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A Music Lovers' Guide to the Caribbean

A Music Lovers' Guide to the Caribbean

Posted by Shanelle Weir on June 23, 2014

Music is synonymous with the Caribbean, particularly reggae, ska and dancehall. If you’re planning a trip to any of the islands there are plenty of opportunities to experience one of world’s richest musical cultures, from reggae festivals to elegant jazz lounges.

Unsurprisingly the most action is in Jamaica, but each country has its own unique musical heritage, so wherever you are there’s bound to be something to satisfy your ears. These are some of the top picks.

Bahamas: Music Under the Stars

If you can tear yourself away from the Bahamas’ pristine beaches pay a visit to Fish Fry at Smith Point, an institution with locals and tourists alike. The islands’ outstanding climate, with steady temperatures between 17 and 25 ̊C even in winter, makes for an unforgettable evening as you eat freshly caught and cooked fish and seafood under the stars, while listening to traditional live music and DJs. 

Goombay is the traditional Bahamian musical style, taking its name from the goat skin drum at its heart. It’s similar to calypso, often with strong jazz influences. After falling out of popularity in the last few decades, some Bahamian’s are hoping for a resurgence, particularly as the Goombay Festival was reinstated in 2013. 

Dominican Republic: Groove Fest

This is one for you if you fancy a festival experience without any of the mud or camping. Groove Fest is a sun-soaked luxury festival. Focusing on the best contemporary dance music, it’s an intimate and laidback alternative to hitting Ibiza. 

Once the festival is over, the island’s north coast offers lots to do. If you want to discover a completely different music scene ask around to discover the best local merengue clubs.

Merengue is traditional Dominican music and one of the key instruments is a marímbula, a small pluck box which is generally made with everyday articles likewooden boxes and saw blades. For real fans, there’s a two week merengue festival every summer where you can immerse yourself in the Caribbean way of life.

Anguilla: Moonfest

One of the Caribbean’s longest running music festivals, Moonfest, has been steadily attracting some of the best reggae musicians to Anguilla since the early 80s. It grew out of the founder’s informal beach parties and now takes place on The Dune Reserve. It’s held over a full-moon weekend during the spring, and is ideal if you’re looking for a relaxed immersion into the world of reggae. If you need some timeto recharge afterwards, spend a couple of days relaxing on Anguilla’s white beaches and enjoying some first-class snorkeling.

Jamaica: Reggae Sumfest

Sumfest is Jamaica’s largest musical festival. Billing itself as “the greatest reggae show on earth” it’s a festival every serious reggae and dancehall lover should try and get to at least once in their life. Set over four days, it includes a beach party on the Sunday and a specialist dancehall evening. Past headliners include Shaggy, Sean Paul and Beenie Man, while the event consistently attracts top international RnB and rap artists too.It’s set in Montego Bay, one of Jamaica's most popular resorts, so the festival is a chance to see a slightly different side of Jamaica while still enjoying the city’s beaches, water sports and shops.

Jamaica: Blue Beat Bar

Monetego Bay’s musical offering doesn’t end with Sumfest. The city is celebrated for its lively nightlife, where visitors can enjoy live music in relaxed surroundings. One of the best known bars is the Blue Beat, where you can indulge your inner sophisticate with live jazz and cocktails on the terrace overlooking the bay. 

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