Celebrated for their beautiful beaches, blue waters, lush rainforests, picturesque landscapes, fabulous resorts, and tourist attractions, countries of the Caribbean draw countless tourists from all over the world every year. These countries are also famous for their exquisite music – Reggae, Calypso, Steel Pan, Soca, Tuk, Spouge, and more. Despite an unpleasant history of slavery and colonialism, Caribbean states have woven their experiences into a rich and colorful tapestry of culture and art that the world has never stopped falling in love with. A grand manifestation of this joie de vivre is the Caribbean festivals.
Festivalgoers cannot get enough of the sheer brilliance of these events. The music totally suits the air and spirit of island life. The blaring music, elaborate costumes, flowing rum, alluring food, jubilant crowds, effervescent laughter, and more are only a few of the ways that Caribbean festivals can transport you to bliss. And that’s why the Caribbean attracts fun-loving visitors and festivalgoers from across the world to its slew of festivals. In the spirit of merriment, we’ve curated five of the best Caribbean festivals to experience.
Check out the 5 biggest and best Caribbean festivals definitely worth experiencing…
#1. Reggae Sumfest (Jamaica)
In mid-July of every year, Jamaica hosts a week-long music festival in the Caribbean, Reggae Sumfest. This is Jamaica’s biggest music festival. In Montego Bay, the festival treats crowds to a surfeit of reggae and dancehall. There, you’ll see a host of Jamaica’s, and indeed the Caribbean’s, biggest music stars perform on stage, giving credibility to the festival’s high status.
Reggae Sumfest also offers seminars and workshops on music, beach parties, and night parties. The festival is a good opportunity to explore Montego Bay’s scenic beauty, magnificent caverns, and splendid rivers.
#2. St. Kitts Music Festival (St. Kitts & Nevis)
While Jamaica’s Reggae Sumfest showcases mainly reggae and dancehall, St. Kitts Music Festival celebrates the full range of musical genres hugely appreciated in the Caribbean: soca, calypso, reggae, dancehall, steel pan, R&B, blues, gospel, and so forth. It’s a full, diverse extravaganza.
Thousands of music aficionados from across the world flock to the two-island nation in late June to sample this rich and eclectic musical experience. You’ll appreciate music like never before, and also get to expand your playlist. Plus, you’ll make friends with the sweet soul of this small but enlivening nation.
#3. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
The next stop on the list of the best Caribbean festivals is Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is regarded by many as the biggest street parade in the world. The French, who colonized the island country, introduced masquerade balls (or fetes); but the Africans invented their own festival, which differs markedly from that of the French. Nowadays, Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday ahead of Ash Wednesday in February or March and celebrates freedom and Caribbean art and culture.
The days leading up to the Carnival days are lined up with fetes, calypso concerts, soca competitions, steel pan contests, and intense partying on the streets of Port of Spain, the capital. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival features big competitions, namely the Calypso Monarch and the King and Queen of Carnival. This Carnival will spur you to make friends. You will build connections. It’s called One Love. It’s the Caribbean. And you’ll love every bit of it as you soak yourself in this festival of epic proportions.
#4. Crop Over Festival and Grand Kadooment Day (Barbados)
Crop Over, a three-month-long Barbadian festival, celebrates Barbadian arts and culture and memorializes a period of its history. It originated from the island’s periods of slavery and colonialism when slaves marked the end of the crop season, or sugar cane season, with a big celebration that fused African traditions with those of the slave masters. At this party, the most productive male and female are made the Crop King and Crop Queen respectively. Nowadays, people compete for these titles using elaborate crop-themed costumes.
Beginning as early as May and lasting up to early August, this festival features the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes (sugar canes), dusk-till-dawn Bajan parties, arts and crafts, culinary treats, and music. On Grand Kadooment Day, which marks the end of Crop Over, Mas (masquerade) bands will dance behind music trucks to Spring Garden highway, rigged out in splendid costumes bedecked with jewels sequins, feathers, jewelry, or body paint — all of which depict cultural and historic themes.
Join the columns of revelers among the Calypso musical groups. Or follow the moving trucks and moving bars. Flaunt your elegant costume. Indulge your cravings for mouthwatering Bajan cuisine. Feast your eyes on the ravishing splashes of color and confetti. Take photographs and selfies — lots of them. Mingle with the locals. Who knows? It might be for you the best Caribbean experience you live to remember.
#5. Junkanoo (Bahamas)
To prepare for Junkanoo, Bahamian locals spend weeks and months making the most elaborate and intricately beautiful costumes. They also practice dances and skits. As Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day approach, excitement mounts in different parts of the Bahamas, because it is on these days that Junkanoo takes place.
Different groups of costumed people compete for the prizes for Best Junkanoo Group. It is a spectacular event, especially in Nassau, the Bahamian capital. You will see droves of elaborately costumed people in groups swirling and shimmying in brilliant colors. You’ll see and hear youngsters beating goatskin drums or blowing animal horns, sounding horns, and tinkling bells. You’ll hear them singing and dancing. Every group’s eye is on the prize. But perhaps bigger than the prize is the spirit of Junkanoo – the flamboyance and pageantry that the Bahamians created out of their Caribbean lives and to which you have been invited to partake.
Featured image: @carnivalxofficial/Instagram
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A writer fascinated by humanity and diversity. He is the author of Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country.