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Our Guide To The Best Carnival Music

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


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Carnival music is the upbeat, festive music that is usually played in celebrations around the world at various times of the year. I’m sure you will have been to one carnival – or maybe you need to venture out to one –  and this article will make you reminisce about those good times. Either way, we will delve into what type of carnival music there is and which are the best festivals you can go to throughout the year. Let’s get started! 

What Is Carnival Music?

Carnival music is a type of festive music that is traditionally played during Carnival celebrations in many countries around the world. The origins of Carnival music can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it was used to accompany religious processions and feasts. Over time, it has evolved to become a form of celebratory music that is associated with joy and revelry. Carnival music typically includes a combination of traditional instruments such as drums, horns, and accordions, as well as modern elements such as synthesizers and samples. It is often characterized by a lively, upbeat tempo and is often accompanied by dance and other forms of entertainment. Carnival music is an integral part of many cultures around the world and is often used to signify the start of a new season or a celebration.

Carnival music is often a mix of styles from around the world and is often heavily influenced by traditional music from the Caribbean and Latin America.

The best Carnival music is a matter of personal preference. Some popular Carnival music styles include Samba, Reggae, Calypso, Soca, and Kompa.


Samba Carnival music is a lively, upbeat style of music that originated in Brazil. It is often associated with the Brazilian Carnival, a festive celebration that takes place in the days leading up to Lent. Samba Carnival music typically features a combination of drums, horns, and other percussion instruments, as well as vocals and improvisation. 

The style is characterized by its fast tempo and syncopated rhythms, as well as its emphasis on improvisation. Samba Carnival music is often performed in a group, with a lead singer and a chorus of backup singers. It has become a popular form of music around the world and is often used to celebrate special occasions.


Reggae Carnival music is a combination of traditional Caribbean rhythms and modern Reggae music. It is often characterized by its upbeat, danceable rhythms and its heavy use of percussion instruments such as steel drums, bongos, and congas. Reggae Carnival music also incorporates elements of ska, dub, and dancehall, making it a vibrant and unique sound. Reggae Carnival music is often used to celebrate Caribbean festivals, such as Carnival, and is a popular choice for parties and other festive occasions.


Calypso Carnival music is a type of music from the Caribbean that is typically upbeat, festive, and joyous. It is typically played during Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago, and is known for its syncopated rhythms and catchy melodies. 

The music is often accompanied by drums, steelpan, and other percussion instruments. Calypso Carnival music is usually sung in English, and its lyrics often tell stories of love, life, and current events.


Soca Carnival music is a genre of music popular in the Caribbean. It is a blend of calypso and soul music, and is characterized by a fast-paced rhythm and lively, upbeat sound. The genre is often associated with the annual Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago, and is known for its infectious energy and festive atmosphere. 

Common instruments used in Soca Carnival music include steel drums, synthesizers, horns, and percussion. Popular Soca Carnival artists include Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin, and Destra Garcia.


Kompa Carnival music is a type of Haitian music that is played during Carnival celebrations. It is a mix of traditional Haitian music, Caribbean rhythms, and African beats. The music is typically upbeat and joyful, and often includes call-and-response singing, horns, and percussion instruments. Kompa Carnival music is a popular genre of music in Haiti, and is often used to celebrate special occasions.

Faith And Carnival Music

Faith is often a major theme in Carnival music, as it is a celebration of life and of the joy of the human spirit. Many Carnival songs are about faith in God, in one’s self, and in the power of music to bring people together and bring joy. The lyrics of Carnival songs often focus on faith, hope, and love, and many of the rhythms and melodies of Carnival music are meant to evoke a feeling of joy and celebration.

The Best Festivals For Carnival Music

There are some epic festivals for Carnival music and maybe the most well-known carnival is the Rio Carnival in Brazil. This festival is known for its colorful celebration of Brazilian culture and music, including samba and other Carnival music. We have put together the best festivals around the world below. I wonder how many you have been to? I have been to Notting Hill Carnival a few times now and it doesn’t disappoint! I think Rio is definitely on my list. 

  1. Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil 

The Rio Carnival typically takes place in February or March each year, usually the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The exact dates for the 2021 Carnival are February 12th – 17th.

2. Notting Hill Carnival in London, England

The Notting Hill Carnival is held annually on the August bank holiday weekend, which is the last weekend of August. 

3. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival typically takes place in the month of February or March, usually on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

4. Venice Carnival in Italy

The Venice Carnival in Italy typically takes place in February or early March each year. The exact dates for the 2021 Venice Carnival have not yet been announced.

5. New Orleans Mardi Gras in Louisiana, USA

The New Orleans Mardi Gras in Louisiana, USA typically takes place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which usually falls between February 3 and March 9.

6. Barranquilla Carnival in Colombia

The Barranquilla Carnival in Colombia is typically held in February or March each year.

Closing Thoughts

Carnival music is a great way to get into the festive spirit and create a fun atmosphere. It is often upbeat, lively, and full of energy, making it the perfect soundtrack for a party or celebration. Carnival music can also be a great way to learn about different cultures and explore different musical styles. See you at the next festival!


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