Island Beat (May/June 1998)

Happenings around the islands


ANTIGUA

This is the island with 365 beaches, one for every day of the year; most of the leading hotels are on the beachfront. Antigua also offers excellent sailing, watersports, cricket and tennis, duty-free shopping and lively nightlife. Sailing Week is one big event of the year (end of April/early May); Carnival is celebrated at the end of July. Antigua is the largest of the Leeward Islands, and has a smaller sister island, Barbuda, 30 miles to the north.

Getting around

V. C. Bird International Airport is about five miles (8km) from the capital, St John’s. From the airport, taxis to town and to the major hotels have fixed fares. Car rental companies are located in St John’s and at the airport: a local driving permit must be obtained (US$20 on production of a foreign permit). Remember to drive on the left.

There’s an airport departure tax of EC$30.

Local information

  • Population: 64,000
  • Area: 108 sq. miles (280 sq. km)
  • Time: EST+1, GMT-4
  • Language: English
  • Country dialling code: 268
  • Currency: East Caribbean dollar (EC$2.70 to US$1)
  • Highest point: Boggy Peak (1,330 ft., 300m)
  • Visitor information: Antigua Department of Tourism, Long and Thames Streets, St John’s (462-0029)

BWIA in Antigua

Sunjet House, High Street, St John’s. Reservations 462–0934, 462-0262/3, flight information 462–3101/3.

Tennis greats

Kathy Rinaldi will join Grand Slam greats Fred Stolle, Ross Case and Owen Davidson as pro for the 24th annual Antigua Tennis Week (May 10-17 at Curtain Bluff Resort). Rinaldi was ranked top 10 in both singles and doubles and No 6 in world singles.

The four pros will join Curtain Bluff’s head tennis pro Rennie George and his support team in tennis clinics and pro-am tournaments. Steve Contardi, operating partner of The Club at Harper’s Point in Cincinnati and founder director of Tennis Fantasies, will be tournament organiser. Players at all levels are invited to participate in this week of tennis, fun and good company.

What’s going on in Antigua:

32nd Antigua and Barbuda Sports Fishing Tournament, May

Anglican Food Fair, May 30

Music Festival, June

Windsurfing Show, June

Museum of Antigua & Barbuda: Exhibition on rum-making, June

Jolly Harbour to Barbuda Cruise & Race, June

 

BARBADOS

Wuk it up

The end of the sugar cane harvest, or Crop Over, has always been an occasion for celebration in Barbados. It was the time when labourers from the estates had brought in the last canes from the fields in decorated carts — even the animals were dressed in colourful blooms and ribbons. It was a time of conviviality for both master and slave, marking the end of one season of hard work before the next one began.

These days, Crop Over in Barbados is a very different kind of celebration from the old days — a national festival, in part a Barbadian form of Trinidad’s traditional pre-Lenten carnival. But it has many elements that are purely Barbadian — the tuk bands and Land Ship fraternities, for example, are local folk traditions that have crossed the river of time to take their place in the modern festival.

Barbados’s music bands play a brand of soca music that’s wicked in pace, and her musicians have earned their fame all over the Caribbean for their style. At Crop Over, they “wuk up” the pace for party-loving Barbadians and their guests. They are a big part of the action in the new (revived in 1974) Crop Over, even as the old tuk bands (bass drum, snare drum, penny whistle and triangle) continue to play their delightful tunes. The festival’s origins in the sugar-cane culture are not forgotten — hence the slogan “more than a carnival, sweet for so.”

Activities get underway on June 28 this year and run for over a month, building up to Pic-o-de-Crop, the calypso competition; Cohobblopot, a huge Crop Over Party featuring music, dance and comedy; and the Grand Kadooment, where costumed bands stream out onto the streets from the National Stadium to Spring Garden Highway where they join thousands in the streets who’ve waited all year for this moment — just like in the old days on the plantations.

More Carnival action: Barbuda’s Caribana in May; St Maarten Carnival, May 1–2

Fun site on the web

Meet Ned. He’s the lively little Bajan monkey that takes visitors all around Barbados. Of course, this is not a real-life monkey, but then this is not a real-life tour, either. Ned takes visitors around the island’s hottest new website, appropriately called FunBarbados.com.

