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The National Anthem of Anguilla arranged for Brass.
The music of Anguilla is part of the Lesser Antillean music area. The earliest people of the island were the Caribs and Arawaks, who arrived from South America. English settlers from St Kitts and Irish people later colonised the island. Unlike regional neighbours, however, the plantation system of agriculture that relied on chattel slavery never took root in Anguilla, causing a distinctly independent cultural makeup. The most recent influences on Anguilla’s musical life come from elsewhere in the Caribbean, especially the music of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, as well as abroad, especially the music of the United States and the United Kingdom. Anguilla’s Rastafarian heritage has played a role in the island’s music and culture and produced influential figures like activist Ijahnya Christian and Robert Athlyi Rogers, author of The Holy Piby.
The island has produced a number of popular reggae, calypso, soca and country musicians. Of these, the last is especially characteristic, as country is not otherwise a part of much Caribbean popular music. Anguilla’s Island Harbour, an Irish-settled village on the east side of the island, is a major centre for local country music. Soca is a major recent import that has become the most important form of dance music on Anguilla; it is often accompanied by frenzied, sexualised dancing called wukin up.
Perhaps the most famous musician from Anguilla and one of the Caribbean’s most acclaimed recording artists is Bankie Banx. Banx has released over ten albums and has played with such music legends such as Bob Dylan, Jimmy Cliff and Jimmy Buffett. He has also opened a popular music bar called the Dune Preserve, built in order to save the Rendezvous Bay dune; the Dune Preserve is home to the Moonsplash Annual Music Festival. More recent popular successes include the soca group Xtreme Band, who gained regional fame following their success in the 2001 Carnival.
Music institutions in Anguilla include the Soroptimist Club and the annual Tranquility Jazz Festival, though the island’s most famous music celebration is Carnival, held near the beginning of August (the first Friday after the first Monday); it includes calypso competitions, j’ouvert, street dances, boat races, costumed parades and stilt walking, and beachside barbecues. Anguillans also celebrate the anniversary of emancipation in August, and British holidays like the Queen’s birthday. For the first time in 2005, Anguilla was home to a Country Music Festival, which was promoted by American country star Billy Ray Cyrus; in addition to Cyrus and other American musicians. Other popular musicians from Anguilla include Evan Webster, the most famous recent performer to emerge from the island’s country music heritage.
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