Top Caribbean Music Festivals
Published: May 2009
By Angela Fleury
Dominica For three days each year, the World Creole Music Festival (Roseau; 767/448-4833; festivalmusiquecreole dominique.com; Oct. 31–Nov. 2) features a lineup of Creole-speaking artists from the Caribbean, United States, and Africa; it draws names like Shaggy and Wyclef Jean, while also focusing on under-appreciated indigenous genres like zouk, a fusion of styles including Haitian jazz and French pop. Next year’s festival will coincide with the 30th anniversary of Dominica’s independence; a huge blowout is promised.
Jamaica The Red Stripe Sumfest (Montego Bay; 876/953-2933; reggaesumfest.com; July 13–19) is a four-night party celebrating the country’s most famous export: reggae. Dance hall nights keep thousands of revelers up until early morning, and the bigger concerts bring in top-notch international acts—LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, and Beres Hammond were this year’s headliners.
Puerto Rico Legendary Spanish cellist Pablo Casals made the island his adopted home in 1956 and founded the classical Festival Casals (San Juan; 787/721-7727; festcasalspr.gobierno.pr; mid Feb.–early March) a year later. Since then it has hosted dozens of world-class performers, from the Emerson String Quartet to Puerto Rico’s own Figueroa brothers.
St. Lucia Started in 1991 as an attempt to extend the winter season, St. Lucia Jazz (Pigeon Island; stluciajazz.org; May 2–11) includes BET Network–sponsored open-air shows that travelers and locals flock to annually. Over the years the festival has seen its share of big-name acts, from Branford Marsalis to India.Arie; also look for native artists like Boo Hinkson, who performs a unique mix of jazz, calypso, and reggae.