Thursday, June 2, 2016

Live Music: Get Festive! Choosing the region's best music festivals

Take your pick from jazz and blues to techno, reggae and soul and you’ll find a music festival in the Caribbean that will keep your toes tapping and your hips swaying.  Check out our musical calendar and snag a front row seat at the Caribbean’s longest running jazz festival in St. Lucia, get groovy to soul sounds on the beach in Aruba, blues on the beach in Nevis and rock all night to a reggae beat in Jamaica.

What started as a single show to celebrate the January 15 birthday of reggae homegrown hero Patrick ‘Tony Rebel’ Barrett has morphed into a mainstay on the Jamaican music calendar. For two days — January 15 and 16 — Rebel Salute honors roots and reggae at the Plantation Cove in St. Ann. With a nod to the Rastafarian lifestyle, the no meat and no alcohol policy makes the festival family-friendly with food vendors dishing up vegetarian options to music fans of all ages. On the bill this year are old-school reggae singer Johnny Clarke and boy band Inner Circle. Sponsored by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, fans honor Bob Marley’s February 6 birthday with a month-long series of celebrations and concerts at Reggae Village at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road in Kingston: the heart and soul of reggae and the city where Marley was born.

Brand new on the music scene, SXMusic is the island's first electronic music festival from March 9 – 13. Named for the three-letter airport code (SXM) of the Princess Juliana International Airport, performances take place at a host of venues on both sides of the island like Kontiki Beach, Loterie Farm, Port De Plaisance Country Club and Le Dreams Beach Bar. The five-day fest impresses with an international lineup like Welsh DJ Jamie Jones and Cuban-born electronic spinner Maceo Plex to Dubfire, Iranian-American Grammy winning techno disc jockey and record producer. To be seen, the hip and happening head to after-parties on the beach, in lavish villas and on super yachts that keep the vibe all night long.

 big festival on the small island with miles of pink sandy beaches, 'Eleuthera…All that Jazz' is music for a good cause with profits from ticket sales donated  to the Haynes Library. From March 30 — April 3, the festival is a beacon for global artists like jazz singer Gabrielle Stravelli adored for her unique take on American greats like Duke Ellington and Dolly Parton, American pianist and composer Art Hirahara whose latest recording Libations & Meditations is taking the jazz world by storm and New York’s King Solomon Hicks packing his jazzy guitar sounds to the good time festival. Venues include the Rainbow Inn in Governor’s Harbour, St Patrick’s Church and on the final evening, musical jam session at the Fish Fry in Anchor Bay is a free show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

With St Kitts in view across the channel, The Nevis Blues Festival is center stage on the coconut-lined beach at Oualie Bay from April 14 — 16.  The best soul, funk and yes, the blues heat up the festival that was so popular last year, it’s making a comeback in 2016. Gates open at 7 p.m. with no more than 1200 music fans let in each night. On the bill, British bluesman Ian Siegel, American guitarist Kirk Fletcher acclaimed for his cool riffs, Belfast-born singer Simon McBride and the bluesy Rhythm Chiefs from the Netherlands. With roots in Nevis, Denise Gordon has performed her brand of gospel for the Queen and making music with long hollow pipes; Sugar Hill String Band is fun for the whole family. Single tickets are priced at USD$45 while a VIP ticket at USD$150 ups the ante with reserved seating for dining and plenty of fine wine sipping.

hat started more than a quarter century ago as an intimate jam session on the beach is now the longest running independent music festival in the Eastern Caribbean and the hottest ticket on the island. From April 21 — 24, Moonsplash is beach reggae greatness at the Dune Preserve Beach Bar that is cobbled together from battered coconut trees and old shipwrecks. On the sand at Rendezvous Bay, the beach blowout at the beach bar is hosted by reggae hero Bankie Banx and is a showcase for international reggae artists, a proving ground for new talent and a musical reunion of many of reggae’s finest. Tickets sell out early as the 2016 lineup is announced closer to show time.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the longest running jazz festival in the Caribbean. Spanning nine days from April 29 — May 8, St. Lucia Jazz attracts thousands to shows performed by more than 50 acoustic, fusion and new age jazz artists from the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and the U.S. With the dramatic Piton peaks in view from virtually everywhere on the island, stages are set up at 15 venues from picturesque Pigeon Island, Derek Walcott Square (named for the island's Nobel Prize winning poet), Fond D’Or Heritage Park and even the down-home fishing village called Gros Islet. Be sure to check out side shows like Sulphur Springs Jazz at the world’s only drive-in-volcano and Jazz Rhythms at Rodney Bay Mall.

A host of festivals keeps Curacao rocking all year long, with the International Blue Seas Festivalleading the pack from May 6 — 7.  With stages in the laid-back neighborhood near Willemstadcalled the Pietermaai District with its centuries-old mansions and funky bars and restaurants, performers taking the stage include Rock and Roll Hall of Fame great Leon Russell and California-based Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and their infectious cowboy hippie surf sounds. Book your tickets early for the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival September 1 — 3 at the World Trade Center near Piscadera Bay in Willemstad. This year marks the seventh year for this popular festival, with crowd-pleasing performers like the Dominican ‘King of Merengue’ Juan Luis Guerraand the Zouk band Kassav from Guadeloupe belting out their get-up-on-your-feet brand of carnival music.

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