The Carribean 22 – The best of the rest

The best of  the rest (2)

Bob Marley Birthday Bash

Where? Kingston, Jamaica

When? February

How long? 1 day

The chances are that, even if you aren’t a huge reggae fan, you’ll still have time for Bob Marley, the Lion from Zion, whose music still plays in every bar in the country, and where he is still regarded with awe. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the red-eyed Rasta curators of the unofficial Bob Marley Museum and Mausoleum in Kingston host a highly prestigious knees-up in his honour each year on the date of his birthday, February 6. Gigs – usually featuring Ziggy Marley and other stellar reggae artists – take place at a handful of locations, including Negril, the Bob Marley Museum itself, and the Bob Marley Centre at the great man’s birthplace – Nine Miles, in St Ann. Nestled in the middle of ganja plantations, high up in the mountains away from the coast, Nine Miles is well off the tourist beat, but it’s easy to jump in a jeep and follow the clouds of smoke to join in the homage to the island’s greatest-ever musician.

Bumba Men Boi

Where? Sao Luis, Brazil

When? June-August

How long? 10 weeks

Large numbers of mostly Brazilian travellers make their way to Sao Luis, the crumbling old capital of the state of Maranhao in northeastern Brazil, to take part in this annual song-and-dance extravaganza. Around one hundred groups enact the legend of farmhand Pai Francisco and his wife Mae Catarina, who are sentenced to die after killing their estate-owner’s bull but are saved from execution by a motley crew of shamans and healers. In June and July, the groups give nightly performances all over town – on church squares, in the old slave-market, and in the open-air Ceprama arena, until the bulls are killed in late August, and their skin, a richly decorated piece of cloth, divided among the participants for good luck. The costumes are incredible, as is the music; of all the different styles now prevalent at the festival, the sotaque de matraca is the most hypnotic of them all, with dancers, wearing disk-like ostrich feather hats, producing clacking rhythms on two simple pieces of wood and stomping their feet on the ground.

Bumbershoot

Where? Seattle, USA

When? Labor Day weekend

How long? 3 days

The biggest end-of-summer party in the US, and one of its most eagerly awaited music festivals, Bumbershoot (i@www.bumbershoot.org) attracts a very wide array of international talent. It’s held at the Seattle Center park right in the heart of the city, although its focus on different artistic media other than music makes it like a US version of Glastonbury in outlook. Ticket prices tend to be low for the park, and then extra for specific artists.

BVI Spring Regatta

Where? British Virgin islands

When? April

How long? 2 days

Many of the Caribbean islands use Easter time as the launch pad for the start of their regatta season, and none is better than the BVI beanfeast (®www.bvispringregatta. org), held over the first weekend in April. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even rowed a boat across the town pond, half the fun is simply being here and watching the contestants’ sails tearing through the Caribbean’s crystal clear waters. If the truth be told, the regatta itself is just an excuse for a great land party; whoever manages to win the events at sea is almost secondary. Each night sees the Mooring Marina take on a carnival atmosphere, with calypso bands letting rip, beach parties over-running the shores and the local beach shacks serving up delicious grilled fish.

Calgary Stampede

Where? Calgary, Canada

When? Mid-July

How long? 10 days

The Stampede (®www.calgary-stampede.com) brings around a quarter of a million spectators to this likeable Canadian city every year. It’s not just about chaps in chaps either; this is the real thing – a succession of seriously manly events that kicks off on the first Friday with a traditional parade, featuring the several thousand participants and their horses. Thereafter, the focus of activity is Stampede Park, a vast open area that contains an amusement park, concert and show venues, bars, estaurants and all sorts of stalls. There’s a cracking World Blacksmith competition and nightly country-and-western performances, but everyone’s really here to see the rodeo events, including bronco- and bull-riding, branding, steer­wrestling and cow-tackling – fiercely competitive affairs that draw the bravest and most talented cowboys from every corner of the continent. Equally compelling are the enormously dangerous chuck-wagon races, held nightly, with the top four drivers going through to the final on the last night – a fitting and exciting conclusion to the festival.

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