The nation of Guyana is an intensely diverse place: It has ethnic groups from every continent–India, Africa, China, and Europe, as well as its indigenous peoples. It’s in South America, but very much part of the English-speaking Caribbean. And you can hear all of that beautifully varied cultural landscape on two excellent mixtapes which were recently released, one from Afro Ritmo Records’ DJ Rameses, the other from Dev Hynes of Blood Orange.
On Nights of the North of South America, DJ and archivist Sir Rameses has woven together all kinds of sounds from Guyanese radio from the ’50s to the ’80s. The first thing you hear is definitely Indian, and with good reason: Indo-Guyanese are the largest ethnic group in Guyana, descendants of indentured workers brought by British sugar plantation owners from the Indian subcontinent, when the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean left the sugar industry in need of cheap labor. From there, Rameses moves through calypso, funk, Trinidadian Latin jazz, soul and reggae. At two hours 20 minutes long, it’s something of a marathon mix, but it’s strong from start to finish.
Dev Hynes takes a somewhat less encyclopedic approach on his Sounds of Guyana Megamix, which gleans his favorite tracks from a recent CD bargain bin diving expedition in his mother’s hometown of Georgetown, Guyana. It’s similarly broad in scope—disco, Bollywood, reggae, soul, dub, rock and rap—but more contemporary in focus, with some of Dev’s own edits thrown in. Enjoy them both!