History has demonstrated that music greatly molds the goals and aims of a people moving toward joint identities. Music also tends to convey ideologies to adherents of cultural and social movements. This musical effect played out strikingly in the rise of Caribbean national and cultural identities. The Caribbean identity emerged in numerous ways, but music has played a vital role in furnishing feelings and ideological solidarity, and catapulted the enthusiasm and sustainability of national and cultural identification. This effect is epitomized with, for instance, salsa, rumba and son in Cuba, plena and bomba in Puerto Rico, and merengue and bachata in the Dominican Republic, which has continuously assisted the rise of cultural awareness in the Caribbean.
Cuba: rumba, son and salsa
There is more to rumba, son and salsa; they are not just music and dance, but an expression of Cuba’s cultural and national identity. Rumba is a worldly genre of Cuban music that involves dance, song and drumming (Robinson 141). Its origin can be traced to northern areas of Cuba, primarily in Urban Matanzas and Havana. The music was created by slaves who worked in plantations during the 19th century. As such, it is founded on African music and dance customs, that is, yuka and Abakua and the Spanish-based coros de clave as well (Sweeney 104). During the slavery period, music (rumba) became a core element of life to the slaves. They used song and dance to express their feelings; rumba also helped them to get through the hardships associated with slavery because the music served to keep their spirits high. To this day, Cubans use this music style to express how they feel and to release any tensions that they may have. It is also worth noting that rumba developed out of the social situations of Havana city and Matanzas after slavery was abolished as black people seeking jobs and Cubans who were white came together to create collective networks known as rumba (Sweeney 125). The term rumba comes from the word “rumbear,” which basically means partying and dancing. And as such, rumba became part and parcel of Cuban celebrations and parties.
At the start, rumba was used to express the Afro-Cuba and Afro-Cuban cultural norms and, therefore, was perceived to be indispensible to the revolution that occurred in 1959. This is what influenced the Cuban government at the time to establish Conjunto Folklorico nacional (a cultural institution) to provide lessons on Afro-Cuban music and dance and endorse the rumba to curtail the racism that had featured the society of Cuba (Sweeney 201). In this context, rumba served to create a culture of ethnic tolerance. Since 1979, rumba has grown to become an important symbol in the forging of the Cuban national identity. And all through the years, successive governments in Cuba have strived to advance the Afro-Cuban cultural customs through the rumba music. It is also important to note that within institutional tactics of cultural preservation, rumba, a dance of predominantly black Cubans from a lower social class in the nineteenth century has come out as a national icon of the Cuban society in the twentieth century (Robinson 114). Currently, the dance is endorsed to express identification with African derived concepts that pervade the Cuban culture, and the government supports it so that it can represent the interests of the labor force and to fortify the participation of the artistic community in the social improvement of a new system of politics.
The son refers to an Afro-American music style, and is among the numerous hybrids whose origins are ambiguous. It has African and European elements, and it was played for and by black skinned people (Sweeney166). The son is rich with spiritual rites and sensual dances, and its rhythms have a rich history. Culture is one of the major means that minority groups found to be encompassed in post-colonial communities such as the US. Therefore, Cubans living in the US use this music as a means of cultural identity, which they consider to be their largest and most valuable export. Salsa originated from the Cuban dance styles, particularly the son, rumba and guararba, which had transformed into a unified set of marketable famous styles by the 1920s (Robinson 121; Sweeney 76). Two decades later, salsa had amassed substantial global appeal, and Latino communities living outside of Cuba began playing an essential role in the transformation of this Cuban music. As such, it acted as a source of pride for Cubans, and they applied the cultural aspects of the genre to market themselves to the outside world. The Cuban government understands the importance of salsa in advertising the culture of its people and this is the reason why it uses this music genre to assist it in promoting a love for Cuba, the Cuban culture and history (Robinson 113). By inviting many Cubans to dance salsa, the government pursues its objective for building the community and the nation. Through the artistic delight of salsa, this policy of music embraces huge sections of the population and sustains a mutual Cuban identity among all Cubans.
Puerto Rico: plena and bomba
Regularly mentioned together as if they were a sole style of music, both plena and bomba are a reflection of the African heritage of Puerto Rico. Together, these music genres occupy a kind of reputation in the national culture and discourse of Puerto Ricans; they are unique creations of Puerto Rico (Flores 33). And as such, they have been openly celebrated as vital elements of Puerto Rican musical culture which warrant recognition. Bomba and plena are styles of music that are driven by drumming and musical customs from the country of Puerto Rico, and they usually move/influence individuals to dance. Notably the music genres have different lyrics and rhythm. The origins of Bomba can be traced back to the early colonial period in Puerto Rico. The music originated from the musical customs brought by African slaves in the seventeenth century (Flores 41). It served as a source of spiritual and political expression to them. The lyrics communicated a sense of sadness and anger about their situation, and the songs motivated them to fight for their freedom. However, bomba also helped them to build a community and an identity, and since then, music style has and continues to forge the cultural and national identity of Puerto Ricans.
The lyrics of plena are narrative, communicating a story about events, tackling topical subjects and offering ironic remarks. It is a combination of the musical and cultural ancestry of the native Puerto Ricans and those in Africa. Developed from bomba, plena music came about at the start of the twentieth century in Puerto Rico (Flores 66). At the time, the music was created by the labor force that was shifting to wage labor and capitalist-led agriculture. The working group consisted of former peasants, slaves and artisans, who used plena to voice strike conditions and daily happenings. Puerto Ricans identify with this kind of music because just like the past, they use plena to voice out their concerns as a people who continue to be subjugated (Flores 84). Conclusively, the custom of plena music sums up the struggle of the common person in the society of Puerto Rico amidst quick drastic sociopolitical changes, eventually uniting the working-class against unfairness and subjugation.

