Happenings (May/June 2009)

A round-up of current events on the Caribbean calendar

  • Pulse’s Kimanee McDonald in Zadd. Photograph courtesy Pulse
  • Tivoli Drummers from Grenada doing the Kalinda. Photograph courtesy The Grenada Drum Festival
  • Kirk Whalum loves the crowd at Saint Lucia Jazz. Photograph courtesy St Lucia Tourist Board

Cool, couture and charity

Laura Dowrich-Phillips

Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) has become the most anticipated fashion event in the region. Designers, known and upcoming; models aspiring to international fame; and fashion aficionados all descend on Jamaica each June to participate.

Dubbed “the coolest fashion week in the world”, CFW is the product of Pulse Investments Ltd, an entertainment and fashion powerhouse that has had considerable success in promoting Caribbean fashion and launching the international careers of Jamaican models such as Jaunel McKenzie, Carla Campbell, Nadine Willis and Kimanee Wilson.

Over the last seven years, CFW has put the spotlight on the creativity of regional designers. Among those who have shown at this event are Heather Jones, Claudia Pegus, The Cloth and Meiling (Trinidad and Tobago); Biggy, Cooyah, Mutamba and Moncrieffe (Jamaica); and Nefertari, Uzuri and Posh Punk (Barbados). International designers have included Francois Jenaaer (Australia), Catalin Bothezatu (Romania/Italy) and Sena (Germany).

But it’s not all fun and fashion. CFW is focused primarily on developing the region’s fashion industry and promotes business development through initiatives such as designer development through workshops and exhibitions, which brings buyers and designers together. Marketed to an international audience, the event also enhances Jamaica’s tourism industry, while after-parties help to enhance the entertainment aspect of the event.

There is a philanthropic side to CFW. Proceeds from the shows are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme via CatWALK the World, an organisation that raises funds to fight child hunger through high-profile fashion.

Caribbean Fashion week runs from June 10 – 15.

For more information: www.caribbeanfashionweek.com


Meeting of minds at Mona

Nazma Muller

More than 500 scholars from around the world will converge on Kingston, Jamaica from June 1 – 5 for the 34th annual Caribbean Studies Association conference.

The CSA’s yearly gathering promises to be a massive meeting of beautiful minds, as academics and public servants will deliver papers on the latest research in different disciplines and cultures from the region, as well as Central America and the Caribbean coast of South America. Although this area is the focus of their research, members also hail from Europe and the US, with many teaching at US universities and colleges.

The conference returns to the English-speaking Caribbean after two years in Latin America. This year’s president, Professor Patricia Mohammed, head of graduate studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in St Augustine, where the CSA secretariat is located, chose Jamaica since it is the home of the first UWI campus at Mona, and “is unmatched in its cultural vibrancy”.

The key speakers at this year’s conference, under the theme “Centring the Caribbean in Caribbean Studies”, will be former vice-chancellor of UWI Prof Rex Nettleford of Jamaica, Barbadian author George Lamming, and Surinamese diplomat Albert Ramdin, assistant secretary-general of the Organisation of American States.

Panel discussions will feature experts on climate change, policy and urban planning, sustainable development, and crime and violence in Jamaica. At a one-day workshop on gender and leadership, young scholars will speak on their roles as intellectuals and community leaders.

As well as the launch of regional titles at the book fair, new films about the region will be shown.



Sharpen your salsa skills

Helen Shair-Singh

Known for its exotic moves and sensual rhythm, Latin dance has grown tremendously in popularity over the past ten years, and the most popular of all is the salsa. More than 50 major salsa congresses (workshops, exhibitions and parties) are held all over the world each year.

For Caribbean salseros, the closest congresses take place in Curaçao, Puerto Rico, Miami, New York and the UK.

For those who can’t make the pilgrimage this year, a group of salseros interested in promoting and developing Latin dancing in the Caribbean is offering another option in July: an affordable weekend workshop, Salsa Fiesta TnT, facilitated by two world-class dance instructors/choreographers, to be held in Trinidad.

