ROSEAU, Dominica —Throughout the year, Dominica’s lush and nature-rich island is an excellent place to experience the rich heritage of Creole music and culture. The island is, however, transformed into a vibrant festival of music, food, and celebrations during Creole Heritage Month, culminating with the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) every October.
The island comes alive with the rhythmic sounds and vibrant energy of genres like bouyon, konpa, soca, cadence-lypso, dancehall, and afro beats during the annual festival, which usually features up to 15 major music acts selected by public vote across three days of live performances.
The WCMF not only showcases the music genres and artists of creole-speaking nations in the Caribbean and Africa, but it is also an important economic driver for Dominica, as more than 7,000 visitors arrive during the festival season, which takes place during the last week of October each year.
“It’s not just this is not just a musical show; it’s a musical show with a lot of impact,” said Colin Piper, CEO and Director of Tourism at Discover Dominica.
This festival has been on my bucket list for several years, and it did not disappoint. Here’s what I enjoyed most about the experience.
A Dynamic Musical Journey
This year marked the 23rd year of the World Creole Music Festival with local, regional, and international superstars and was a remarkable celebration of Creole music and culture.
Thousands of music lovers descended upon Windsor Park (myself included) for performances from superstars including Beres Hammond, Machel Montano, Popcaan, Patrice Roberts, JoeBoy, Midnight Groovers, Tabou Combo, Signal Band, and Asa Banton under the theme “Embracing Legacy.”
The festival sought to strike a balance between new and established artists representing different generations in the music industry through this year’s theme. And from the crowd’s response, including the fact that most of us continued to jump, wave, and dance through the nightly rain showers, I say that this was done well. It was also great to meet people from other places like Martinique, Haiti, France, Grenada, Ghana, etc, who love these music genres just as much as I do.
A Reminder Of The Diversity Of Music Across The Diaspora
Creole music covers various styles and rhythms, such as Haitian konpa and French Antillean zouk to bouyon. Since its inception in 1997, this festival has also featured African rhythms like soukous and zydeco from New Orleans. In addition to dancehall/reggae, soca, salsa, and other Caribbean and world music forms have appeared on the WCMF stage.
The World Creole Music Festival serves as a platform for these various musical styles and influences to come together, fostering a celebration of cultural diversity within the Creole music tradition. It also reflects the evolving nature of Creole music, incorporating new influences and genres over time. It was a treat to hear all this great music in one space.
A Celebration of Culture
Each year, WCMF marks the end of Creole Heritage Month celebrations, leading to the country’s Independence Day on November 3.
I loved experiencing firsthand that this was more than just a music event. It was a unique experience that embodied the essence of Creole culture and embraced a holistic celebration of its music, language, traditional dress, style of cooking, and other cultural elements. Several people I met as I belted out song lyrics over the three-day experience told me that the World Creole Music Festival was a yearly event for them and their travel crews. Now I know why!