The Commonwealth of Dominica, an eastern Caribbean island nation, stages the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) annually in its main town, Roseau. This year marks the festival’s 16th time it will showcase Dominica, other Creole nations, and indigenous music to tourists from all over the world. Over the years, the festival has grown in size and stature, attracting world renowned artists from musical genres like Zouk, Cadence-lypso, Haitian Compas, Soca, Zydeco and Bouyon, and fusion forms like reggae, which were all created from Creole music.
Vision of the festival
When the Dominica Festivals Commission first introduced the festival, its vision was that the WCMF would be one of the biggest and best cultural festivals in the Caribbean. That recognition has been achieved, with critics and fans acknowledging that it is one of the few great festivals to celebrate true indigenous Creole music and culture. The growing number of festival patrons every year has encouraged the nation to expand its vision to promote the island in an even bigger way. In addition to the main music festival, other events, like “Creole in the Park” and “Zouk on the River”, were added recently to encourage local small businesses and corporate sponsors to get involved so that the growth of the festival can be sustained. These events are billed as family friendly and give locals and tourists a chance to indulge in local cuisine and experience an additional local music line up. Since the festival ushers in Independence Day celebrations, there is a perfect synergy among all facets of the country’s heritage.
The History of the Festival
The Dominica Festivals Commission launched the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) in 1997 as a way to promote tourism and help increase visibility of Creole music, its sub-genres, and the region’s musicians. Since then, the festival has drawn diverse acts from Africa, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and US and European Creole Diaspora. Dominicans embrace the joyful atmosphere of the festival and celebrate their island’s rich cultural heritage every year.
Well known artists who have performed at the WCMF include the Dominican creators of Cadence-lypso, Exile One, the French West Indian Zouk band, Kassav, and several Haitian bands, like T-Vice, Magnum Band and Tabou Combo. Several African artists, like Diblo Dibala, Machacha and Sakis, and Soka artists, like Bunji Garlin and Machel Montano, have also performed here. Famous reggae names include Shaggy, The Wailers, Sean Paul and Wyclef Jean.
Contribution to Society
The WCMF is greatly significant to Dominica’s economy, particularly its tourism sector. Over the years, hotel occupancy has gone up and restaurants, shops and transportation operators have seen an increase in business. The increase in consumer spending during the festival is believed to be almost ten times the amount spent to hold the event.
This Year’s Line-up
Shortly after he performed at the 2011 festival, famous Dominican Cadence-lypso star, Jeff Joseph passed away. The 2012 festival is being held in honor of him and will take place over “Three Nights of Pulsating Rhythms”.
The headliners for the festival are:
- Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, son of Bob Marley, is a Grammy winning reggae artist and the best known current musician in the Caribbean. His charismatic presence and delivery of roots-rock reggae style of music makes his appearance highly anticipated.
- Ophelia Marie is Dominica’s “Lady of Song” and “First Lady of Creole” and has made a name for herself in all Francophone countries. She has won numerous international awards, including the Maracas d’Or Award, a Lifetime Award and Dominica’s Sisserou Award of Honour. Her career in music started when she was a young girl and later became a symbol of Cadence-lypso, while singing about women’s issues at a time when it was unheard of in the region.
- One of Creole’s most talented stars, Michele Henderson of Dominica has played at the WCMF twice before. She sings in French, English and Creole, plays the flute, and tries her hand at R&B, Retro Soul, Jazz, Reggae and Zouk.
- Making their WCMF debuts are Dominica’s newest stars, Asa Banton and Fanatik. The former is popular for his own hits as well as covers, while the latter is known for being a versatile band. Fanatik will play back up for three veteran artists, Derek ‘Rah’ Peters, Fredo and Antigua’s Onyan.
- Zouk performers, Tanya St. Val, Zouk Machine and Luc Leandre.
- Haitian Compas performers, T-vice, Kreyola and Disip Gazzman.
- Soca musicians from Barbados, Krosfyah and Edwin Yearwood.
- Crowd favorites and one of the earliest Cadence-lypso artists, Chubby and the Midnight Groovers.
In addition to the above headliners, there will be many more up-and-coming artists from all corners of the Creole world, as patrons of the festival join in on the celebrations.