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When you think of tropical music, you think Caribbean. Why have these islands created so much fun music? Reggae, Calypso, Steel Drums, Soca and more! All I know is I like Caribbean music. Its so happy. Like many people, I was first exposed to steel drums on cruise ships in the Caribbean. A steel drums band playing on the outside deck while vacationers swim, tan, eat and relax.

Steel Pan Favorites is the most obvious cd to get - its sold at music stores and on cruise ships. This one starts out with the Calypso tune "Dayo" and also has a cover of Margaritaville. Even the songs that I don't recognize sound cool on steel pans! Great music for sunset wherever you live. Recorded in St. Thomas.

Next is 6 Pak Dis De Katta. A little more classical than the others - The Cruzan Cultural Symphonic Philharmonic Ensemble play the pipe, steel, squash, guitar, banjo and flute. The Cruzan Philharmonic is made up of members of the Ten Sleepless Knights. Its Calypso music and I read that they're based in St. Croix which is in the US Virgin Islands. The flute adds a great flavor to this cd. The first eight songs are a quadrille set and are instrumental and the last 6 songs have vocals.

The Roots Steel Band are from Antigua. I recognized a bunch of these songs -- Just The Two Of Us, The Beatles' Yesterday and All My Loving, Hotel California, U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Simon & Garfunkel's El Condor Pasa. Hearing a steel pan cover of a song isn't the same as a regular cover - its not trying to emulate the song - just a cool drum rhythm that reminds you of the original.

The next two cds came as a box set that we bought in South Beach on the last day of our honeymoon. Caribbean Island Steel Drum Favorites has a few songs I knew - Pass The Dutchie, Red Red Wine and Shake Shake Shake Sonora. Nice beach cover. Steel Band Music Of The Caribbean has a cover of Amazing Grace. The rest of the cd are traditional Caribbean tunes.

Soca is a mix of Calypso, Indian music and rhythms. It combines the melodic Calypso with an insistent percussion. Till I went to Parrot Fish Music, I'd never heard of Soca. I bought Soca Gold 2005, a collection of the best that Soca has to offer in 2005. Disc one are the songs "as is" and disc two is a DJ mix of the same songs.

I'm glad I escaped the usual tourist shops and discovered Caribbean music. Found a few things I liked and I'm sure this collection will grow over time. What's unique about Caribbean music? Its pure happiness. Whether its steel pans, Calypso or Soca, Caribbean music is full of happy rhythms - just like the cool people of the Caribbean. Can't wait to visit again!

I don't remember where I got Pure Reggae - it was probably a freebie from a cd store. It opens and closes with Bob Marley. It has new and old reggae. You'll recognize Clapton's I Shot The Sheriff, Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue but there are other, more mainstream reggae songs here as well. Songs like Montego Bay, Rivers of Babylon and Kingston Town are my favorites. It looks like Pure Reggae comes with two cd covers!

The Best of World Music - Reggae is Putumayo's fifth cd and was released in 1994. Its a mix of mostly reggae bands from Jamaica and Africa with a few from the Caribbean as well. Reggae Around The World features reggae from Brazil, Australia, Mali, Martinique and other countries. I love these - every song has a fun beat and the music flows well. Reggae Playground is a fun addition to Putumayo's Playground series. Reggae for the family! The reggae version of Here Comes The Sun was a surprise. The musicians on the cd aren't only from Jamaica - Cuba, France, Morocco, Indonesia, Hawaii, Brazil and Trinidad are also represented on Reggae Playground. That makes it even cooler.

Mastercuts Reggae and Mastercuts 70's Reggae are two excellent and cheap reggae compilations. Both are 3 cd's (about 100 minutes) with most of reggae's masters given their due. Like the 5 disc Latin Jazz collection below, Mastercuts Reggae and 70's Reggae don't have a booklet with info on the songs and bands like in Putumayo's cd's, but the low price - $10 for 3 discs - will convince you to get it. I like that some of the songs are instrumental. The song choice is interesting - you'll hear a few Bob Marley songs that you may not have heard yet. 70's Reggae has a cool cover of Blondie's The Tide Is High.

I had my eyes on Putumayo's The Caribbean since I saw it being promoted on their website two months before its release in January 2006. It didn't disappoint! I recognize a few of the bands - Kali and Coalishun. The back of the cd reads, "A joyous musical cruise to the Caribbean featuring the irrestistible rhythms of soca, reggae, merengue and more!"

I was glad to find Putumayo's Jamaica in an Eilat music store. Until then, I'd only bought Putumayo on Ebay. On the same visit, I also bought South Pacific Islands, World Lounge and got a free Putumayo 2006 Sampler. Though I love Ebay and Amazon, its much more fun to buy music in a store and experience browsing a huge collection at your leisure. If the people who work there love music and are helpful, even better. Eilat is lucky enough to have a locally-based music store chain with competitive prices. You're treated to 11 songs of classic and contemporary reggae from Jamaica. If you listen to lots of reggae, you'll recognize names like Jimmy Cliff, Israel Vibration, and Peter Tosh. The songs flow well and as always with reggae, its a happy listen.

We spent two months and a week in Jamaica after over six months in South America. Most tourists to Jamaica spend their time at all-included resorts where you're pampered but don't get to see the real Jamaica. We backpacked Jamaica, spending $10-$27 a night for a private room at guesthouses. It was so much fun getting into the shared taxi, seeing the Caribbean Sea for the short ride to the next destination and checking out the beach. In Oracabessa, we stayed at an especially nice guesthouse for 10 days. We had the entire floor to ourselves. Every day we walked to the fruit vendor and had coconuts for breakfast. Domenica, the guesthouse owner, let us listen to a cd her son made and we bought a copy. It was the only cd we bought in Jamaica - they sell pirate cd's in Ocho Rios for $5 a piece and official Bob Marley cd's went for $30 a piece in Negril and elsewhere. Great Jamaican sounds that bring back memories of Oracabessa..

I bought Matisyahu Youth and Caribbean Jazz Project's Birds Of A Feather in the US on our way home from South America and Jamaica. I like Matisyahu's positive, you-can-do-it attitude in his lyrics. Caribbean Jazz Project is a mix of Caribbean and Latin Jazz. I love the tropical atmosphere that their music adds to our evenings.

What a combination - Latin and Reggae! Putumayo does it again with Latin Reggae.

KP's Sunshine Band is a Soca band. This cd was released in 1994. I was lucky enough to buy it for $1 in Savannah, Georgia in December 2008! I recognized the song, "Party, Hot, Hot, Hot". After an extensive online search, I learned that KP's Sunshine Band is maybe from the Caribbean island of Barbados. I hope to learn more!

Jimmy Cliff is one of Reggae's best. The Harder They Come, released in 1972, played a major role in popularizing Reggae in the US. This cd is the soundtrack to a movie - but its the music that has passed the test of time. Classics include The Harder They Come, Many Rivers To Cross and You Can Get It If You Really Want. Toots & The Maytals contributed two songs - Sweet And Dandy and Pressure Drop. Many Rivers To Cross has been covered by John Lennon, UB40, Joe Cocker, The Animals, U2 and many others over the years. I bought The Harder They Come in Orlando in December 2008.

World Music Forever was created by Kenny Sahr. Be sure to visit Sixties Collection and my personal site.