haitian commercial music style influenced by 1970s rock and reggae. Tends to use the rhythms of Rara.
Moko Jumbie, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival masquerader on stilts.
Mulato/a, Cuba A person of mixed African and European heritage; formerly a somewhat privileged class in Cuba.
Musique di zumbi, Curaçao Literally, “music of the spirits”; Curaçaon music form.
Myal, Jamaica An African-derived ceremony honouring the ancestors (the inner sanctum of Kumina).
Nago, Haiti Dance of the Nago or Yaruba division within the Vodou pantheon. Powerful, like the spirits it dramatizes (the several Ogous or Oguns), it utilizes thrusting chest movements.
Nanigo(s), Cuba Another name for Carabali culture from Africa that survived in Cuba; like Abakua and iremes, refers to the masked spirit dancers and their stories.
Nasyon “Nation.” A division of the Vodou pantheon, sometimes directly associated with an ethnic group from Africa. Each nation shows a unique temperament, or ethos.
Ni’Night, Jamaica Ninth Night post death ceremony. Ninth Night ceremonies are held on a number of islands.
Novena, Dominican Republic The nine-night ritual for the Virgin (i.e., a saint’s festival) or for the dead; the final event is the largest and longest of the sequence.
Nyabinghi, Jamaica Warrior; Rastafarian term derived from Jomo Kenyatta’s Nyabinghi fighters; the name of the three-part drum ensemble, and the drumming, chants, and ceremony at which they are played.
Ogan Metal percussion instrument in Arara dance/music tradition of Cuba; functions as organizer of rhythm instruments in ceremony or performance. In Haiti; a small iron gong, sometimes a flattened, clapperless bell, sometimes a hoe blade, or sometimes a machine part. The basic timekeeper of the Vodou drum ensemble.
Oricha(s), Cuba The divinities, divine spirits of Yoruba belief who manifest through dancing; a name of the Yoruba-based religion also called Santeria, Lucumi or Yoruba in Cuba; also Orisa, Orisha (usual spelling in the United States), or Orixa (Brazil).
Orisha religious system / Shango, Trinidad and Tobago The early anthropologists registered the common terms for African religious retentions found in Trinidad. Shango became the popular term for the predominantly Yoruba system inherited and maintained by adherents who follow the tenets of the ancestors.
Orquesta tipica, Cuba The name for the musical ensemble of European trio of violin, piano, and flute with added African percussion and rhythms for danzon complex dances of the nineteenth century; also called charanga francesa during different periods; in twentieth century involves the sweet, elegant sound of a Cuban or Latin orchestra for chachach and son.
Ougan / Houngan, Haiti A Vodou priest.
Ougjenikon / Houngenikon Vodou song specialist. Leads a call and response singing.
Ousi / Hounsis A Vodou initiate. One who has gone through a kanzo.
Palo / Palo Monte, Cuba A Kongo-Angolan or Central African-based religion of Cuba.
Palo, Dominican Republic The Afro-Dominican drum made from a hollowed-out tree trunk, also called atabal in many areas. Associated with extra-official religious brotherhoods and saints festivals. Played in ensembles of two or three.
Palo abajo / palo arriba, Dominican Republic Two rhythms of the south-central region. Originally played for the dead, but also may be danced by the living in some areas. Palo abajo has a triple meter and lugubrious tempo; palo arriba is in duple meter with faster tempo.
Pambiche, Dominican Republic A variant rhythm and dance of the merengue tipico that developed in Puerto Plata. Consists of the jaleo section only, allegedly an adaption of the dance-style ineptitude of the US marines during the first occupation by U.S. troops (1916-19).
Pandero A Dominican hand drum like a tambourine. Accompanies non-liturgical salves, altar musix of saints’ festivals. Generally a woman’s instrument.
Parang / Parranga, Trinidad and Tobago The first Trinidadian creole, the second Spanish for the old Spanish-type songs that came from Venezuela, performed at Christmastime.
Parigol One of the dances of the Rada division within the Vodou pantheon. Like a slow, graceful mayi. Some call it twa rigol, or three streams.
Pasadia, Dominican Republic A daylong dance party held at a local bar or pub for the enjoyment of any and all.
Paseo, Puerto Rico They stylized walk steps used at the beginning and end of a bomba dance solo. Also, the walking section of certain social dances from Spanish-speaking islands, including danza (Puerto Rico), merengue (Dominican Republic) and danzon (Cuba). In the Dominican Republic, the first part of the orchestrated merengue, allegedly derived from the polka, adopted from other ballroom dance to make the merengue acceptable in the dancehall. Played for the purpose of the man’s selection of a dance partner and their positioning on the dance floor.
Paso doble, Dominican Republic/Spain A Spanish popular dance, the two-step, characteristic of bullfighting music as well as the dance hall.
