The Caribbean island of Dominica is known as Nature Island for its natural beauty, quiet and rich ecology, but this month it will come alive with pulsing rhythms and dance to mark the 17th annual World Creole Music Festival.
The October 25–27 festival draws tens of thousands of visitors each year. The music on display at the festival—including calypso, kompas, zouk, soukous, bouyon, and zydeco—reflects the rich diversity of Creole culture and music in places ranging from Haiti and Venezuela to Louisiana.
Creole music grew out of the mingling of French and African music traditions during the colonial period. Though New Orleans brought world attention to Creole music during the first half of the twentieth century, the genre actually comprises a variety of styles, a reflection of the geographic diversity of the places that have given birth to Creole music and evolving tastes. Creole music serves as a vehicle for “the cultural history that links people of the Creole world,” says Benoît Bardouille, chairman of the Discover Dominica Authority.
The festival coincides with Dominica’s Independence Day festivities, making for a week-long celebration of both Creole culture and the island nation’s independence. According to Tourism Minister Ian Dougla s, more local artists from Dominica will perform this year than in previous festivals. But the local stars will be part of an international lineup that includes Marchel Montano, a soca artist from Trinidad; Busy Signal, a dancehall reggae performer from Jamaica; Tito Puente Jr., the Latin jazz musician from New York; the contemporary Nigerian pop duo Bracket; Carimi and Nu Look of Haiti; and zouk artists Jean-Marc Ferdinand, Patrice Haulman and Alex Alexie, and Orlane, all from New Orleans.
The festival has been a resounding success since it was launched in 1997 to bolster tourism in Dominica and “promote Creole music as a major musical art form,” says Bardouille.
Visitors spend an average $2.5 million each year, and last year they came from more than 15 countries. Bardouille notes that “for every dollar we spend on hosting the World Creole Music Festival,” the country receives nine dollars in revenue.
A series of exhibitions throughout the island will also highlight Dominica’s culture and history with examples of dance, food and Creole literature. Of course, with music as the central theme of the festival, all the events will be infused with rhythms of Creole music that seem to “arise naturally from the island’s geography and natural grace,” Bardouille says.