Developed and launched by Moore Communication Services (MCS), a division of Moore Paragon (Caribbean) Ltd., this definitive guide to Barbados vividly covers the island from its history, nightlife and entertainment to more basic information for the first-time visitor. Graphics and image-driven, it also boasts a mini-site for cruise ship visitors, giving a thorough run-down on the port, its shopping facilities, amenities and tours. Other special sections include entertainment pages, with a run-down on all the top shows, acts and bands, along with bios and their schedules. It is up-to-date and comprehensive enough for locals to use as a guide.

A high maintenance site, FunBarbados changes with every development and event relating to the island. The webmasters have integrated a unique feature into the site so hoteliers, restaurants, car rental agencies and other clients can edit their pages and keep them up to date with the latest rates, menus and services, and armchair travellers can book their complete vacation on-line.

Since its launch last November, FunBarbados has already vastly increased the exposure level of the island and its tourism-related clients through the Internet’s major search engines. FunBarbados also sports a special “Ask Ned” section where site surfers can ask questions on virtually any topic from “What is the meaning of life?” to “Where’s the best windsurfing spot?” There is also a Web Board for web conferencing, meeting new people and learning special details about the island.

FunBarbados has just launched its send-a-postcard facility. Visitors to the site can view a selection of picture postcards and send them to friends or family at no cost. (Roxan Kinas)

Look out for . . .

• It started out as an idea for a “wholesome” festival of music, but the success of Gospelfest has astonished even its most faithful supporters. Since its revival in 1993, the festival of gospel music has brought together some of North America’s top gospel artists to sing praises in Barbados with their Caribbean and British counterparts. With an audience of Christians from around the world, and the support of the gospel music industry in Barbados, the festival is now one of the big events on the Barbados visitors’ calendar. This year it will be held at Whitsun, the last weekend in May.

• For the first time all the races and activities of the Mount Gay/Boatyard International Regatta will start and finish at one location, the spectacular Carlisle Bay. This year, too, the popular regatta will be part of Aqua Splash, the Barbados Water Festival. Expect four hotly-contested boat races, parties and other seaside events, from May 28 to 31.

• Among other events in the next few weeks: Healthy Lifestyle Extravaganza (Queen’s Park, May 3); Caribbean Atlantic Cricket Cup (May); West Indies Windball Cricket Championship (May).

 

GRENADA

Jazzy spice

Long before the Spice Girls came skipping along on the music waves, there was Grenada, the Isle of Spice. But maybe the girls had an effect on the island, after all, because Grenada is mixing music and spice for its first ever SpiceJazz Festival (May 28–31).

Grenada boasts more spices per square mile than any other place on earth — clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and more, and an African-inspired Caribbean cuisine that makes good use of them. That, plus the flavour of the music, makes for an interesting combination — like jazz and seafood gumbo at the New Orleans jazz festival. Look for events all over the island — food, music, arts and craft. Performers include Arturo Sandoval, Regina Belle, Michael Boothman, Arturo Tappin and Nicholas Brancka.

Look out for . . .

• Fisherman’s Birthday Celebrations, including the blessing of boats and nets and boat racing, culminating in a mini carnival with street dancing. Gouyave, in the parish of St John, is the most popular town for this celebration (June 29).

• Grenada Electricity Services Yacht Race, May 24

• Footloose Charters & Outfitters International Yacht Race, June 14

 

GUYANA

The keeper of the gate

A chance to see work by one of the Caribbean’s finest artists. In London this summer, a substantial show of paintings by Guyanese painter Aubrey Williams will be on view at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Williams made his home in Britain after arriving from British Guiana in 1952. When he died in 1990, his work was known and acclaimed internationally.

Williams had early success in Britain, winning two Commonwealth prizes in the 60s, and had important exhibitions at the Commonwealth Institute and Royal Festival Hall in the 80s. The forthcoming exhibition, from June 12 to August 16, will be his first at a leading London public gallery, and should assist in a full recognition of the power and quality of his paintings.

