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Sounds+

By Tad Richards

As the Caribbean season winds down, and folks start to think about putting their boats on the hard, or hoisting anchor and setting sail for distant shores, Caribbean merrymaking, and especially music making, does not go quietly.

There’s more than music to enjoy. The St. Barth Film Festival, a diverse program of films introduced by their directors or leading players, runs from May 1-4, and the International Theater Festival for Children and Young People in Havana, May 29-June 1, features children’s theater organizations from around the world.

Foodies will find plenty to enjoy, starting with the Belize Cashew Festival & Agriculture Show, May 12-13, which brings artisans, chefs, and local cashew farmers together, offers such unusual treats as cashew wine and cashew jelly, and features the traditional Mayan Greasy Pole Competition. The Grenada Chocolate Festival, May 17-21, is where you can learn the Caribbean history of cocoa, meet cocoa farmers and chocolatiers, learn the health benefits of dark chocolate, and enjoy a variety of … well, you know. It’s chocolate! What’s not to enjoy? The Anguilla Culinary Experience, May 23-26, offers the skills of James Beard Award-winning Guest Chef Zachary Engel, Anguilla’s own Chef Carrie Bogar, and more epicurean stars; takes guests on curated small group experiences, including harvesting salt from a natural salt pond and learning to make Johnny Cakes; and culminates in a beach barbecue at Anguilla Great House on Rendezvous Bay.

But music takes center stage, and we have plenty of it.

Samara Joy
Samara Joy

April 30-May 12: St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival.

One of the major events on the Caribbean schedule, with something for everyone. Here, to give you a start in planning your festival, are the headliners for each night. Monday, opening night, it will be Trinidadian Voice the Artiste, three-time International Soca Monarch. May 7, Pure Jazz and Arts night, headlines four-time Grammy-winning bassist John Patitucci. May 8 is Kingdom Night, and the keys to the kingdom are provided by gospel great Donnie McClurkin. Pure Jazz takes the stage again on May 9, with the pure voice of multiple Grammy winner Samara Joy. May 10 brings us the Caribbean Fusion of soca legend Machel Montano, Soul Train Music Award winner for Best International Performance. May 11 is devoted to World Beats, headed by Nigerian king of the Afrobeats Davido, riding his three 2024 Grammy nominations. And the festival winds up with the May 12 Ultimate Celebration — pop hitmakers Air Supply. stlucia.org/en/jazz/

May 3-8: Romerias de Mayo, Holguin, Cuba

A celebration of Cuban Christian culture, with “crowds of people who paint their bodies into different colours.” rove.me/to/cuba/romerias-de-mayo

May 5: Jazz ’n’ Creole, Dominica

This celebration of “the infusion of jazz into Dominica’s Creole culture” is headlined by Black Violin, a remarkable duo who create a fusion of classical and hip-hop, and who’ve opened for Alicia Keys and Wu Tang Clan. Also featuring Island Jazz Collective, a group of jazz musicians from Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Dominica, and Haitian singer-songwriter Phyllisia Ross. dominicafestivals.com

May 9-10: Evanescence, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The double Grammy winning rockers take the stage for two nights at Coliseo de Puerto Rico.

May 11-21: Coraland Music Festival, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

Electronic grooving to the beat of Cuban and international DJs.

May 16-19 : Barbados Celtic Festival

Two superstars of the bagpipe world, Roddy McLeod and Willie McCallum, headline a celebration of all things Celtic, from dancers to harpists to pennywhistlers. barbadoscelticfestival.com

May 17-20: Havana World Music Festival

Headliners Los Van Van changed the face of Cuban music, adding a go-go beat to classic Cuban son to create a unique genre called songo, to which they’ve kept people around the world dancing over the course of 54 albums.

Mónika Mesa, “La Dama de Cuba,” Mayito Rivera, “El Poeto de la Rumba,” and Manolín, “el Médico de la Salsa,” are participating artists who represent the best of the contemporary Cuban music. havanamusictours.com/havana-world-music-festival-tour

May 23-27: Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival

Two top contemporary divas, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, would be enough to sell a festival, but Aruba adds vocal harmony group extraordinaire Boyz II Men, and power pop favorites Earth Quake at the top of a star studded roster. Harbor Arena, Oranjestad. aruba.com/us/calendar/soul-beach-music-festival-aruba

May 23-28: FesTopia Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Hip-hop takes center stage at this one. Fabolous, in a career spanning three decades and seven top ten albums, has shown he has what it takes to keep an audience spellbound. If you’re one of the 13 million who’ve played Jamaican Dexta Daps’s video of “Shabba Madda Pot”  on YouTube, you know how the infectious sound of dancehall/hip-hop from the youthful streets of Kingston can get under your skin. These two lead a bill with the sound of today. festopia.com

May 24-26: Virgin Islands Music Festival

The newest addition to the Caribbean’s vibrant festival scene, this promises to rival any of them in musical excitement. Their slogan, “60 Beats One Vibe” promises a good time for all, and the lineup promises to live up to it:  On Friday, Soca, Afrobeat, and R&B; Saturday Reggae, Dancehall, and Hip-Hop; Sunday Jazz, Soul, Oldies, Pop, and Latin. Already lined up: Rotimi, heartthrob of TV and movies and an exciting R&B performer; Voice, three-time International Soca Monarch fresh from wowing audiences at the St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival; international dancehall/reggae artist Alkaline, R&B legend Freddie Jackson and BVI-based international soca band Vibe. More artists are being added all the time, and they will be announced on the festival’s Facebook and Instagram pages. All this will take place in Road Town, Tortola, BVI. bvitourism.com 

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