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Culture

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The traditional culture of The Bahamas lives away from the American-influenced urban centers of Nassau and Freeport. The islands' folkways stem in large part from the tales, bush medicine, music and religion brought over by African slaves. A popular 'folk' religion is obeah, a system of beliefs governing interactions between the living and the spirit world. It's a less sinister cousin of Haitian voodoo and Cuban santerķa. The vast majority of Bahamians, however, belong to mainline Christian denominations (though many Anglican priests hedge their bets and mix a little good-willed obeah into their practice). Most islanders are steadfast in their religious beliefs: many taxi drivers and office workers keep a Bible at hand. Church affairs make headline news, while major international events are relegated to the inside pages. The country claims the greatest number of churches per capita in the world.

English, the official language and that of business and daily life, is spoken by everyone but a handful of Haitian immigrants, who speak their own Creole. Most black Bahamians speak both standard English and patois. While The Bahamas has yet to produce a writer of world renown and its visual arts scene has been slow to take shape, the islands have a vibrant musical culture. The country has produced several traditional forms of music, including goombay, a synthesis of calypso, soca and English folk songs; and down-home, working-class 'rake 'n' scrape,' usually featuring guitar, accordion and shakers made from the pods of poinciana trees.

Bahamian kids play basketball with a passion. They live on the basketball court, and most towns have a small court with makeshift stands. Bahamians follow the US basketball (and baseball) leagues with intense fervor.