A report by Alex Woolaver for Festicket.
The rise of music festivals in the last decade has led to a shift in how we see music’s place in our culture. While always holding a central position in the arts, technology has allowed it to seep into aspects of our lives it never did before.
Case and point: the so-called destination music festival. People are now travelling for musical experiences like they never have before, merging their annual explorations of exotic locations with the search for their new favourite musical acts.
The Caribbean, a long holiday destination favourite, is perhaps capitalising on this new trend of destination festivals more than any other part of the world, using its stunning scenery as an unparalleled backdrop for live music.
So without further ado, here are our picks for the Top 10 Caribbean Destination Music Festivals 2019.
Festival lineup: Damian Lazarus, Guy Gerber, Jamie Jones, Loco Dice, HOSH, Andreas Henneberg, Beth Lydi, Doc Martin
Getting the year off to a good start, Ocaso sets underground beats poolside, on the beach, and even in the jungle. Curating a lineup of serious heavy-hitters, the festival doesn’t compromise on talent because of its location. And if you’re looking for extra-curricular activities outside of music, the festival’s home of Tamarindo is known for having some of the best surfing in the world.
When & where: 2-8 January 2019, Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Festival lineup: The Chainsmokers, Duran Duran, ZEDD, Jason Derulo, Bryan Adams, Counting Crows, Flo Rida, Blondie
The biggest scale festival on this list, KAABOO Cayman is a full-on major multi-genre music fest that just happens to be located in paradise. The sister festival of California’s KAABOO Del Mar, this one features some of the biggest names in music and comedy, and boasts all-star culinary and art lineups to boot.
When & where: 15-16 February 2019, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Festival lineup: Mad Professor, Barnabass, Deekline, Freq Nasty, Krafty Kuts, Gaudi, MI5, Mixmaster Morris
Located on the north coast of Panama, Tribal Gathering is set in a beach-fronted jungle. A literal gathering of tribes, the festival brings representatives of over 60 tribes from all over the world to this cultural summit. This meeting of the minds features over 150 international musical artists as well as a cabaret, circus, and carnival curiosities.
When & where: 15 – 28 February 2019, Colon, Panama
Festival lineup (2018): Griz, Tycho, Trevor Hall, The Floozies, Lee Burridge, Bedouin, CloZee, Nicola Cruz
Envision Festival’s modus operandi is collective participation. Music is the main event, but the festival is much more than that. Bringing people together, Envision is founded upon eight pillars: movement; spirituality; music; radical acceptance; community; permaculture; health; and art. Balance of body, mind, and soul is the goal here.
When & where: 28 February – 4 March 2019, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Festival lineup: Marco Carola, Apollonia, Guy Gerber, Jennifer Cardini, Alex Niggemann, Axel Boman, Enzo Siragusa, Goldcap
Everything in moderation, including moderation. SXM Festival is an immersive experience on the idyllic shared island of Saint Martin. Controlled by both France and The Netherlands, the island is a testament to the communal capabilities of the human race. SMX Festival celebrates this shared existence through music, putting together a lineup of electronic acts pushing their genres forward.
When & where: 13-16 March 2019, Philipsburg, Saint Martin
Vujaday Music Festival
Festival lineup: Moodymann, Soul Clap, DJ Tennis, Lee Burridge, Mikey Lion, Sasha, Bedouin, Octave One [live]
Really bringing the country into the festival experience, Vujaday’s five days are each set in a different location around the island. Unique in the festival world, this ensures festival-goers actually get to take in their surroundings. And when their surroundings are as scenic as Barbados, that is a good thing. And oh yeah, there’s a killer lineup of party-starting house, funk, and techno DJs, too.
When & where: 3-7 April 2019, Various Locations throughout Barbados
Tmrw.Tday Culture Fest
Festival lineup: Dubfire, Protoje, Stacy Irie Soul, Chris Hawk, Audiofly, Teflon Zinc Fence, Max Glazer, Sabo
Dubbed a culture fest, Tmrw.Tday’s mandate goes beyond music. Using the slogan “Part Music Festival, Part Retreat; 100% Life Experience”, beach parties and concerts are supplemented with workshops, eco courses, fitness instruction, and sound and wellness sessions.
When & where: 30 April – 5 May 2019, Negril, Jamaica
Empire Music Festival
Festival lineup (2018): Don Diablo, Dubfire, Farruko, Maldita Vecindad, Matisyahu, Paul van Dyk, Steve Aoki, Zion & Lennox
A more traditional approach to a music festival, Empire is a no-holds-barred dance music festival. Thirty artists are spread over four musical areas on the first weekend of May. Steeped in Mayan history, the festival draws on traditional imagery for their stage designs, transporting electronic music lovers into a psychedelic world that blends the modern and ancient worlds.
When & where: 3-4 May 2019, Villacanales, Guatemala
Festival lineup (2018): Popcaan, Damian Marley, Bounty Killer, Ding Dong, Spice, Fantan Mojah, Tosh Alexander, Naomi Cowan
The biggest festival in Jamaica, Reggae Sumfest has become a rite of passage for fans of reggae and dancehall. Started in 1993, the festival curates a lineup balancing up-and-coming acts with chart-toppers and legacy acts. The list of acts who’ve graced the festival’s main stage is a venerable who’s-who of the Jamaican music scene and beyond, including international stars such as Rihanna, 50 Cent, and Usher.
When & where: 14-20 July 2019, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival
Festival lineup (2018): Grace Jones, Kamasi Washington, Christina Aguilera, Jason Derulo, Patti LaBelle, Sting & Shaggy, Daddy Yankee, Ceelo Green
Since its foundation in 2010, Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival has grown into what many call the biggest musical event in the Caribbean. Annually welcoming world-beating acts from a wide range of genres and eras, the one prerequisite for inclusion on the festival’s lineup is creative prowess. Add in tropical surroundings and you’ve got one of the premier destination festivals in the world.
When & where: 29-21 August 2019, Willemstad, Curaçao