Perico ripiao, Dominican Republic Synonymous with, and the more popular term for, the Dominican merengue tipico.
Peristyle, Haiti The front part of a Vodou temple (hounfor) where the public ceremonies are held.
Petwo / Petro, Haiti The hot dance of the Petwo division (one of the two main divisions) withing\ the Vodou pantheon. The chest trembles, the feet execute a kind of disjointed movement with respect to each other.
Pique, Trinidad and Tobago A spicier version of the bele or bel air with much coquetry and accented hip movements Drums and chants accompany the dancers in both dances.
Piquete, Puerto Rico The improvised movements of the bomba dancer that are to be interpreted musically by the lead drummer (subidor).
Pitche, French Caribbean Variable step with a lift on 3, 5, or 6, toes pointing down.
Playing mas, Trinidad and Tobago The actual enactment and performance of a Carnival costume; also, to don a costume and participate in the competitions at Carnival time.
Plena, Puerto Rico Developed in Ponce toward the end of the nineteenth century, the plena integrates African and European elements. Traditionally accompanied by the accordion or the armonica (harmonica), the guiro, and the pandereta (hand drum or tambourine without jingles), the plena has a contagious rhythm and a vivacious dance step. Its lyrics serve as joyful social commentaries and newsletters.
Pocomania / Pukkumina, Jamaica A Jamaican religious rite fusing Baptist and African rituals.
Polka-la-poule, French Caribbean Last figure of the Martinican version of the French quadrille.
Pot-drapo, One of two flag bearers in the Vodou Flag Corps.
Poto-mitan, Haiti The centerpost of a Vodou peristyle, around which initiates dance. It is a channel through which the Iwa enter the material world.
Pot-pourri, French Caribbean Small suite of two or three French contredanses. The contredanses en pot-pourri were very fashionable in the French salons at the end of the eighteenth century.
Premye-chante Lead singer in a call and response singing, whether in Vodou, Carnival, or folklore representations.
Pripri, Dominican Republic The social dance ensembles and accompanying dances of the eastern and south-western regions of the Dominican Republic, each with different types of ensembles and music.
Profesionales, Cuba Generally, trained, fully accredited workers in Cuba; concert level among artists.
Pueblo, Cuba The people, the public.
Pukkumin / Poccomania, Jamaica An African Jamaican possession ritual dance-rite syncretised with Christianity.
Punto guajiro, Cuba The rural, country music/dance complex of Cuba; also called campesino.
Quadrille, Virgin Islands Eighteenth-and nineteenth century French set dance widely danced in the Caribbean. See French quadrille for the form set in early nineteenth century.
Quelbe, Virgin Islands Also called fungi and scratch. A distinctive Virgin Islands musical tradition; an essential accompaniment to St. Croix quadrille.
Quinto, Cuba Soprano or high-voiced tumbador, a small barrel-shaped drum.
Raboday A Carnival or Rara band and the dance associated with it. Makes use of much hip and foot movement.
Rada, Haiti A major division of the Vodou pantheon. Derived from Arada, a people from Dahomey (now Benin). The other major division is Petwo.
Rancheros, Cuba/Mexico Contemporary rural couple dances of Mexican farm workers; related to son and punto guajiro in Cuba.
Rara, Haiti Public festival held throughout Lent in Haiti. Special features include hocketing bamboo trumpets and a baton major costumed in shimmering sequins or bits of mirror.
Rastafari, Jamaica A religious concept developed in Jamaica by Leonard P. Howell in the 1930s.
Reggae, Jamaica Indigenous popular music of Jamaica developed in the 1960s.
Reto, Puerto Rico The challenge that a dancer makes to the lead drummer in bomba, to make sounds on the drum that correspond to the dancer’s improvised movements.
Rezo, Dominican Republic Term in the Afro-Dominican religious brotherhood of Villa Mella for the last and longest (all night or all day) prayer ritual of the nine nights following burial. The rezo includes drumming, and dance by the spirit of the deceased, who possesses a relative of the opposite sex.
Ritmo de habanera / ritmo de tango, Cuba A rhythmic pattern of five pulses sounded within three beats; also called cinquillo.
Rumba, Cuba A Cuban dance/music creation of the nineteenth century that continues in the present; the name of a dance/music family of dances or complex from the mixtures of African and European cultures in Cuba; percussion, human voice, and improvisation within a set structure of dance and of instruments.
Rumba / Rhumba, International A social dance, distinct from the Cuban rumba defined above, that follows a basic son step pattern and first became popular in the 1930s in the United States and elsewhere outside of Cuba.
Rumba clave, Cuba The organizing rhythmic pattern of rumba; varies by one-half a beat from son clave; a stretched syncopated rhythm from Carabali music/dance tradition that helped to identify the new creation in Cuba.