The Dominican Republic: merengue and bachata
Music and dance, and particularly the merengue and bachata are at the central of Dominican daily life, and they are played in all neighborhoods, in all corners. Away from the party aspect, merengue and bachata have a deeper significance culturally. Meregue refers to the national dance and music of the Dominican Republic (DR), and its instruments signify the mixed heritage of the nation: an accordion (which is, European), a drum that is 2-sided (which is, African) placed on a person’s lap, and a guira (Taino), a kind of metal cylinder having holes, with a brush running up and down across its surface (Hebdige 52). From the time it was created, this music genre has had diverse interpretations across regions, classes and political circumstances. The music’s syncretic nature manifests a truth of the origins of the Dominican than many would want to overlook: its mixture of the European and African musical and dance components. Merengue is a reproduction of European stereotypes that normally associated the native-borns with nature, Europeans with tune (i.e. brains) and Africans with tempo (body) (Hebdige 111). Obviously, merengue attempts to reconcile a Eurocentric stance of the elites in a country dominated by African Americans. This genre of music has become important to the Dominican identity given the main geo-political shifts that have occurred in the last one hundred and sixty years. Although it has progressively become more intricate due to borrowing of more African aspects, relations of race and anti-Haitian opinion are yet to be resolved. Unlike any other national symbol, Merengue encapsulates the Dominican history, heritage and culture and it is celebrated as such (Dudley 78). Ironically, people from both the middle and upper classes now enjoy this sort of music while still preserving their racial discriminations, accepting the merengue is a national symbol, dancing to the praise of African components but still refusing to acknowledge that the African heritage is part of the Dominican identity.
Bachata is music style that is centered on the guitar featured by passionate lyrics and a singing style that is highly emotional that united as a style in the DR in the 1970s (Dudley 99). Those who liked Bachita were mainly people of the African origin. However, because of the DR’s history of rejecting its African heritage, bachata was perceived as music for poor people instead of a type of black music (Hebdige 112). Since class is closely related to race in the DR, most of bachata’s segregated fans and practitioners had black skin. And as such, it was utilized to intentionally degrade the music and its fans by relating it to crudeness, roughness, and a lack of sophistication. The fans of Bachata who were marginalized and impoverished remained loyal to this sort of music, but Dominicans who aspired to move to upper social classes constantly disassociated themselves from the music, and instead, prefer more proper indicators of multi-ethnic urban modernity, like big band merengue taking over the Latin music airwaves all through urban Latino America (Hebdige 89). The low social status associated with bachata as well as its identity as music for the poor people changed in the 1980s and the 1990swhen the Dominican migrants transplanted it to New York City, and became a strong symbol of the Dominican identity. To melancholic immigrants in the city, the music style’s once belittled plain simplicity turned out to be its signature asset and the source of its attractiveness. As bachata changed to become a loved symbol of Dominican identity, its fame ultimately exceeded the merengue, making it one of the renowned symbols of Dominican-ness (Dudley 45). It is important to point out that bachata became predominantly famous among 2nd generation Dominican immigrants since it provided them with a powerful way to remain emotionally linked to their ancestral motherland.

How music has unified and shaped the pan-Latin identity
The popularity of the music from these three countries partly stems from its abilities to bring the pan-Latin audience in the New York metropolitan area. Rumba, son, plena, bomba, meregue, salsa and bachata have reached Latino audience in many parts of the world, and as such, they have been mythologized and marked as defining cultural characteristics of pan-Latin unity and consciousness thus becoming synonymous with the pan-Latin identity (Manuel et al. 21). These styles of music have come to describe the identity of pan-Latino in New York through the manner in which they underline similarities between the fans’ individual Caribbean nations of heritage. The music genres have brought together Latino groups in New York that trace their lineage to the Caribbean, Central or South American nations through the creation of a pan-Latin community that is centered around the celebration of these sorts of music (Manuel et al. 67). This popular music also unifies the pan-Latin identity by speaking to the audience. The music mainly characterizes song lyrics that straight forwardly address issues that affect pan-Latins, pervading the community with a sense of unity that arises from an understanding of other Latino cultures that reside in the city. The sense of pride derived by identifying themselves with the various forms of music serves to unite and shape the pan-Latin identity as well (Manuel et al. 33). This influences individuals to come together and share their common beliefs and values.
From the analysis, it is clear that popular music (i.e. rumba and son; plena and bomba; merengue and bachata; and salsa music) has always been one of the central defining elements involved in forging various Caribbean national and cultural identities. Cubans not only use salsa, rumba and son music for entertainment, but also to express their cultural identity. These kinds of music inspire them to express their customs, values and beliefs as well as encourage them to voice out issues that concern them just like their forefathers did. Each of the music genres has a rich history behind it; as such, the actions of Cubans are inspired by this history. And by adhering to the historical trends of these music styles, they are able to identify with their culture. The music associated with the Puerto Ricans is a reflection of their African heritage. It was created by their ancestors who are mainly from Africa, and therefore, the music has some African elements. With regard to the Dominican Republic music, it is evident that the genres serve to define Dominican-ness. The music is what defines what it is to be a Dominican.

Works Cited
Dudley, Shannon. Carnival Music in Trinidad: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, New
York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Flores, Juan. From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity. New York:
Columbia University Press, 2000. Print.
Hebdige, Dick. Cut N’ Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music, London & New York:
Routledge, 1990.
Manuel, Peter et al. Caribbean Currents (Revised & Expanded Edition): Caribbean Music from
Rumba to Reggae, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.
Robinson, Eugene. Last Dance in Havana. Place of publication not identified: Free Press, 2014.
Sweeney, Philip. The Rough Guide to Cuban Music. London: Rough Guides, 2001. Print.

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