MAGAZINE

Sun and Reggae Riddims: 10 of The Best Caribbean Music Festivals

by David Hillier | @Gobshout Tue February 02, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Combine turquoise seas and warm, toe-tingling sand with a festival, and it’s the closest thing you can find to heaven – especially when it's still wintery everywhere else. With that in mind, our thoughts are turning to the Caribbean this year, which is slowly announcing itself as another thriving locale on our ever-expanding global festival calendars.

Whether you're looking for twanging electro or the manic surroundings of a throbbing Caribbean carnival, we’ve got you covered for 2016.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Trinidad, February 8-9, 2016

Trinidad’s 166-year-old carnival is the most popular in the Caribbean, and with good reason: It’s a phantasmagoria of parades and parties and crowds and food and rum and sparkles and plenty of raunchy wine an’ grine. You get the culture and music via street parties going on all over the country, but the most well-attended is in the capital, Port of Spain. Anyone can join in a mas (band), as long you aren’t afraid to bubble and bounce in a flamboyantly revealing outfit.

SXMUSIC Festival, St. Martin, March 9-13, 2016

For its first music festival, the island of St Martin is welcoming some of the world’s top house and techno DJs. Don’t expect Calvin Harris or Avicii, though: It’s all focused on the deeper side of house music, so think downtown Miami during the Winter Music Conference, or perhaps Output in New York. The vibe is one of electronic decadence, and parties will be going down on beaches and by pools all over the bucolic island. Jamie Jones, Maeco Plex, Guy Gerber, DJ Tennis, Bedouin, and more will perform.

Paradise Lost, Jamaica, March 10-12, 2016

Paradise Lost combines that greatest of American traditions: Spring Break with its great current musical pillar, EDM. Taking place in Ocho Rios on the northern coast of Jamaica, this fest doesn’t mess about with the lineup. This year you’ll find the likes of Tiesto, Saynts and Bassnectar, and more on offer. The festival will always pay tribute to dub music, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016 and was, of course, created in Jamaica by legends like King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry – who also celebrates a milestone this year with his 80th birthday.

Nevis Blues Festival, Nevis, April 14-16, 2016

It might have blues in the name, but the Nevis Blue Festival also worships at the churches of soul and funk. Only 1,200 music lovers are let in across the beachside festival’s three nights to enjoy an international lineup all focused on making sure no one is too distracted by the incredible views across the channel to St. Kitts. Ian Siegal, Kirk Fletcher, Simon McBride, and other international stars round out the lineup

Saint Lucia Jazz And Arts Festival, St. Lucia, April 29-May 8, 2016

What used to be a straight-up jazz festival is changing its position slightly to mark its 25th year, and opening itself up to a wider gamut of artists and styles. Spanning nine days and 15 venues, its aim is to showcase that best artists the country has to offer, whilst giving people the chance to get down to some old school, worldwide heavyweights. Try and get to a show at Fond D’or Heritage Park for a countryside location unlike many others in the world. Kool & The Gang, George Benson, OMI, Shaggy, Joey Alexander, and more will perform during this festival's milestone year.

International Blue Seas Festival, Curacao, May 6-7, 2016

2015 saw the inaugural International Blue Seas Festival in the capital of Willemstaad, which takes place over six stages in the historical district of Pietermaai. A free street party over two nights that attracts an international lineup of blues, bluegrass, rock, soul and gospel artists, it's a little less raucous than your Trinidad Carnivals and your Crop Overs. However, everyone still gets down. Laurence Jones, Leon Russell, Daddy Long Legs, Vintage Trouble, and more will perform.

St. Kitts Music Festival, St. Kitts, June 23-25, 2016

Across the water, this 3,000 person festival goes down in the Warner Park Stadium in the capital of Basseterre. Its family-friendly vibe means you get a lot of kids in attendance, all of them determined to give themselves over to a full regime of boogie wonderland. Music is a mix of R&B, reggae, soul, funk, soca and whatever else keeps the party going. It’s backed by the government as a tool for driving local tourism – a fact represented in the many A-list names topping the lineup. Although this year's lineup is yet to be announced, last year Trey Songz, Ciara, Jason Derulo, and others performed.

Crop Over, Barbados, July to August 2016

Your average festival lasts...what, two, three nights? Burning Man, the big daddy on the block, lasts a week. Well, Crop Over takes that week, and raises it up to a month. Throughout July the festival, which started back in the 1780s to commemorate the end of the sugar cutting season, there’s calypso parties, folk concerts, and Kadooments, where revelers take to the streets in elaborate costumes to eat, drink and pulsate to the all-encompassing groove of calypso bands. Even Rihanna showed up last year.

Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica, July 17-23, 2016

Reggae Sumfest is a pillar of Jamaica’s festival calendar, and since 1993 has seen such luminaries as Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, Toots and the Maytals, and Beenie Man grace its stage. Kicking off in various venues around Montego Bay, each night has a theme including Dancehall Night, International Night and the legendary All White Party with its self-explanatory dress code.

Electric Festival, Aruba, September 3-6, 2016

Part industry music conference, part 24-hour rave, Electric Festival is going into its third year in Aruba. Names like Afrojack, Nervo and Loco Dice are already lined up, and they’ll take stage at the APA Arena, whilst smaller bashes like the No Eat No Sleep party go on at different locations. Befitting its status as the premier music conference in the Caribbean, you’ll be able to watch Q&As with Loco Dice and Chuckie, whilst there’s a wealth of sessions with advice covering all aspects of the EDM and festival industries.