Leon Rose is well known worldwide as an innovative dancer and choreographer (with Caribbean roots: his grandparents are Trinidadian). He has been at the forefront of the British salsa movement since he entered the scene in 1997, and is the founder of the Leon Rose Project.

He spends most of his year performing and instructing at salsa congresses, when he is not teaching in London. His achievements include winning the 2000 British Salsa Championship, performing at the Princess Diana Memorial Concert, and a televised performance with Enrique Iglesias.

Susana Montero was born in Madrid and started dancing ballet and flamenco at five. By 14 she had already won several competitions. At 16 she turned to contemporary, jazz and Afro-Cuban dance, which she studied for eight years whilst also doing a PhD in psychology.

Montero was introduced to salsa when she went to London in 1995. After winning the first British Salsa Championships, in 1999 she danced in the Princess Diana Memorial Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, when she met Rose. Together, in 2000, they won the second British Salsa Championship title. Montero’s current projects include developing the salsa routines for the UK TV series Strictly Come Dancing, and the Latin Dance Academy, of which she is a founding member.

The two will share their knowledge and skills at a two-day workshop at the Kam Po restaurant ballroom, Port of Spain, Trinidad on July 4 – 5. The workshop will comprise ten one-hour sessions in salsa and bachata, covering timing and musicality, ladies and men’s styling, spinning technique, and partnering. In addition, there will be a dance party featuring exhibitions by Rose and Montero as well as local Latin dance groups.

For more information and tickets: salsafiestatnt@gmail.com



T&T’s biggest trade meet turns 10

In the midst of the global economic recession, one country continues to grow: Trinidad and Tobago, with projected 2009 GDP growth of two per cent. In February, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted that T&T is “better placed than many other countries to weather [the] adverse global economic climate”. This has strengthened T&T’s position as a north-south business hub, and, even as the country faces a slowdown in growth, businesses are moving ahead, and positioning themselves to take advantage of the inevitable economic recovery.

Many businesses are relying on the Trade & Investment Convention (TIC), which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, as one tool to “recession-proof” themselves. The Caribbean’s biggest business-to-business event, TIC is based on a simple premise: connecting buyers to sellers. The convention includes a multi-sectoral international trade show with close to 300 booths, a business education programme featuring international speakers, and a series of networking events.

In the last decade, TIC has facilitated more than US$350 million in trade deals, and hosted thousands of international buyers and companies from all corners of the globe. This year exhibitors will meet qualified local and international buyers from more than 25 countries; international missions have already registered from Cuba, Curaçao, Colombia, Uruguay, St Vincent & the Grenadines, the USA, and Costa Rica.

TIC 2009 is sponsored by T&T’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, Telecommunications Services of T&T, and First Citizens. It takes place from June 24 – 27, at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Trinidad.


For more information: www.tic-tt.com



The beat goes on in Grenada

Laura Dowrich-Phillips

Drummers across the Caribbean find common ground each May when they converge on Tivoli, a little village in Grenada, for the spice isle’s annual Drum Festival.

The festival aims to promote and preserve the region’s drum culture, which is more than African drumming alone. In 2008, tassa drumming from Trinidad was among the featured items, and this year, there are plans to invite a capoeira group from Brazil.

The educational aspect of the festival includes displays of traditional drumming, dancing and rituals surrounding the drums; workshops in dance and drumming; displays of various drums; and showcasing skilled drum players.

At the centre of the festival are the Tivoli drummers. Founder Livingstone Krumah Nelson formed the group in 1995 to spread what he calls the drum culture. Nelson is passionate about drumming. His father, a drummer, died when Nelson was five. At that age, he began drumming, carrying on his father’s legacy.

Nelson’s aim is to change the perception of drumming, as the instrument has historically had a negative association thanks to its role in African culture and religion.