Despite his British base, Aubrey Williams produced much of his major work in the Caribbean, and remained rooted there. From 1966 onwards he was often in Guyana, where he painted the outstanding murals at Cheddi Jagan Airport, Timehri. He spent much of the 1970s in Jamaica, working and exhibiting alongside the country’s leading contemporary artists. And it was in a garage-turned-studio in Florida that he produced the radiant large canvases later shown as Shostakovich, The Olmec Maya and Now and Cosmos.

The colour, form and iconography of his work drew on his part-Amerindian ancestry, including his seminal stay as a young man amongst the Warrau people of north-west Guyana. It was sustained by his passionate interest in the pre-Columbian cultures of Central America.

The exhibition is being organised by the Whitechapel Art Gallery and the Institute of International Visual Arts.

– Anne Walmsley

 

PEOPLE

Africa in the Caribbean

It started out as a second job. She is a lawyer by profession, but she also wanted to be her own boss and to create something of her own. So Nigerian-born Uche Ogbue hit on the idea of trading between the Caribbean and Africa, and in 1996 launched the Equatorial Trading Company (ETC).

“I always wanted to do something other than law, and working in the City of London, in shipping and international trade law, I developed a taste for commerce,” she says. She met her Trinidadian husband, architect Mark Raymond, in London in 1989, and they relocated to Trinidad in 1993. In early 1997 she gave up her job as legal manager with a merchant bank, to devote all her energies to ETC.

Through ETC she imports exquisite hand-woven and hand-dyed fabrics, beads and other accessories from West Africa, selecting items that appeal to her own sense of style. But she is best known these days for her own fabric design. “It’s wonderful to experiment with colours and different fabrics, and I suppose having no formal background or training in art or painting helps, in that I feel completely unrestrained and bold in my approach, in a way that a trained artist might not.”

Whatever the formula, her hand-painted silks are now much in demand across the Caribbean, and are sold in St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Nevis and St Martin. She has also secured orders from Toast and Strawberries, the fashionable Washington boutique, for her line of simple slip dresses, sarongs and wraps.

At home in Trinidad, her hand-painted fabric has been received with much enthusiasm in fashion designer Meiling’s seasonal shows. “I love working with Meiling, because we have a good rapport and she has been extremely supportive. It is always a great pleasure to see how she interprets my work and converts the fabric into her beautiful creations.”

In the quiet suburb of St Clair, minutes away from the bustle and raw energy of downtown Port of Spain, in her home studio, Uche works away, bringing colour and life to exquisite silks and linens, ranging in texture from crepe to chiffon to the finest gauze. She never sketches her work before she paints, though this is a discipline she is trying to develop.

“I am having so much fun, and feel extremely confident about what I do. The success of the company in such a short time suggests to me that there is really no limit to what one can achieve with a positive approach and faith in one’s abilities.” Nicole Westfield

 

GUYANA

Nature and adventure holidays are Guyana’s speciality. Lying on the shoulder of South America, surrounded by Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname, Guyana is the size of Britain but with less than 750,000 people: it is a land of vast open spaces — savannahs, forests, mountains, huge rivers, a waterfall (Kaieteur) five times the height of Niagara. This is a different Caribbean, far from the lazy white-sand beaches of the island resorts. Georgetown, the capital, with its wide avenues and wooden buildings, lies on the coast at the mouth of the Demerara River.

Getting around

Cheddi Jagan International Airport is at Timehri, about 26 miles (42 km) from the capital, Georgetown. From the airport, taxis to town and to the major hotels have fixed fares; there is also a minibus service. Car rental companies are located in Georgetown. Remember to drive on the left. There’s an airport departure tax of US$12.

Local information

  • Area: 83,000 sq. miles (215,000 sq. km)
  • Population: 712,000
  • Time: EST+1, GMT-4
  • Language: English
  • Country dialling code: 592 + city code (Georgetown: 2)
  • Currency: Guyana dollar (floating against US$)
  • Highest point: Mount Roraima (9,034 ft.)
  • Visitor information: Tourism Association of Guyana, 157 Waterloo Street, North Cummingsburg, Georgetown (50807)

BWIA in Guyana

Robb & Savage Sts., Georgetown. Reservations 61260, 63661, 71250, 58900, flight information 061 2331/2363.

