Music beats at the heart of all Caribbean cultures, so it’s no surprise the region offers the best shows on earth — far too many for even the most loyal fan to keep track of. But there are a few shows that are the top of the class, offering iconic moments with the Caribbean’s best stars. Here are the essential Caribbean music festivals for music fans.
For the Reggae Die-hards:
Have you made it in Jamaican music at all if you haven’t played at Reggae Sumfest? Everyone who’s anyone has played at this week-long festival, held every summer in Montego Bay. Launched in 1993, it remains by far the largest concert on the island. The diverse line-up also guarantees that there will be something to please every fan. Think the lover’s rock smoothness of Maxi Priest to the rapid-fire shenanigans of dancehall MC Spice. International night has also attracted global pop stars like TI, Usher, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, Mary J Blige, and Alicia Keys. Oh, and the Queen B Beyonce too, of course.
For the Jazz lover: St. Lucia Jazz Festival
Though the genre may not be blazing too heavily on local airwaves, there are a surprising number of jazz festivals in the region. Founded in 1992, the St. Lucia Jazz Festival can claim to be the Caribbean’s first major jazz platform, and sets the formula for rest of them. The line-up has included some pop stars in the mix, like Santana, Rihanna, Lauryn Hill, Ciara, Amy Winehouse and John Legend. But it has also attracted the best of today’s jazz performers, including Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis. But they also celebrate indigenous jazz sounds, from pan jazz to creole fusions. This is also where Caribbean jazz stars throughout the Diaspora shine brightest, like Monty Alexander, Malavoi, Andy Narell and Etienne Charles.
For Francophiles: Dominica World Creole Music Festival
Dive deep into the Caribbean’s diverse music genres at the Dominica World Creole Music Festival — a celebration of all french creole music from performers around the world. Launched in 1997, the concert series highlights Dominica’s own sounds, cadence-lypso and bouyon, plus zouk from neighboring Guadeloupe and Martinique, and Haitian kompa. They also include sounds from outside the region like Zydeco, a fusion of blues and folk music from French Creole county in Louisiana, and soukous, which is a popular genre of dance music from the Congo Basin. This means Caribbean music festivals that have line-ups with an eclectic (but essential) mix of stars, from famed Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean to Senegalese-American singer Akon.
For the Latin fans: Festival Presidente, Dominican Republic
For three days at the Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez, this special concert takes over Santo Domingo with the hottest acts in reggaeton, merengue, and salsa. One of the largest concert series in the Caribbean, it was founded by the popular Presidente beer company. Last year alone brought Ricky Martin, Marc Antony, Maluma, Carlos Vives, Wisin, J Balvin, Nicky Jam and Juan Luis Guerra. In recent years, they have also expanded english-language international acts, from Bruno Mars to Justin Timberlake. This concert doesn’t happen every year, so when it does come around, it’s definitely not one to miss.