“We needed to create acceptance, create something where we could educate each other and learn from each other. It’s about changing the psychological makeup of people’s attitudes to drums,” he said.

Today, Nelson takes credit for integrating the instrument deeper into Grenadian society, via schools and church.

The Grenada Drum Festival will be held at Krumahville, Tivoli Village from May 20.

For more information: www.spiceisle.com/drumkrumah or e-mail: drumkrumah@spiceisle.com



Amour in Antigua

Joanne C Hillhouse

Romantic Rhythms more than made its case for a return engagement to the estimated 8,000 – 10,000 people who flocked to Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium last year. It produced exactly the kind of moments that a romantic festival should: couples cuddling under the open skies, soca singer Destra Garcia delivering a string of Whitney Houston ballads, an onstage marriage proposal straight out of the movies. So the festival has been dubbed a keeper.

But how to top the likes of last year’s crowd-pleasers Lionel Richie, Keyshia Cole and Shaggy? Romantic Rhythms executive Dr Alvin Edwards played it close to his chest, saying only that the 2009 festival was set for June 5 – 7, and that they continue to target artistes with wide appeal and romantic tunes in their repertoire.

Romantic Rhythms is setting itself up as the champagne festival on Antigua’s expanding calendar of events, which already included the Afro-Caribbean folk festival Out of the Drum, the Moods of Pan festival, the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival, the Independence Homecoming Festival, Carnival, and Antigua Sailing Week. As for competing with the other Caribbean music festivals, Edwards is confident of Romantic Rhythms’ unique niche, saying:

“There’s room for all of us to be successful.”

For more information: info@antigua-barbuda.org



Island Hopper

St Lucia Jazz Festival
When: May 1 – 10
Where: Pigeon Island
What: The St Lucia Jazz Festival has become one of the major and most anticipated events on St Lucia and the Caribbean’s calendar of events. What started as a marketing event to boost the tourism industry arrivals during a low period has become one of the premiere musical treats of the world.
For more information: www.stluciajazz.org

British Virgin Islands Music Festival
When: May 22 – 24
Where: Cane Garden Bay Beach, Tortola
What: Local and international artistes perform at the event, which is promoted with the slogan “Where the sounds of music meet the sounds of Nature”.

43rd Antigua and Barbuda Sports Fishing Tournament
When: May 29 – June 1
Where: Catamaran Marina, Falmouth Harbour
What: An annual fishing tournament where prized catches are caught and sold
For more information: www.antiguabarbudasportfishing.com

Curaçao Jazz Festival
When: May 30
Where: Landhuis Brakkeput Mei Mei
What: Trumpeter Jon Faddis and multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona are expected to perform at this annual event, which showcases Curaçao’s cosmopolitan nature
For more information call the Curaçao Jazz Foundation at +(5999) 461-1866

Curaçao International Caribbean Gospel Festival
When: May 30
Where: Venue to be announced
What: Gospel music-lovers arrive from throughout the region to hear performances by popular (local and international) gospel singers
For more information call: +(5999) 737-1200 / 666-7081

Ochos Rios Jazz Fest
When: June 14 – 21
Where: Various venues
What: With the theme “Straight Ahead Jazz and Beyond”, the 2009 festival will continue to bring the best of jazz to Jamaica with free public concerts and events such as Jazz and Coffee
For more information: www.jamaicaculture.org/jazz/

St Kitts Music Festival
When: June 26 – 28
Where: Warner Park Stadium
What: This festival combines a variety of musical genres such as jazz, gospel, R&B, soca, and hip hop for a truly eclectic vibe.
For more information: www.stkittsmusicfestival.com

St Vincent Carnival
When: June 26 – July 7
Where: Various venues
What: Known as Vincy Mas, this festival is a riotous explosion of colour and some of the most anticipated songs in the region.
For more information: www.carnivalsvg.com

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.