The year 2000 likely holds meaningful memories for many people. It was a real thrill to witness the turn of the century on the Nature Island. However, one of my most poignant recollections of that year took place just before Dominica’s 4th annual World Creole Music Festival (WCMF). In anticipation of the upcoming WCMF # 16, I am recalling the unusual situation that year, which was originally published in Caribbean Compass* in January 200o. The text has been slightly modified.
By the time Dominica’s 4th annual World Creole Music Festival took place in October 2000, it was recognized as an event of growing importance on the Caribbean cultural calendar.
However, the generally jovial tone of this grand event was a little subdued that year. This was due to the sudden death of Dominica’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Roosevelt (Rosie) Douglas due to a heart attack in his home on the first of October. After an official mourning period, he was buried on the 14th of October, which was only a few days before the scheduled international event. Despite the sudden shock of this tragedy, the remarkably resilient Dominicans disguised their grief and extended their hands in friendship to welcome those from afar to the 4th Annual World Creole Music Festival.
During the touching ceremony which officially opened the festival, the event was dedicated to the memory of ‘Brother Rosie’ Douglas. He would not have been disappointed. This tremendous three night show of various types of Creole music was performed by 17 bands from around the world. It was the best one yet!
Thousands braved the cool drizzle to partake of soukous and salsa rhythms on that Friday night. Sweet Mickey from Haiti took the chill off the night air with many popular songs with a compas rhythm. My favourite band, , from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa kept me visually and aurally stimulated into the wee hours with vibrant costumes, sexy dancers and a sizzling hot beat.
That year, the combination of improved organization, a superb stage and great talent was clearly demonstrated during Saturday’s show, which offered the lively audience unforgettable acts until 6 am Sunday. From my position backstage, I gazed with awe at the mass of humanity in front of the performers. Numbers swelled to an estimated 10,000 that night. Festival City, the venue for these shows, was filled to capacity. From my secure space in the press area, I marveled at the energy and joy that filled the air with zouk and zydeco Creole sounds.
France’s Kassav, Dominica’s all time favourite foreign band, was welcomed onto the stage by a sparkling display of fireworks and a roaring mass of humanity. Kassav‘s energy, vitality and vibrancy complemented all of the zouk melodies that they could dish out in their almost two hour performance. Then WCK, one of Dominica’s best loved bands finished off the night ( I should say morning!) with a sizzling show of all their well-known songs. The place was hopping despite heavy rains and a muddy field. I thrived on the energy emanating from the entire group. Their drummer’s remarkable talent and powerful command of tempo had me completely enthralled. Oh, what a night!
Sunday’s sounds were more subdued, but entirely satisfactory. A smaller tired gathering faithfully followed all of the performers until the last note resounded at 4:30am. I enjoyed the subtler cadence-compas rhythms and was particularly intrigued by Guadeloupe’s Kadans, who thrilled the crowd with many popular West Indian tunes.
In genuine Dominican style, considerable warmth, friendship and harmonious pleasures had clearly been extended to all performers and visitors to the beautiful Nature Island. The captivating Creole music enraptured all of us who attended this sensational three night show. ‘Brother Rosie’ would have been proud…
I am very excited about attending the Sunday night show of the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) which will honour another famous Dominican, the late Jeff-Jo, a cadence-lypso music icon par excellence. Watch out for my report!