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REVIEW: The St Kitts Music Festival

MAIN ATTRACTION: King of Dancehall Shabba Ranks; inset right, crowds enjoy the festival

THE ST Kitts Music Festival has been going for 20 years and keeps going from strength-to-strength.

As well as supporting many of their own home-grown and regional acts, over the years they’ve had performances from some major international stars such as 50 Cent, Damian Marley, Ciara, Sean Paul, Michael Bolton, John Legend, Kelly Rowland, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Toni Braxton and Lionel Richie, to name a few.

On June 22, the 21st year of the St Kitts Music Festival was kicked-off in style. For the media, it started at the press conference in the morning, where we got the first taste of the band clash that was taking place on the first night between Grand Masters Band and Small Axe Band.


THREE'S A CHARM: From left - Phyllisia Ross, Jah Cure and Rachel Ritfeld

Also performing on the first night, which is traditionally known as the soca and calypso night, were a mix of home grown and regional acts who really got our blood pumping with a 30-second taster of their vocals and the energy they would bring to their performances.

That night, the band clash didn’t disappoint and the energy was felt in Warner Park Stadium in Basseterre, especially when Stadics, Ultimate Rejects and Shanna did their sets.

When it started to rain, many ran for cover but then, the ‘queen of soca’ Alison Hinds came out for her performance with Square One. She commanded the crowd in a way I have not witnessed before. Within minutes, thousands of people were jumping with the same energy Hinds portrayed on stage.


PARTY TIME: Crowd at St Kitts Music Festival

On day two of the festival, I learned how versatile the musical taste of the Kittitian population is. Third World lived up to what you would expect from reggae music royalty. It was an incredible performance and I was amazed at the strength and range of their vocals especially when AJ Brown sang a cover of Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro. If I could describe it in one word, it would be 'goosebumps'.

When Goo Goo Dolls did their set, everyone got involved. They performed one of their greatest hits Iris and the crowd echoed the words. This was my personal highlight from the festival, to see such legendary musicians sing one of my favourite songs of all time.

Back stage, Shabba Ranks was getting ready for his set, but still made time for a picture with me. Shabba is undoubtedly the undisputed king of dancehall; the crowd went crazy for Mr. Loverman. His set left us yearning for more, especially of his early work.

On the final day of the festival, I was excited from the time we got to the press conference in the morning. There was so much to admire after hearing from the much anticipated females on the panel: K. Michelle, Phyllisia Ross, V. Bozeman and Briannagh D, all had such powerful words of wisdom and encouragement that all women could relate to and take something away from.


LONGING FOR: Jah Cure

It was so nice to hear how many of them ran musical workshops and did community visits while they were in St Kitts to inspire the local youth to believe in their talents and work hard to reach their goals. All of them sang a short rendition of one of their songs and I was blown away by their vocals.

First up that night was the youngest performer who has ever graced the stage at the St Kitts Musical Festival, Briannagh D – who is 15 years old and of Kittitian heritage. She sang a mix of popular covers and her own original music. Her music is high-energy and for her age, she has a powerful voice and strong moral head on her shoulders which was evident in the way she spoke so eloquently in my interview with her.

Phyllisia Ross, V. Bozeman and K. Michelle gave us performances to remember, as did Jah Cure, Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Ed Robinson. As well as the main music festival, there are also some fringe events around it.

If you fancy a more relaxing Sunday after three days of partying at the festival, then Rhythmz on the Beach at Spice Mill on Cockleshell beach would have been the one for you, with a delicious buffet to enjoy while swaying to the smooth vibes of the band playing on the beach.


STAR TURN: Shabba Ranks, left, with Rachel Ritfeld

If you were not yet ‘partied out’, then White Sands Arabia at Carambola Beach Club is one to save some energy for. Everyone committed to the white-themed party on the beach and it was a magnificent party. I usually get a little nervous in a crowd, but I felt inspired to be right there in the pit in the rain enjoying the fantastic DJ and performances.

Whether the St Kitts Music Festival should be on the global map of festivals to plan a visit to is unquestionable. Apart from having a fantastic time at the festival and fringe events, I have seen some of the best beaches in the world in St Kitts and Nevis, visited UNESCO World Heritage sites, experienced something memorable while snorkelling, eaten in some world class restaurants and stayed in fabulous luxury hotels.

I look forward to sharing lots more on that in the next column.

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