World Creole Music Festival A Huge Success – Great Performances by Beres Hammond and Beenie Man

Dominica : A spanking new US$35M world class Windsor Park Sports Stadium in downtown Roseau , Dominica was the venue for the recently concluded World Creole Music Festival. The impressive facility was a gift from China to Dominica and thousands of music lovers poured in over the weekend to see performances by some of the hottest bands from across the Francophone Caribbean and beyond. The featured acts included Beres Hammond and Beenie Man from Jamaica, Grammacks International, Triple Kay, Kadans, Kassav, Michelle Henderson, Midnight Groovers and Bamboolaz, alongside Shurwayne Winchester from Trinidad, Top Vice from Haiti and King Mensah and Djunny Claude from Africa.

Nearly all the bands sizzled to a captive and appreciative audience over the 3-night jam, a significant accomplishment considering the wide range of musical styles that the festival attempted to showcase. The angelic voice of Michelle Henderson was priceless. Michelle is already a star on the island of Dominica and my guess is that it will only be a matter of time before she gets signed to a major label and explodes to become the next Rihanna from the Caribbean. Kassav is a well-established band out of Guadeloupe & Martinique and they threw down a glittering performance that brought Time Square New Year’s Eve energy to the stage. That energy ricocheted throughout the jam-packed venue as the audience howled for more and more. With 30 albums to their credit, delivering the goods was easy for Kassav. And a local Dominican band, Grammacks International could do no wrong as they drove the audience to evangelical frenzy with a spine-chilling performance.

Placing a dancehall artist like Beenie Man in the middle of a Creole music lineup is a tricky challenge- the outcome could be either a resounding success or a dismal disaster. Beenie Man, being the consummate performer that he is pushed those concerns aside. He clearly did his homework, learning as much as he could about Dominica and the Creole culture prior to his performance, and he used that knowledge to quickly connect with the audience, earning thunderous applause as he belted out hit after hit. Jamaican hit maker Beres Hammond who was scheduled to perform Saturday night did not arrive on the island until Sunday morning. He ended up performing on Sunday night to polite applause from disenchanted fans who had forked out US$40 the previous night to see him.

Tourism authorities in Dominica wanted to make this year’s eleventh annual festival the biggest ever, and they promoted the event heavily in North America as well as in targeted Caribbean islands. The efforts paid off handsomely as all flights into Dominica were overbooked, and hundreds of music lovers from nearby Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia were forced to use boat service to get into Dominica. Naturally, accommodations were at a premium and some visitors literally had no place to stay. Since the concerts typically run until sunrise, the plush stadium became a sanctuary for the stranded and the love of Creole music and Creole culture transcended all other concerns so folks took the hurdles in stride with few complaints.

Apart from the wonderful assortment of music that the festival brings, Dominica is a beautifully lush island of many rivers and mountains loaded with natural attractions. Nancy Martin Nassief, a former Miss Jamaica Universe who now lives there and who is married to businessman and former tourism minister Yvor Nassief took some of us on the final day of our visit to see an astonishing hot sulphur spring called Screws Spa. Screws is a series of hot pools, each a different temperature and tucked into what appears to be the Garden of Eden. The fairly new facility offers total relaxation and renewal and can be enjoyed by day or night. Next, we were off to savor Creole lunch at Papillote Resort & Spa located in the heart of the rain forest with exotic birds and butterflies fluttering among orchids, bromeliads and flowering jade vines. Not co-incidentally, Papillote has just been nominated in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2007
The US media contingent also stopped in for a one on one interview with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt and paid an impromptu visit to Kairi 93.1 FM, one of the top radio stations on the island. They ended up co-hosting DJ Quick’s Saturday afternoon program.
The World Creole Music Festival is produced by the Dominica Festivals Commission and is sponsored by Digicel. The annual event is a part of the island’s Creole Day and Independence celebrations, this year marking the 29th anniversary of the island’s independence.