The Sweet Music Of Curacao: The Caribbean's Newest Jazz HotspotThe Sweet Music Of Curacao: The Caribbean's Newest Jazz Hotspot

How the largest of the ABC islands emerged from musical obscurity

For jazz aficionados, the Caribbean has long been a popular tourist destination, as its entrenchment in the history of the music genre draws visitors from several countries each year. But what's the latest hotspot for jazz lovers looking for a tropical getaway? Look no further than Curacao.

Though in the past jazz festivals in Aruba, Jamaica and St. Lucia were popular tourist draws, Curacao is quickly becoming a leading hub for the international jazz music scene. The past year has been instrumental in boosting Curacao's jazz (and general travel) status, culminating with the island's first-ever hosting of the North Sea Jazz Festival earlier this month.

Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival

The original North Sea Jazz Festival is a product of the Netherlands, which has played host country to the internationally recognized event every July since 1976. The largest indoor jazz festival in the world, the JazzTimes described the legendary and luminous event as a place where "the past, present and future of jazz music has appeared to audiences in the tens of thousands annually." Notable artists who have played at the festival since its inception include Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King and Alicia Keys.

In September of 2009, it was announced that the legendary festival would extend its footprint to Curacao, as the island would host the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival the following year. A three-year contract was signed between the concert organizers and the Curacao Tourism Board in hopes that the annual festival would simultaneously boost tourism, the local economy and jazz culture on the island.

The first Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival took place on September 3 and 4, 2010, in the World Trade Center in Pescadera Bay. The festival was headlined by international music superstars George Benson, Natalie Cole, and Lionel Richie, and also included performances from acts including Dominican pianist Michel Camilo, Grammy award-winning musician John Legend, and South American artists La India and Sergio Mendes.

To date, the inaugural event has received rave reviews, drew over 17,000 visitors and looks poised to help boost Curacao's profile in the international jazz and general travel community in the coming years.

Curacao's jazz scene

The North Sea Festival aside, jazz music is a rich piece of Curacao's local culture. The island is home to countless jazz celebrations, clubs and musicians, many famous for their authenticity and Curacaon roots. Grammy award-winning musician Pernell Saturino, a percussionist who studied at Berklee and has played alongside the likes of Danilo Perez, is among the famous musicians rooted in jazz that hail from Curacao.

Tourists seeking a truly Curacaon jazz experience should visit the island in late spring for the Curacao Jazz Festival. The festival is put on annually at the end of May by the Curacao Jazz Foundation, a non-profit group that has organized the event since it was first held in 1988. The festival draws visitors from both local and international circles, and is held at an old plantation house and current restaurant, Brakkeput Mei Mei.

For those jazz enthusiasts looking for a night on the town, locals and tourists alike recommend stopping in at Ole Ole Jazz Club on Willemstad which has been noted by many travel guides to be among the best jazz clubs in the Caribbean. The Blues Jazz Bar and Restaurant is another noted jazz establishment, known for its smooth jazz and local acts touring through on the weekends.
by Erin Keaveney
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Erin Keaveney writes articles about Curacao travel for the Marriott Resorts.
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