Caribbean Groove: St. Lucia Soleil Summer Jazz Festival
Throughout the year, honeymooners and vacationers travel to the tiny island of St. Lucia for the pristine beaches, sparkling turquoise water, dramatic mountain scenery and spectacular dive sites, but in May they come for a different reason. The world-renowned St. Lucia Soleil Summer Jazz Festival is a week-long event that attracts jazz aficionados from far and wide and features top talent from around the globe.
When Jazz Came to St. Lucia
The peak tourist season in the Caribbean generally winds down by mid-April, as Old Man Winter finally takes his leave from northern climes and summer blankets the entire northern hemisphere. This leaves the Caribbean islands with a dilemma: how to keep resorts, hotels and restaurants going during off season.
Well, someone in St. Lucia had a great idea—hold a jazz festival in May to extend the tourist season one more month and raise the small island’s profile. And so it was—the first St. Lucia Jazz Festival was held in 1992.
At first, the festival was small and not well attended, but word inevitably spread about the great jazz wafting through the paradisaic setting of St. Lucia. Today, the St. Lucia Soleil Summer Jazz Festival has thousands of attendees and is an important stop on the international jazz festival circuit.
In 2013, the name of the festival was changed to the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival and the event was expanded to include much more than music. Visitors now enjoy dance, art, theater, culinary arts and even a fashion show. Artists display their work throughout the island and fans browse a wide array of paintings, photography, sculpture, wood carvings and jewelry.
An Eclectic Event
The eclectic musical program at the festival includes St. Lucian, Caribbean and international jazz along with reggae, hip-hop, Afropunk, soca, steel pan, calypso and R & B. Singles, couples and families mingle in a relaxed, island atmosphere and concerts are available during both day and nighttime.
The original 1992 festival used just four venues, but now great music is played all over St. Lucia. The main stage is located in Pigeon Island National Park at the north end of the island and the weekend of the festival features top performers and draws the largest crowds. Main venues also include Rodney Bay, Derek Walcott Square, Soufriére and Balenbouche Estate. Some performances are ticketed, some are free.
Jazz fans move from one concert to another, sitting on the grass and sipping rum as they groove to the beat of whatever happens to be playing at the moment. Small boats and yachts add to the picturesque setting as they bob up and down in the crystal clear waters— both locals and international boaters come to enjoy the week of music.
A look at some of the past performers aptly demonstrates the elite status of the festival—Diana Ross, Seal, Rihanna, John Legend, Ashanti, R. Kelly, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, Herbie Hancock, Kool & the Gang and Amy Winehouse, to name a few.
Great music, art and cultural activities, all in a laid-back setting surrounded by a tropical island paradise—what’s not to like? Come to St. Lucia in May for one of the Caribbean’s best music festivals.
Tags: St. Lucia