Caribbean Beat Magazine

Datebook | Caribbean Events Calendar (January/February 2017)

Events around the Caribbean in January and February, from Chinese New Year in Suriname to a film festival in Guadeloupe

  • ©Peeter Viisimaa /
  • Photo by Pawel Kazmierczak /
  • Still from Papa Machete, screened at FEMI 2016. Courtesy Papa Machete
  • Photo by Amanda Richards courtesy Guyana Tourism Authority
  • The Sombre Malembo, God of the Crossroads (1943). The Rudman Trust © Sdo Wifredo Lam, courtesy Tate Modern
  • Photo by Yury Zap /
  • Photo by Redstone /
  • Pingebat /
  • Photo by Dario Ward courtesy Holetown Festival

Don’t miss . . .

Jamaica’s Reggae Month


In 2015, Kingston was recognised by UNESCO as a City of Music — no surprise, as the Jamaican capital is the birthplace of reggae. In February, Jamaicans celebrate a month-long tribute to the world-shaking genre through a host of events, including concerts, music awards, symposiums, film festivals, and exhibitions. Activities to honour the birthdays of Bob Marley, and the “Crown Prince of Reggae,” Dennis Brown, will also take centre stage. And check out the new Peter Tosh Museum — see page 32 of this issue.

How to get there? Caribbean Airlines operates daily flights to Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay from destinations in the Caribbean and North America


If you’re in . . .

. . . Bequia

Mount Gay Music Fest
Venues around Bequia
19 to 22 January

There’s a special calmness about Bequia, one of the Grenadines south of St Vincent. The island air softly whistles a magical tune that can make your insides flutter. It’s hypnotic — drawing people every year to this exceedingly anticipated music festival, leaving almost no rooms available in hotels and mooring many vessels in Admiralty Bay.

For over fourteen years, the Bequia Tourism Association has welcomed artistes from all over the world to perform their eclectic hits at the Mount Gay Music Fest. Past headliners include Dana Gillespie and the London Blues Band, the Arturo Tappin Band, the Elite Steel Orchestra, Edwin Yearwood, and Bequia blues man, guitarist, and crowd superstar Toby Armstrong.

The festival runs for four nights, but for just one of those — Friday — the famous Mustique Blues Festival hops over to Bequia to take over the programme and thrill the audience with the best of the blues. The proceeds from this event go to the Basil Charles Educational Foundation. On other festival days, the open-air live performances create an intimate and relaxed ambiance, making loyal music festival fans return each year.


. . . Guadeloupe

FEMI: Festival Régional et International du Cinéma de Guadeloupe
Venues around Guadeloupe
27 January to 4 February

The first four letters in the festival’s name give you an inkling of its roots. Originally dedicated to women of film and organised by women, FEMI was founded in 1992. It has since evolved and widened its scope, embracing Caribbean and international cinema in all its diversity.

Guadeloupe’s annual film celebration offers programmes such as FEMI Youth, which allows students from kindergarten to university to experience the atmosphere of an international festival and meet industry professionals. No one is excluded: a selection of films is also taken into prisons, under the initiative of FEMI in the Walls.

The 2017 programme includes over sixty local films, regional and international features, shorts, and documentaries, and often previously unscreened works. If you’d like to delve deeper into the world of the cinema, workshops and masterclasses are also available. Running on a low budget? Enjoy free screenings during all sessions at the Bibliothèque du Lamentin at FEMI in the City. Past guests of honour have included celebrated filmmaker Euzhan Palcy and actors Angela Bassett and Danny Glover.


. . . Guyana

Venues around Guyana
23 February

As the only English-speaking country in South America, Guyana is no stranger to being unique. While some countries have military parades, air shows, or formal receptions for Republic Day, Guyana has a different spin on its festivities, down to the name: they call it Mashramani, or simply Mash. It’s a derivative of an Arawak word describing a type of festival held by indigenous people to celebrate a special event.

Fetes, concerts, calypso competitions, steelpan, soca, a chutney monarch competition, and other cultural presentations are all on the Mash calendar. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And following Guyana’s fiftieth anniversary of Independence last year, a new event was announced for the Mash lineup: a calypso caravan travelling through communities and drawing neighbours together.

The highlight, though, is the costume parade in Georgetown. Spicy costumes join vibrant floats sponsored by corporate Guyana and government agencies, bearing nation-building mottos. This year’s Mashramini theme includes “greater unity” — wining down to soca, steelpan, and chutney music seems like a great way to start.

Event previews by Shelly-Ann Inniss


Jet into January

Wilfredo Lam retrospective
Tate Modern, London

There’s still time to catch this major exhibition of the iconic Cuban artist, which opened last September. The show includes The Sombre Malembo, God of the Crossroads (1943)
14 September 2016 to 8 January 2017


Orchid Society Show
Fort Lauderdale

You’ll find beautiful exhibits, artwork, and live entertainment at this elegant “Galaxy of Orchids”
20 to 22 January


St Barth Fun Cup
St Jean Beach, Saint Barthélemy

Windsurf lovers ride the waves at this international competition featuring pros and amateurs
24 to 30 January


Chinese New Year
Paramaribo, Suriname

Ring in the Year of the Rooster by enjoying traditional Chinese food, culture, handicraft, and performances in Suriname’s capital
28 January


Grenada Sailing Week

Increasingly competitive, entertaining, and ever-growing in popularity, with new racing courses and classes
30 January to 4 February


Fun in February

Maricao Coffee Harvest Festival
Johnny Arbona Stadium, Puerto Rico

Barista competitions, coffee-tasting, dancing, food exhibits, and heaps of coffee-inspired items mark the end of coffee season
10 to 12 February


Miami International Map Fair
History Miami Museum

Whether you’re an expert collector or merely curious, you can immerse yourself in the world of antique maps, rare books, and atlases
4 to 5 February


Havana International Book Fair
Havana and other cities around Cuba

The Caribbean’s biggest celebration of literature includes readings, discussions, events for children, and a vast display of books from around the world
10 to 17 February


Holetown Festival
St James, Barbados

This commemoration of the arrival of the first British settlers in Barbados combines history lessons with vintage cars, dance shows, tuk bands, and gospel concerts on the island’s west coast
12 to 19 February


Rum Cay Day Festival
Milo Butler Heritage Park, Rum Cay, the Bahamas

This all-day signature event in one of the lesser-known Bahama Islands includes cultural entertainment, rake-and-scrape bands, and games for the entire family
24 February