Rumberos, Cuba True rumba performers.
Salsa, Cuba A type of son music and dance of the twentieth century; a fast, constantly turning, couple dance in virtuoso display; developed by Puerto Rican and other Caribbean musicians in the United States. In Puerto Rico, it is a music/dance phenomenon originating in New York City in the late 1960s. Salsa is not a new rhythm, but a new way of making music, a new way of freely combining diverse Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
Salve, Dominican Republic Altar and procession/pilgrimage song genre of Dominican folk Catholicism. The genre includes: (1) the sacred, liturgical salve de la Virgen, sung antiphonally and unaccompanied, in groups of three, during a saint’s festival of personal sponsorship and during processions and pilgrimages; (2) the African-influenced, accompanied salve con versos of the East and yet more African-influenced salve con panderos (with hand drums) or salve con palos (with long drums) of the central south. The non-liturgical salve performed at the altar after the salve de la Virgen and is structured in call and response form. The term versos, in addition to meaning extra text in reference to the salve prayer, is also a generic term for all folk-Catholic songs that are not salves.
Samba, Cuba/Brazil A Brazilian dance from Kongo-Angolan heritage with a gestural naval bumping; related to rumba in Cuba.
Sanba Poet or composer of the people. Leads Carnival and Rara bands as well as the bans that accompany cooperative work (konbit).
Santeria, Cuba The Yoruba-based region of Cuba; discussed often in terms of “syncretism” or the interpenetration of African and Catholic beliefs; today is discussed in terms of range of African beliefs beneath an “umbrella” of Catholic symbols during the period of slavery and other oppressive times in Cuba.
Sarambo, Dominican Republic A Dominican social dance of the Cibao region, and El Seybo, where it is called guarapo, in a fast 6/8 tempo. Based on the zapateo.
Sarandunga, Dominican Republic The music and dance of the Afro-Dominican religious brotherhood of St. John the Baptist in or near Bani. According to oral history, originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and associated with a Dominican extended family. The music and instruments are unique variants of palos. The dance is similar in pattern to baile de palos, but the male role is much more virtuosic.
Segon Second tumbador or mid-range, barrel-shaped drum.
Seis, Puerto Rico One of Puerto Rico’s most important folk musical genres, preserving the Spanish 10-line stanza poetic form, the decimal. Known as musica jibara or campasino, it evolved among peasants. The songs are composed in a strict music and rhyme scheme and are frequently improvised by trovadores. The dance evolved from the six couple Spanish seises.
Seu, Curacao Music and dance form from Curacao; original word means “harvest” in Bantu.
Shouters / Spiritual Baptists, Trinidad and Tobago A belief system that blends Old Testament Judaism with modern Christianity while retaining fundamental aspects of African religious practices.
Sica, Puerto Rico A bomba rhythm complex with twelve known variants, played in 2/4 time.
Siyak, French Caribbean Scraper made out of bamboo and used in most quadrille bands of the French Caribbean.
Ska, Jamaica An indigenous up-tempo Jamaican pop music.
Soberao, Puerto Rico The dance circle that is formed in bomba.
Soca, Trinidad & Tobago As a party music, the older calypso has been succeeded in many locales by the hard-driving, wining-inducing soca (standing for soul calypso), developed from calypso, and like it, originating in Trinidad and now widely popular on many English-speaking islands.
Son, Cuba The name of a Cuban dance/music complex that surfaced in the sixteenth century and has evolved to permeate folk, popular, and symphonic music of Cuba, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Europe and perhaps other places in the twenty-first century; a popular blend of European and African concepts of dancing and music-making.
Son clave, Cuba An organizing rhythmic pattern for son music and dance.
Steelband / Pan The percussive but melodic metal orchestra of Trinidad, originally made from oil drums.
Subidor, Puerto Rico The high drum used in bomba music; also the lead drummer who plays this drum while interpreting the movements of bomba dancer.
Sucu-sucu, Cuba A type of son music/dance from western region of Cuba.
Sware bele, French Caribbean From the French soiree. Martinican bele dance parties that take place during the evening and part of the night.
Tambora, Dominican Republic The drum associated with the Dominican merengue. A medium-sized, double-headed drum, held horizontally by a cord around the neck and beaten on one head by a stick and on the other by the hand.
Tambu, Curacao African-Curacao ritual-derived music and dance, and the name of the event where it takes place; also, the name of a drum.
Tambu, Jamaica An African Jamaican ritual dance.
Tanbou Collective name for all drums.
Tanbouwine Drummer Tibwa, French Caribbean Pair of sticks that set the tempo in all musical genres of Martinique. In the north, the tibwa is played on the side of the bele drum; in the rest of the island, on a bamboo branch.
Ticano, French Caribbean Other name for calenda danced only in north-eastern Martinique.
