BY Ama Nunoo, 11:59am October 24, 2019,

Popular traditional Caribbean dances with African roots you need to know

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The Caribbean is truly blessed with uniquely different and magnificent cultures with most tracing its roots to Africa.

As enslaved Africans were transported from the shores of the continent to forcefully work on plantations in the Caribbean some centuries ago, so did they also take their traditions, culture and values which are, till date, still being practised.

Be it cuisine, music, dance or language, just to mention a few, some elements and traces of African culture are imbibed in them.

According to “Caribbean dance evolved from complex influences, including slavery and colonialism. Enslaved Africans, brought to the islands to work on vast plantations, carried customs and drumming traditions with them. Using available materials, they crafted instruments and kept elements of their cultures alive.”

Though some of these dances have either evolved or have been blended with elements of other cultures, their distinct and fundamental “Africanness” are still evident till date.

In light of this, Nsuri shares with you some popular traditional Caribbean dances with African roots that you need to know about.

Take a look at them below:

Ettu (Jamaica)

Performed in the parish of Hanover, Ettu is believed to have its origins from the Yoruba tribe in West Africa. The dance is accompanied by songs that are sung in the Yoruba dialect, according to the Jamaica Information Service.

Bongo (Trinidad & Tobago)

Another dance that traces its roots to Africa, Bongo is performed the night before a funeral (a wake). According to The Drum’s Voice, Bongo “signifies the passage of the deceased from one world to the next.”

Dinki Mini (Jamaica)

Performed after the death of someone, Dinki Mini is derived from the Congolese word “ndingi”, which means “lamentations” or “funeral song.”

Shango (Trinidad & Tobago)

This dance is attributed to Shango, a Yoruba god of lightning and thunder. According to The Drum’s Voice, Shango is “is often performed day and night for weeks at a time, during which time people travel from far and wide to be exposed to the healing energy of the dance and drums.”


Calypso originated in the Caribbean between the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a fusion of West African and Kaiso dances. According to WorldAtlas, the music, which was first performed in Trinidad & Tobago, was used by enslaved Africans as a means of communication as they were prohibited from speaking to each other.


Tambu dance and music is popular in Curaçao. A couple’s dance, it doesn’t involve touching. The interesting thing about this dance is, it was illegal from the 1600s to 1956 as it was banned by the Catholic church and government.


Last Edited by:Ama Nunoo Updated: February 4, 2021


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