Festival Terre de Blues returns to the tranquil Caribbean island Marie-Galante, May 25 – 28. Blues in the music, skies and sea make the island, just off the coast of Guadeloupe a destination for both music lovers and travelers who enjoy getting off the beaten track.
The grounds of Chateau Murat, an 18th century sugar plantation, now a park, is the site that will host this year’s artists: David Murray’s Blues Heritage Orchestra, Richie Spice (Jamaica), Lura (Cape Verde), Alpha Blondy (Cote d’Ivoire), Triple Kay (Dominica), Albita (Cuba), Kwaxicolor (Martinique), Traditional Guadeloupe Lewoz, Christian Laviso, FM Laeti and others.
Sugar cane plays a prominent role in the history of Marie-Galante, called the island of a hundred windmills at one time. Today, for the most part, untouched by tourism development, it offers much to visitors who are interested in that history. Many argue the rum made here is the best in Guadeloupe or the pink sand beaches that ring the island.
Terre de Blues, the name suggests roots music, and implicitly acknowledges the African slaves who labored in the sugar plantation and left a rich musical legacy. Friday will be an evening of Lewoz, the Guadeloupe music that is a direct descendant of these roots. Passions rising and falling with the collective rhythm of the drums and the swirl of the dancers’ skirts, it brings listeners into the rural village an unforgettable experience for those who have not experienced it.
Lura opens Saturday’s show with a set of batuku, funana, coladeira, and morna, the folk rhythms of the Cape Verdean islands, When Lura walks into the spotlight she embodies the beauty, strength and vulnerability of the small chain of islands in the Atlantic. She delivers these local songs with a succinct directness of a country girl when she does a Batuku, such as “Rabolta Ruben Manuel.” The music came about as a way for women to sing and dance during the colonial period when drumming was banned. She sits and pounds out the rhythm on a tightly rolled tchabeta (loincloth) just as women did in a circle while pounding laundry.
We jump to the contemporary era when FM Laeti takes the stage. Born into a musical family, the Guadeloupe native has also lived in Europe, Canada, and the USA. Her distills her global experiences into a powerfully simple soulful approach as expressed on “Rise in the Sun” and “Out of My Hands” from her sparkling debut album “It Will Come Around,” released in October. As a soul singer on the rise, she makes a triumphant return to her Caribbean roots.
Richie Spice headlines the evening featuring music from “Book of Job” his 2011 release. The title signifies his commitment to Rastafarian values and roots reggae culture. The album is an expression of these beliefs delivered in the mellow easy listening style for which he is known.
Jazz to Blues to Reggae is the musical journey, Sunday, beginning with a robust set of Kreyol Jazz from Guadeloupean jazz guitarist Christian Laviso. Christian will be joined by saxophonist David Murray. Murray returns to Guadeloupe, he has also performed there with the Gwo Ka masters, follows with his latest project the Heritage Blues Orchestra, a twelve piece ensemble playing traditional and original blues, featuring James “Blood” Ulmer on guitar. Capping the show will be a set of high energy hard hitting Ivorian Reggae from Alpha Blondy. Blondy whose 30 year career speaking out on issues of injustice carries forward Bob Marley’s enormous influence on the African continent.
Monday, begins with Albita, the Grammy-winning Cuban vocalist, followed by Martiniquan Zouk artists Kwaxicolor and Dominica’s Triple Kay.
Triple Kay explodes onstage with a heavy metal attack and revolving trio of vocalists that keep the energy high, driving the tempo is a complex keyboard generated bouyon rhythms that evolved from Cadence Lypso. Kwaxicolor unites members of two of greatest Zouk bands Kwak and Taxi Creole into a supergroup that features a front line of five vocalists and backing musicians, Albita the renowned vocalist has credits include a role Broadway’s Mambo Kings, eight albums and appearances worldwide.
Accommodations, hotels, homes or room rentals are updated daily in English or French on the Marie-Galante tourism website www.ot.mariegalante.com
Ferry service to Marie-Galante leaves from Pointe-å-Pitre, Air Caraibes also flies there. Guadeloupe is also served by L’Express des Iles from Dominica.