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Caribbean jazzin': a roundup of popular island music and cultural festivals.

Whether dancing to calypso or zouk, taking part in a steel band parade or feasting on conch or roti at a food fair, the Caribbean can tempt you with a variety of music, art and culinary festivals every year. With over 22 million Americans venturing to the Caribbean, including 7 million staying over for a night or longer, these events have grown in popularity, becoming by themselves a raison d'etre for visiting the islands.

Most islands have a music or arts festival during the year. But between now and December, the off-peak season when prices are lowest, travelers can also get good deals on hotels and airfares, while enjoying these cultural celebrations. Here's a selected list of Caribbean happenings

MAY

St. Lucia Jazz Festival, May 9-12 (800-456-3984)

This year's stellar lineup of jazz and R&B talent includes Abbey Lincoln, George Benson, Najee and Spyro Gyra. Performances are held at St. Lucia's Cultural Centre, among other venues around the island.

Barbatos Gospelfest, May 24-26 (800-221-9831)

Barbados' once local festival has blossomed into an international event. Gospel singers from the United States, Britain, Canada and the Caribbean sing praises around the island; the main events are held at the Sobers Sport Complex.

Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, May 23-26 (800-866-7827)

The biggest gathering of Latin jazz musicians in the Caribbean will be held Memorial Day weekend at Luis Munoz Marin Park in San Juan. Many international legends are scheduled to perform, including Israel Lopez, a.k.a. Cachao, the Cuban-born bass virtuoso believed by many to be the inventor of the mambo.

JUNE

Aruba Jazz and Ritmo Festival '96, June 6-9 (800-TO-ARUBA)

The Dutch island of Aruba grooves to an Afro-Carribean swing, peppered with salsa and meringue, at the outdoor stadium in Orangestaad.

JULY

Antigua's Coronation Carnival, July 29-Aug. 6 (212-541-4117)

Steel-pan and reggae band jam sessions, competitions, parades and dancing in the capital streets of St. John's typify Antigua's nine-day festival.

Barbados Crop-Over Festival, July 30-Aug. 5 (800-221-9831)

Started in 1834 to celebrate the harvesting of the island's sugar cane crop, Bajans break out all the stops for their version of a Mardi Gras-style party. The week-long event features parades, food fairs, music, fine art showcases, local band and calypso competitions, culminating in festivities at the National Stadium.

August

Jamaica's Reggae Sunsplash, Aug. 1-4 (800-233-4JTB)

One of the most popular Caribbean music festivals, Sunsplash explodes with Jamaica's pulsating reggae and dancehall beats. This year's concerts will be held on the north coast at Chukka Cove, an equestrian stadium between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.

Guadeloupets Fete des Cuisinieres, Aug. 10 (900-990-0040)

Its blend of African and French culture is most pronounced here during the Festival of Women Cooks. During this festival, professional chefs and skilled amateurs parade in traditional Creole costumes, dance the beguine through the narrow streets of Pointe-a-Pitre and then show off their culinary skills during this all-day feast.

OCTOBER

Belize International Music Fest, Oct. 31-Nov. 2 (800-624-0686)

The best of the best in calypso reggae and salsa in the Caribbean and South America make their way to this small Central American country on the Caribbean Sea, bordering Mexico and Guatemala. The fall jam session is being held at the Ramada Royal Reef Resort in Belize City.

NOVEMBER

Trinidad's Pan-Jazz Music Festival, Nov. 9-11 (800-595-1868)

A steel pan and jazz music fusion is the focus of Trinidad's weekend festival. The outdoor concert takes place under the stars on the island's scenic northwest coast; there is enough room for dancing in the aisles while soaking up tropical ocean breezes.

DECEMBER

St. Croix's Crucian Christmas Fiesta, Dec. 22-Jan. 6 (800-372-USVI or 800-524-2026)

Steel pan music and calypso competitions, a "jouvert" or line dance and reggae concerts all help natives and visitors alike get into the spirit of the season in St. Croix. The events culminate with two carnival parades--one for children in Frederiksted and the other for adults in Christiansted.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Caribbean Travel Guide
Author:Giles, Darl
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Directory
Date:May 1, 1996
Words:649
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