We all know that music is essential to Caribbean life – and two rhythms rule. There’s the reggae of Jamaica in the west and the calypso of Trinidad in the southeast. But jazz?
Well, the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary and I would do anything to be there if last year’s is anything to go by.
The festival takes place between April 30 and May 12, after the winter season but before the Caribbean becomes sweltering. There will therefore be music, fashion, arts – and sun – around the island.
This year, the preparation will see an evening of gospel singing and two evenings presented as Pure Jazz (including jazz steel band, American bassist John Patitucci and double Grammy Award-winning singer Samara Joy).
The Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival concludes with three evenings at the main hall at Pigeon Point (photo)
The event will culminate with three nights at the main venue in Pigeon Point in the far north – first with Caribbean Fusion, featuring bands and beats from the region; then World Beats, which attracts artists from elsewhere (this year, adding Latin singer Jon Secada to the popular Afro-Beat line-up).
Finally, the big title, which in 2023 saw Sting and Shaggy renew their 2018 collaboration. This year, everything will be around the duo Love Rock Air Supply.
A good place to stay is Windjammer Landing, from where we were transported to Pigeon Point on a ten-minute boat ride. If the historic point, an islet connected to the mainland by an artificial causeway, was once a fortress, it now seems decidedly anti-martial. Saint Lucians of all ages and visitors come together there. And it becomes unapologetically alive.
Windjammer Landing (pictured) is a short boat ride from Pigeon Point, making it a good base for the festival.
Previous lineups included Santana, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan and Rihanna (above)
You visit Lucia for other reasons, of course. There is for example its thriving chocolate manufacturing industry, and in the capital, Castries, we were guided through a ‘bean to bar’ chocolate experience on the veranda of the Victorian Howelton House, in the center of a lush eight-acre tropical estate. . Pounding the cocoa beans in a heated mortar, we incorporated the sugar and cocoa butter and poured the fragrant mixture into a mold. While we cooled down, we drank fresh soursop juice and enjoyed great views of the charming town.
With only 14 miles in diameter and an exceptionally mountainous landscape, it’s hard to imagine that St. Lucia has a slow-flowing river, but we traveled two miles on bamboo rafts between the forested banks of the meandering Roseau.
On the coast, the sand mounds of Roseau Beach divert the stream into a mangrove forest. We entered an atmospheric cavern of trees like a green cathedral. Lunch was served on the beach, under an awning, between two swims in the sparkling sea.
The terrain of Saint Lucia makes driving from one end of the island to the other slow and laborious. So the best way to visit its iconic twin peaks, the Pitons, to the south is with a day trip by boat. We joined KnottyGirl Speed Boat Tours, stopping along the way.
St. Lucia’s iconic Twin Pitons (pictured) are “one of the most impressive sights in the Caribbean and best viewed from the sea.”
Above, visitors take a mud bath in St. Lucia’s sulfurous hot springs.
At Anse Chastanet, we dove to snorkel around the reef and I found myself swimming among thousands and thousands of fish, each an inch long and shimmering around me like smoke. They rushed around chaotically as I moved, then instantly realigned themselves in their schools.
Around the promontory, the Pitons jutted out from the coast like vast incisors. They are one of the most impressive sights in the Caribbean and are best viewed from the sea. They were once the walls of a volcano. Today, the underground world, almost asleep, oozes with sulfurous hot springs.
We bathed in gray volcanic mud (good for the skin apparently), before rinsing off and cooling off in the Toraille waterfall, a 60-foot ice bucket challenge.
We talked about how AI could create music, particularly jazz. But as I left the island with the sound of Sting’s Roxanne and Boombastic coming from a deep-voiced Shaggy ringing in my ears, I decided we were safe… for a while at less.