The Windrush Story

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Caribbean Influences on Music and Culture

Find out the amazing ways the UK has been shaped by Caribbean influences...

Have you listened to the new Fun Kids series celebrating the Windrush Generation, The Windrush Story?

The series looks into the courageous immigrants from the Caribbean who came to Britain to help rebuild after the second world war.  

Let’s take a look at how modern culture here in the UK has been shaped in some amazing ways by Caribbean influences.

Notting Hill Carnival

One of the most dazzling celebrations of Caribbean culture in Britain happens every August Bank Holiday – it’s the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s been held since 1959 and is a buzz of steel bands, street food and dancing. The party really gets started on the Saturday morning with a parade called J’ouvert where those taking part wear flamboyant costumes and colourful paint to walk, dance and sing through the streets – all with some great music to get everyone on their feet.

Festivals aren’t just in London. Manchester and Liverpool also hold Caribbean celebrations every summer and there are many smaller events across the country, like Jerk Jam Festival in Hampshire.

Successful Caribbean Music and Poetry

As well as festivals, there’s a thriving music scene from the Caribbean that reaches to every corner of the globe – from Grammy Winning artists like Sean Paul and Rihanna to British artists wanting to collaborate on tracks we hear on the radio.

Rihanna performs onstage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City.

Even when artists aren’t from the Caribbean they may have been influenced by Caribbean music. Artists including Shawn Mendes, Drake and Fifth Harmony have all used Caribbean sounds in their music.

British people with Caribbean heritage have scooped awards for all sorts of things, like Benjamin Zepaniah – a poet who’s won numerous honorary doctorates for his playful but powerful works.  

Here is part of interview with a young music producer all about how Caribbean music has influenced him.

“Hi, my name is Henry. I’m a musician and I live in Liverpool. My nan is from the Caribbean. In fact, she is from Jamaica where she now lives. She is in her 90s and moved back to Jamaica about 20 years ago. She arrived in England in the 1950s and settled in London where my dad and his siblings were born.

Like a lot of people I’ve been really influenced by music that originated in the Caribbean. Some of my favourite artists making music right now that have roots in the Caribbean are AJ Tracey, Koffee (who’s from Jamaica) and Rihanna who is from Barbados.

When I was growing up my parents liked to listen to people like Billy Ocean, Bob Marley and Wylie – so there’s always been Caribbean music playing in our house. Some of them I didn’t even realise were from the Caribbean; they’re just part of musical history.”

You can learn more about The Windrush in our series below.

Created with support from the Windrush Day Grant Scheme.

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The Windrush Story

Find out all about HMT Empire Windrush and the Windrush generation!

More From The Windrush Story