"It’s my country," the star has said. "I’m so proud of the Bahamas. It is a magical place."
The Bahamas has a new ambassador — though many people might not associate him with the Bahamas at all.
But let's be clear. Lenny Kravitz — archetypal, leather-pants-wearing, immensely influential rock star — is a through-and-through Bahamian. And at least in the Bahamas, everyone knows it. His mother, actor Roxie Roker, was first-generation Bahamian-American, and he has spent his recent years living on the archipelago — on a plot of land he bought back in 1989, on the skinny, 112-mile-long island of Eleuthera.
Kravitz recently made a stateside appearance to announce his partnership with Bahamas tourism on their latest marketing campaign, speaking on a panel with Minister of Tourism Dionisio D'Aguilar and Ministry Director General Joy Jibrilu. "It’s an honor, after all these years," he told them, "after being raised as a proud Bahamian by my mother, my grandfather, my cousins — it’s an honor to be here representing my country."
After the the event, Travel + Leisure was able to sit down with Kravitz for an exclusive interview. Read on for more of the star's thoughts on his island home.
His roots in the Bahamas run deep.
Although he grew up in New York and Los Angeles, Kravitz reaffirmed during the panel, "the Bahamas has been in my soul, and in my life, since I was a small child."
"I had my Bahamian training," he continued. "I would go to Nassau every summer with my mother...we would land, and that door would open, and you would feel that air coming through — that tropical air, the humidity — and it was incredible. You’d get greeted by a steel band."
But it was only later in life that he discovered his favorite part of the country.
As he (and his fame) grew, he continued his regular visits. It was during a trip with then-wife Lisa Bonet that he was introduced to the smaller island of Eleuthera, where he would later make his home. He described his first foray into this member of the Out Islands, known locally as the family islands:
"My cousin said, 'You’ve only seen Nassau. You’ve got to see what a family island is like.' So I got on the mail boat, which was amazing — it took five hours." His first memories of Eleuthera are etched into his mind: "We pulled into Hatchet Bay at midnight. I didn’t know where I was. I woke up in the morning, and realized I had arrived home — and I never left."
Kravitz spoke further with T+L about his love for the family islands. Unlike the country's famous resorts — such as Baha Mar, which Kravitz helped design — "when you go to a family island, you’re going into a whole other world...you’re going deeper, getting the real character of the Bahamas. That is the real cultural experience."
On Eleuthera, he lives a simple life. "Where I am, there’s nothing," Kravitz told T+L, "which is what’s beautiful about it. It’s more raw." This isolation and quiet is, for him and many others, a catalyst for personal growth. "You have to deal with yourself," he explained. "I don’t think we even realize how much we don’t feel ourselves. We become calloused. But you’re going to feel yourself [in the family islands]. You will come to the surface. It’s a place where you free yourself."
He says the people and atmosphere in the Bahamas are one-of-a-kind.
The reason is simple: "If people are there for 2 or 3 days," he said at the event, "they feel like family already."
And for him, it's even more personal. "It's the place I go to be myself," he said. "I am a local in the Bahamas. They are aware of what I do, but they don’t care about that. That’s what’s beautiful. They’re not impressed with your status, or what you have — if you’re cool, then that’s what it is."
Kravitz makes an effort to bring friends to experience the islands, and told T+L that visitors "are always blown away by the hospitality. They’re blown away by the people. You can have great hotels, beautiful water — but if you don’t have people there that make you feel welcome...it doesn’t matter what you’ve got."
As he sees it, Bahamian people have retained a sense of humanity and friendliness that is woefully absent in the major cities of his youth. "In New York, if you look at somebody funny in the subway, they could get aggressive." But on Eleuthera? "If you're walking down the street, anybody that passes you will look at you and smile. If somebody passes you in a car, they wave."
Bahamian influences appear throughout his work.
The Bahamas have had a clear impact on Kravitz's music, both as the site of his recording studio and as a constant, immersive source of inspiration. "I’ve recorded several of my albums there," he told the crowd at the event. "'Fly Away' was recorded there, at the famous Compass Point Studios in Nassau. That song was written in the car, driving my daughter to school one morning along the beach."
One influence that's permeating his work today is junkanoo, a celebratory style that grew from the musical traditions of enslaved people in the islands. Kravitz explained the significance of this genre to T+L: "You don’t hear it every day," he said, "but on Boxing Day and New Years, we have junkanoo festivals and parades."
To celebrate his partnership with Bahamas tourism, Kravitz released a special junkanoo version of 'Fly Away.' The musician shared with T+L his plans for delving further into the genre: "I’ve already decided to make a junkanoo album, to write original songs and record them with Bahamians and junkanoo drummers." Much like other artists, he said, noting Paul Simon, he is feeling the urge to record a folk-inflected album exploring a different music culture. "It will be an amazing project."
He's not leaving the Bahamas any time soon.
Kravitz told T+L that he feels his truest self in the Bahamas: "It is the place I go to be a human being," he said. "It’s the place I go to decompress. It’s the place where I go to hear myself and feel myself."
Kravitz is as busy as ever, adding, "I’m on a world tour, I’m working on a film, I’m designing with Kravitz Design, and I’m creative director for Dom Perignon." In the midst of this whirlwind, though, he can't wait to get home to Eleuthera. “The first thing I’m going to do? Get rid of my shoes."