By Bob Schulman, Photos courtesy of the Tobago House of Assembly Division of Tourism.
Memo to music fans heading to the island of Tobago for the upcoming jazz fest there: Leave some room in your closet for a bunch of new “I (heart)” tee-shirts proclaiming your affection for spots like Speyside, Signal Hill, Scarborough, Castara and Pigeon Point Heritage Park.
Those five communities will be venues for the annual festival, called the Tobago Jazz Experience. Featuring “an electrifying fusion of home-grown entertainers and international superstars,” this year’s event is set for April 18-26 on Trinidad’s little brother in the southern Caribbean.
Among headliners will be Grammy® Award winners Jennifer Hudson, Jill scott and Kool and the Gang.
According to the Tobago House of Assembly Division of Tourism, the jazz event “offers visitors a chance to discover and explore an authentic Caribbean island while enjoying sensational performances. With its cove-filled coastlines, renowned diving sites and diverse gastronomy, visitors to (Tobago) are in for a treat with the vast number of activities and adventures the island has to offer.”
Besides cool music, the event’s five venues will offer visitors a chance to sample a number of local treats such as dirt-oven bread native to the village of Castara; the charm of Scarborough, Tobago’s capital and its largest city, nestled under the ancient guns of Fort King George; the fabulous coral reefs of Speyside; and the powdery beaches and iconic thatched-roof jetty of Pigeon Point Heritage Park.
Jazz fans planning to attend this year’s festival are encouraged to book early as the island’s hotels, guest houses and bed-and-breakfast properties typically fill up for the event.
Another memo to visitors: If the local folks talk about “mermen,” you didn’t hear wrong. In Tobagonian lore, mermen (half men, half fish) are handsome warriors who live in the sea. They’re said to have the power to grant wishes and bestow wealth. And who do they mate with? You guessed it, fair maidens – called “fairy maids” – of the waters.
Also, you might hear all kinds of tales about “Gang Gang Sara.” A popular version of the legend has it she was blown to Tobago from her home in Africa on a stormy night in the 1700s. On the island, she found her husband Long Tom, who with the rest of her family had been captured in Africa and sent as slaves to the Caribbean. Many years later, after Tom died, Sara tried to fly back to her original home in Africa – but found she’d lost the art of flight as a result of eating salt on Tobago (a big no-no for flyers).
After she died, she was buried on Tobago next to her beloved Tom. Their headstones are still there, side by side.
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