Today, Rake ‘n’ Scrape music is almost identical to ‘rip saw’ music of the Turks and Caicos Islands (a territory off the southernmost island of The Bahamas), which chose to remain under British rule when the Bahamas sought independence in 1973. During the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, there was an intermingling of the two cultures, i.e. the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos cultures, which shared their traditions of music, story telling, ring games, and other cultural art forms. Among the shared cultural traits is the music of rake ‘n’ scrape. It is a futile exercise to debate as to the true origin of this music, but it is safe to say that many of the islands of the Caribbean because of movement of contract workers in the early days, shared and enriched each other’s cultures.

The music is more popular in the Family Islands. This may be due in part to the lack of more expensive instruments but is also attributed to a desire to preserve traditions begun in yesteryear.

Traditionally, rake ‘n’ scrape music is used to accompany the Bahamian Quadrille and the Heel and Toe Polka dances. Slaves all over the Western Hemisphere were able to create instruments with whatever was available to them. With these instruments they would mimic sounds that they were accustomed in their homeland. The saw, for instance creates sounds that can be compared to like instruments such as the Nigerian wood block guiro and the cabasa without the nuances in pitch. Not only does it produce the scraping sound that can be done on many other percussion instruments in Latin American, African, Indian, and Caribbean cultures, to name a few, the wobbly sound created by the bending, hitting, and scraping of the saw introduces unexplainable harmonic textures.

The use of scraping sticks was quite common in West African music. This adaptation found its way in American Negro folk music with the use of the washboard.

Keeping the music alive in the Bahamas are musicians like Stileet and countless Rake ‘n’ Scrape bands throughout the Family Islands of the Bahamas.


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