By Noelle Khalila Nicolls
November 11, 2014
Michael Ventura / Alamy

You simply cannot speak about live music in the Bahamas without talking about Bahamian Rake and Scrape, a lively folk form that makes its rhythms with homemade instruments. Using a screwdriver or some form of metal pick, musicians scratch the gyrated edge of a workman’s saw to create the distinctive scraping sound. This is accompanied by a goatskin drum, a washboard, sometimes a washtub bass, and randomly, an accordion.

Every June, Cat Island is completely mobbed by the flock of followers who never miss its annual Rake and Scrape Festival. Other islands also host annual festivals that—no matter the theme—always feature live Bahamian music; like Pineapple Fest in Eleuthera, and the Harbour Island Regatta.

Unfortunately, for real music lovers, the native festivals are not frequent enough to quench the thirst, so the best places on my list are bars and restaurants where you can regularly find talented local performers. Enjoy!

Compass Point

Thursday night is Bahamian night at this beachfront hotel bar and restaurant on Nassau. One of the island’s top local bands, Ira Storr and the Spank Band, plays; lead female vocalist Lady E will have you dollar wining on the dance floor before your dessert has had time to digest. The group performs original Bahamian songs, as well as mixed-genre covers. 

Tippy’s Restaurant, Bar & Beach

Saturday is the night to free yourself of inhibition and step onto the makeshift dance floor at Tippy’s. Ellie and the Black Bellies Band sets the mood for a lively island party in the walkways around the open air bar and the beachfront patio. This home grown band plays regional and international music all backed the raking and scraping of traditional Bahamian instruments. 

Snappas Grill and Chill

The energetic New Entry Band provides live music at Snappas, a lively waterfront bar on Marsh Harbour in Abaco. Every Friday and Saturday between 5:30 and 7 p.m., you can enjoy happy-hour cocktails (Goombay Smashes, Rum Runners, Bahama Mamas), “snappatizers,” or a delicious sunset dinner before cranking up for the evening party.

Jazz at Jacaranda

Every first Sunday of the month, for just $10, you can enjoy concert-quality jazz at Jacaranda House, an old Bahamian mansion in downtown Nassau. Keep an eye out for young powerhouse vocalist Anuschka Wright, and Adrian D’Aguillar—a former bass player for Sade—working his vertical bass or electric guitar on the poolside bandstand.

Volume Music Bar

Music is always on the menu at this trendy Nassau nightspot. The location has changed names several times, but in each incarnation, the venue keeps live music remains at the center of the experience. The dance floor wraps around the bar on the inside, with front and center views of the stage. Inside is loud and spirited, while the upstairs balcony is cool and relaxed. 

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