Timba, Cuba A contemporary, highly improvisational musical organization of Cuban, Caribbean, and Latin American music, based in son and contemporary jazz and funk sounds; evolving from “happenings” or spontaneous gatherings with free-form improvisation.
Tiple, Cuba A Spanish instrument of the colonial period in Cuba Toast, Jamaica DJ’s banter.
Toeheel, Congolese / Jamaica Popular dance to Jamaican dancehall that looks like a slow samba.
Trankamentu, Curacao Shoulder-pushing dance (after cutting in on a partner) by men in Tambu.
Tres, Cuba A small Cuban-style, double-stringed guitar.
Tumba, Curacao Carnival music and dance from Curacao Tumba francesa, Cuba The dance/music tradition of French Haitians of African descent that arrived in Cuba at the end of the eighteenth century; continues today in the eastern provinces.
Tumbadores,Cuba The barrel-shaped drums of Kongo-Angolan heritage, also called congas.
Twoubadou From the French troubadour. A secular music style developed by itinerant Haitian workers returning from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Impacted the evolution of konpa.
Vaksin, Haiti One of a set of bamboo trumpets. Deliberately dissonant, they intone in hocket fashion while players strike the sides of the instruments with sticks.
Velacion, Dominican Republic The all-night Dominican saint’s festival held at the homestead of an individual who offers this devotional act in payment of a vow for divine healing. Includes rosaries and altar music (salves, versos); may include drumming and drum dance; may also include social dance.
Versos, see salves.
Veve A cosmogram traced on the floor of a Vodou peristyle. Each veve both represents and invokes a spirit.
Virgen de la Altagracia, Dominican Republic The extra-official, but most venerated deity of Dominican Catholicism and folk Catholicism. Her date of celebration, January 21, draws vow-based pilgrims to Higuey from throughout the country, even from Haiti. The secondary pilgrimage is August 14.
Vodou, Haiti In the Fongbe language of Benin, it means “spirit”. In Haiti, it has come to signify Afro-Haitian spirituality and the rituals it entails.
Vodu, Dominican Republic The Dominican version of Haitian Vodou, with its own characteristics as well as regional variants. Like Vodou, it is a religious society for healing and divination, characterized by spirit possession by African-derived and Afro-New World deities. Vodu included both private consultations as well as public celebrations, the latter including music (palos or salves) and dance (embraced drum dance or similar). Dominican practitioners avoid the term Vodu and prefer to refer to altars of the los misterios, and to their leader or medium as Servidor or Sevidora de misterios.
Voya / reponn Literally, “send and respond.” Better translated as “call and response.” Refers to antiphony, that is, a chorus responding to the lead of a solo singer.
Wapa, Curacao A name for the way women sang and danced seu.
Wining, Cuba A hip gyrating dance of the Anglophone Caribbean; common to Carnival dance movements and comparsa dancing in Cuba.
Wiri, Curacao A piece of ribbed metal pipe used as a musical instrument.
Wukkin’ up, Virgin Islands “Working up”; a thrusting of the hips as though the dancer is practicing sexual moves.
Yanvalou, Haiti One of the dances in honour of the Rada division of the Vodou pantheon. Famous for its undulating spine, evocative of Danbala, the serpent god. Fongbe for “praise.”
Yoruba, Cuba An African ethnic group, sometimes including the neighbouring Lucumi; and African language; a music/dance tradition in Cuba; also an alternate name for the Oricha, Santeria, or Lucumi religion.
Yuba, Puerto Rico A bomba rhythm complex, played in 6/8 time. Yuca, Dominican Republic A Dominican social dance of the Cibao region, possibly related to the meringue. It consists of the paseo and a short conventional dance section followed by an elaborate jaleo section, characterized by many turns, made more complex if danced by two interacting couples.
Yuka, Cuba A Kongo-Angolan dance that survives in Cuba; antecedent of Cuban rumba.
Zapateado, Cuba The rhythmic foot and heel patterns in the dancing tradition of Spanish flamenco; the zapateo dancing part of punto guajiro complex.
Zapateo, Cuba Flat-foot, heel-stomping dance style form from Spain; part of identifying characteristic rural dance in Cuba, the zapateado dancing part of punto guajiro complex.
Zepol / Zepaules, Haiti Named after the French les epaules, “shoulders,” because of its characteristic movement. A Rada dance that usually follows Yanvalou, bringing it to a heated conclusion.
Zouk, French Caribbean Social dance of the French Caribbean. Up to the late 1970s, used in reference to private night-time dance parties only; since the mid 1980s, also applies to a new musical genre that draws heavily on Carnival rhythms. The slow-tempo zouk, called zouk love, is danced by couple in close embrace and emphasizes undulant hips. The faster zouk beton or “hard zouk” is for individual jump-up.