Island hopper (May/June 2006)

What’s happening in the Caribbean in May and June — from jazz to cricket to a donkey derby

Illustration by Marlon Griffith

In May and June, Caribbean music lovers are spoiled for choice, with big events nearly every weekend showcasing rhythms to suit nearly all tastes. The headliner, of course, is the St Lucia Jazz Festival (5 to 14 May), now in its fourteenth year, one of the major events on the Caribbean’s travel calendar. Thousands fly in to hear first-class international acts performing on dramatic Pigeon Island, at Derek Walcott Square in Castries, and at other venues across the island. This year, look out for Nancy Wilson, Al Green, Babyface, Seal, and many local musicians in the “fringe” festival. If you can’t get to St Lucia, try the Grenada Drum Festival (5 to 7 May), where traditional community drumming groups from across the island show off their skills.

Next up: the Barbados Gospelfest (20 to 28 May), where choirs from across the Caribbean and around the world assemble to sing praises and raise a joyful noise. Or else take in the cool jazz and hot Latin sounds of the Bonaire Heineken Jazz Festival (25 to 28 May). If you can’t make it that far south, there’s always the British Virgin Islands Music Festival (26 to 28 May) in Tortola. A few weekends later, the Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival (10 to 18 June) – this year’s theme is “Straight Ahead” – brings together international acts and Jamaican musicians for a week of jamming in the popular north coast resort. And close the month with the eclectic St Kitts Music Festival (29 June to 2 July), featuring every musical style you can think of, and then a few more.

Of course, there’s lots more going on in the Caribbean these months. If you’re in Trinidad in early May, pay a visit to the eastern borough of Arima for the annual Rotary Club Donkey Derby (7 May) – yes, it seems you can get donkeys to race – an entertaining Sunday fair raising funds for local charities. At the end of the month, Indian Arrival Day (31 May) commemorates the East Indian immigrants who settled in Trinidad from the 1840s to the 1910s, enriching the country’s cultural mix. Concerts, exhibitions, parades, and a recreation of the landing of the Fatel Rozack – the ship on which the first Indian immigrants arrived in 1845 – are a reminder of the origins of nearly half of Trinidad’s population. Around the same time, the Haitian Day Parade in Brooklyn (29 May) celebrates the heritage of the more than one million Haitian immigrants living in and around New York City.

And cricket season continues in May and June, with a tour by the Indian team. Five one day internationals are scheduled: 20 and 21 May in Jamaica, 24 May in St Kitts, and 27 and 28 May in Trinidad. The first Test starts on 1 June in Antigua, followed by the second Test from 9 June in St Lucia, the third Test from 22 June in St Kitts, and the fourth Test from 30 June in Jamaica.

But the eyes of many sports fans from the Caribbean – and the rest of the world – will be on Germany in June, as the Football World Cup kicks off on 9 June. Trinidad and Tobago is the Caribbean’s representative this year, with first round matches versus Sweden on 10 June, England on 15 June, and Paraguay on 20 June. Hundreds of Trinis will be in Germany to cheer on the Soca Warriors, not to mention hundreds of thousands rooting for the team back home.