 

ST LUCIA

Jazztime

St Lucia’s Jazz Festival has become one of the biggest in the Caribbean, and every year attracts a cast of big international names for four days of non-stop music. Concerts are held at the Pigeon Island National Landmark and at hotels; there are free concerts at various venues, like the Derek Walcott Square in downtown Castries. This year’s acts include Cassandra Wilson, the Gato Barbieri Group, Thelonius Monk Jr., Lorraine Klaasen, Mary J. Blige, Malavoi, Brian McKnight, Grover Washington Jr., Chuck Corea and the Herbie Mann Group. Festival dates are May 7–10.

ROMANCE

Sunshine weddings

If part of your Caribbean fantasy is getting married in the islands, it’s not as difficult as you may think. In fact, it’s never been easier for travellers to get married in the Caribbean, as many islands have eased waiting period requirements to the point where, in some places, visitors can get married the very day they arrive.

Scores of hotels and resorts offer wedding packages, and there is a growing interest among young couples as well as people who want to re-affirm vows; for couples with children, many hotels offer supervised children’s programmes which allow you to have “quality” time with your spouse as well as have your kids share your wedding day. Many hotels and resorts also offer special rates for family and friends who want to share in the celebration and even stay on and vacation for a few days after.

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) — tel. (212) 635-9530 — or the local tourist board can advise on requirements for getting a marriage licence.

 

JAMAICA

More jazz

The eighth annual Ocho Rios Jazz Festival takes place June 14-21 at venues in Montego Bay, Negril, Oracabessa, Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios. Main events begin with the Ska Jazz of The Aplhasonics Band on June 13 and the Opening Jazz & Reggae Boyz Day (June 14) which celebrates Jamaica’s World Cup football heroes with a broadcast of their game against Croatia, followed by music by the Dr Lonnie Smith Organ Trio, Liberty Silver and the Marilyn Learner Girl Band, and Thelonius Monk Jr Sextet. Other headliners include the Milt Jackson Quartet, Etta Jones, Randy Weston and Clarke Terry. There will be wide participation from Jamaican musicians including the Cuyabalites Ska Jazz, Myrna Hague, Seretse & Friends, and from international supporting acts like Lee Strawford Sextet (Holland), Holly Slater (UK), and Othello Jazz Steel Pans from Trinidad.

Photos and phantasms

If you’re in the Caribbean this summer, be sure to see the British Council’s touring photographic exhibition Photos and Phantasms. Stunning photos by British photographer Sir Harry Johnston offer an unusual glimpse into the Caribbean’s past. Seventy rare photographs retrace Johnston’s working visit through the islands (on behalf of US President Theodore Roosevelt) and feature remarkable rural and urban scenes as well as portraits of Caribbeans at the turn of the century.

Jamaican art historian Dr Petrine Archer Straw curated the exhibition for the British Council, its organiser and sponsor. Her catalogue essay and photo captions are rich with the region’s history and its ambitions. This show is a must-see for anyone interested in Caribbean culture.

Knolly Moses

Tour dates and venues for the exhibition are as follows:

• March 1998: Preview, Royal Geographic Society, Kensington, London

• 29 March–2 May: Inaugural Opening, National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston

• 12 May–30 May: National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain

• 7 June–30 June: Queen’s Park Gallery, Bridgetown

• 12 July–6 August: Fototeca de Cuba, Havana

• 16 September–17 October: Haiti, Le Musée d’Art Haitien, Port au Prince

Look out for . . .

• Manchester Horticultural Society Show, May 23

• The Alternative Market Fair, May 30, June 27

• Live Jazz, May 31, June 28

 

FOOTBALL (SOCCER)

Reggae for the Boyz

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz are going to the World Cup in France, not only with the best wishes of their compatriots and of the whole Caribbean but also with a song in their hearts. And on CD.

Rise Up, released in March, is a musical tribute to the “boyz” who shocked the unbelievers by qualifying for the World Cup football finals in France. It is included in FIFA’s World Cup album, released by Sony in France. It is also the lead single of an album which will be produced in time for the Jamaican football team’s departure for France in June, and will feature songs from several Jamaican artists. The single features several acts including Toots Hibbert, one of reggae music’s greats, and Diana King whose single Shy Guy was an international hit in 1996.

