Take a blaring fanfare from New Orleans parading during a funeral. Blend it with a snappy calypso. Then add swinging Latin rhythms from South America. Add a hint of African rhumba and combine all this with the question and answer patterns from West African music …. and what is cooking in today’s post? Kaseko! A real melting pot of styles that represents the roots of Africa and Holland in South America perfectly, and without any doubt the most danceable music from the former Dutch colony across the Atlantic Ocean.
Kaseko is a corruption of the French “casser les corps”, which means as much as ‘break their arms/body’. And even after all those years it is still the most popular Surinamese dance music, derived from traditional Surinamese Creole kawina music, as played by Creole street musicians in Paramaribo since the early 1900s. That is clearly the link to New Orleans street fanfares….but Kaseko is not defined that easily at all. Read on….
from Kawina to Kaseko
Kaseko is based on two important elements of traditional kawina music: the patterns of question and answer singing and the use of percussion instruments. The most important percussion instrument is the skratjie, consisting of a large drum / pauk with a cymbal on it. This indicates the basic rhythm. The name literally means trestle and indicates that this drum is usually placed on a wooden rack. In the 1920s and 1940s, under the influence of the New Orleans Jazz, Surinamese folk melodies simultaneously improvised on brass wind instruments. The typical roll pattern on the snare was contrasted by loose, varying beats on the bass drum. This ‘bigi poku’ was also played at folk dance parties by members of the Military Chapel out of service. After the Second World War this form of music was strongly influenced by Latin American music and calypso, which resulted in a new Surinamese type of music that was called kaseko and quickly became popular. The influence of rock and pop music complemented the percussion instruments with western pop music instruments, such as an electric guitar, a bass guitar and a drum set. The use of the electric organ also increased.
No fewer than twenty languages are spoken in Suriname. Most Surinamese are multilingual. Sranantongo is the lingua franca, besides the Sarnami Hindustani (Surinamese Hindustani), the Javanese different Maroon languages (especially Saramaccan and Aukan) Chinese (Hakka, Standard Mandarin and Standard Cantonese)
Here are 10 favorites from my personal collection
The first two recordings are pure Kawina, drums and chant. The following tracks are typical styles of Kaseko, most are sung in Sranantongo, and the track ‘Jimmy’s lazerus’ being sung in Dutch!
listen to the podcast Soul Safari’s Caribbean Suriname Summer 2019 episode 2 – Kaseko MIX
total time 52:32