Being so close to the Caribbean Sea has made Florida unlike any other state in the Union in almost every facet of life, from the music to the language to the food. The fact that someone in Broward and Palm Beach counties hasn't held a big festival dedicated to everything Caribbean is rather surprising. But if you had such an idea, then scrap it and get back to the drawing board, because the City of Hollywood has beaten you to the punch.
The Caribbean Seafood Festival and International Art Fest runs Saturday and Sunday, featuring a lengthy lineup of Caribbean musicians playing a variety of styles at the Hollywood Beach Theater, food from islands all over the sea in question, and arts-and-crafts vendors hawking their wares. The musicians appearing at the festival do a pretty good job of covering several bases of Caribbean music. The group called Kassav is among the originators of zouk, a Guadeloupean musical genre. Parties in Guadeloupe are called zouks, and as music by groups like Kassav became popular at them, the style was tagged with the same name. Featuring synthesizer manipulations of timbre, zouk also uses horns, melodic guitar, and a large percussion section to create its unique sound.
Other acts, including reggae artist Sanell Dempster and Trinidadian soca performer Ronnie McIntosh, round out the Caribbean lineup. While not a household name, Dempster does deliver a reggae-rap mix that jibes with the hot dance-hall trend. McIntosh, on the other hand, is a well-known guy on the scene, having come out with two solid albums in the last two years: De Thing Now Start 2000 in particular does a nice job of transplanting Carnival to your home stereo.
Oddly, Motown rhythm-and-blues artists the Spinners headline the first day. Their relevance to Caribbean music is debatable at best, but old standards such as "I'll Be Around" and "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" should be welcome if fans of the Motown sound are in attendance. Besides, 2001 is a 40-year milestone for the soul entertainers; the Detroit band was discovered in 1961. And while the band hasn't produced a noteworthy album (aside from a few excellent compilations) since the late 1970s, it nevertheless has made a permanent mark on R&B. The Spinners aren't the only incongruous band at the festival; disco-pop has-been Beckett is also set to perform.