In the last year there have been several Reggae Boyz records, including tributes from DJ Papa San, poet Joan Andrea Hutchinson, and the Wailers, Bob Marley’s former band. The latest is the biggest of the projects, attracting a Who’s Who of Jamaican talent; it is being coordinated by Sly Dunbar, Handel Tucker and Mikey Bennett, three of Jamaica’s leading record producers.

 

ST MAARTEN

Carnival time

Highlight events in St Maarten in the next few weeks include:

• Carnival, May 1–2

• Subway to Subway, May 11

• Golfers Association Medal Play, May 17

• Official Triathlon (Swim 1K, Bike 25K, Run 5K), May 25

• Road Warrior Bike Race, May 31

• Biathlon, June 15

• Golfers Association Medal Play, June 21

TOBAGO

A new Hilton

If you’d like to start the next millennium with a Caribbean holiday, Tobago could be the place for it — by then, there’ll be at least one more place you can choose from: the Tobago Hilton. Work has begun on the 200-room resort that will be among the largest on the island; it’s expected to be completed in time for the peak holiday season of 1999, just in time for your millennium dreams.

The hotel will be an important part of the Tobago Plantations Resort, a 750-acre development at Lowlands, located on 2,000 feet of beach-front property, within view of the capital, Scarborough. There will be an 18-hole international championship golf course, complete with country club and golf academy, a marina, shopping and entertainment, and even an eco-tourism attraction where the remaining mangrove in the area will be preserved.

What’s on in Tobago

The big summer event in Tobago is the annual Heritage Festival in the second half of July. Meanwhile, watch out for:

• Classic Paint Tobago Car Rally, May 31

• Angostura Yachting World Regatta, Crown Point, May 10–15

• Bum Boat Regatta, May

 

Rapso is a relatively new art form, born in Trinidad over 20 years ago, with a name that fuses rap poetry and calypso and a tradition that goes back to Africa.

Brother Resistance, who has nurtured the budding art form for many years, is considered its inventor, but he himself insists that rapso can be traced back to the oral traditions of Africa, when the griot was the historian, counsellor and poet of the tribe. In the new world of sugar plantations, the griot became the chantuelle. His role changed and he became the voice that made the suffering of the slaves more bearable — through humour.

From the chantuelle came the early chanters, the “talkers” of long-time Carnival, the Midnight Robbers, the Pierrot Grenades and of course the calypsonian. The rapso artist thus joins this long and honourable line of tellers of our stories. According to Brother Resistance, it is “the power of the word, in the riddum of the word”. Interestingly, the development of rapso in Trinidad and Tobago was paralleled by that of dub poetry of Jamaica and African American rap music.

The growing legion of rapso artists comes together at the Festival of Rapso and Oral Traditions. This is the festival’s eighth year, and, as always, it features new artistes and the honoured veterans of rapso in a full programme of concerts and workshops. Events include Breaking New Ground, which introduces new talent; the children’s storytime; a street procession and Raging Rapso, a programme designed for the “graduates” of the previous year’s Breaking New Ground. The festival runs from May 16 to June 7 at venues in Port of Spain.

Look out for . . .

• Hosay. The annual Hosay Festival is Islamic in origin, and has evolved into a three-day cultural festival in which the wider community participates. There are street parades with colourful flags, dancers and glittering tadjahs, symbolic of the tombs of two Islamic martyrs, all united by the pulsing rhythms of tassa drums. St James, on the outskirts of Port of Spain, is where the biggest Hosay takes place. Starts May 10.

• Early summer highlights:

  • National Chutney Monarch Competition, May 2
  • Eastern Credit Union Granny Luces 15K Race, May 3
  • NP 1,000K International Car Rally, May 2–3
  • Festival of La Divina Pastora, Siparia, May 3
  • South Rotary Rally, May 24
  • Hugh Meyers Memorial Yacht Race, May 24
  • Arima Race Club Whitsun Classic, May 30
  • Dinghy Racing, May 30
  • Indian Arrival Day Celebration,
  • Manzanilla Beach, May 31
  • National Song Festival, May
  • Sugar & Energy Festival, June
  • Car Rallying, June 6–7
  • Arima Race Club Cup, June 19
  • SR Max Regatta, June 19–20