Carnival Weekend Roundup

A guide to all the biggest Caribbean fetes

“Roll It Gal” by Alison Hinds:

For lovers of Caribbean music, Carnival Weekend 2008 is easily the best four-day weekend of the year. Folks representing the entire island chain are already beginning to pour into South Florida to participate in the festivities. There's an almost palpable buzz floating around Broward and Miami-Dade counties as reggae, soca, chutney, and calypso artists of the highest caliber are in town from as far away as Guyana and Trinidad to bring the authentic Carnival feel to our shores.

With so many fetes going on over the next few days, it can be confusing trying to decide which ones are worth attending and where the action will be. Here's a guide to the Carnival parties that are truly worth your hard-earned coin and sweat.

Thursday

Girl Power

With Alison Hinds, Tizzy, Denise Belfon, Zan, Patrice Roberts, Claudette Peters, and more. Mahi Temple, 1480 NW North River Dr., Miami. 10 p.m. $30. Call 954-305-0997, or visit socafestmiami.com.

Here's a party that prides itself on showcasing female talent within soca and reggae. The ladies often get overlooked in those genres, but any true fan knows how vital women are within those industries right now. The ladies in this lineup are party-starters everywhere they go. Trinidad's Denise "Saucy Wow" Belfon may be large and in charge, but she's hilarious to watch on stage. Alison Hinds of Barbados has the most famous hip-roll in all of soca right now, and her hit song "Roll It Gal" made her an international star. Fellas, don't sleep on this party. It's guaranteed to be packed with gorgeous women who want to have a good time, so don't be shy.

Carnival Blastoff

With Sacha, King Sonic, Entyce Band, and the Kaushon Band. Marabou Café, 9940 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. 10 p.m. $10 before midnight, slightly higher afterward. Call 786-200-9605, or visit caribbeancarnival.org.

With so much competition going on between the Miami and Broward carnivals, this party near the county line should satisfy both audiences. Many island nations are represented, including notable performers from Antigua, Dominica, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. With two live bands in the building, the energy should be high. This is a full stage show with pan bands and steel drums for that gritty calypso feel that isn't nearly as transferable to CDs and MP3s.

Friday

International Flag Night

With Machel Montano, Iwer George, Red Hot Flames, Benjai, Problem Child, Avvy, DJ Khaled, and more. Bayside Hut, 3501 Rickenbacker Cswy., Miami. 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. $35. Call 305-361-0808, or visit socavivor.com.

This event is where Caribbean folks let their national pride shine brightest. Flags from every country in the island chain will be on display, stretching from the Bahamas to Guyana, and the music will reflect that as well. If you're curious to find out what artists are making big noise in some of the lesser-traveled islands, like Grenada, St. Lucia, and Dominica, then this is the place to be. No amount of hype could be too big for this event. A note to the wise: This is a 12-hour party, so pace yourself, as red-hot artists are going to be touching two different stages (one indoor, one outdoor) until folks are ready to pass out.

Saturday

University Fete

With Machel Montano, Farmer Nappy, Bunji Garlin, Rikki Jai, Fay Ann Lyons, Patrice Roberts, and more.

Gulfstream Park, 901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach. 4 p.m. to midnight. $75-$125. Call 786-246-5285, or visit uwifete.com.

As far as day parties go, this event is the Super Bowl of Carnival weekend. It's Trini down to the bone, but it's all top-rate talent. Soca superstar Machel Montano headlines the concert, and anywhere Montano performs, the people follow. Soca/dancehall king Bunji Garlin also brings his high-energy set to the stage, and Farmer Nappy will focus more on the roots-rock side of reggae. It's a high-end affair, and the ticket prices reflect that, but you'll party in style all the way.

CoolerFest 2008

With Iwer George, Shurwayne Winchester, Denise Belfon, Berbice, Dil E Nadan, and more. Soho Studios, 2136 NW First Ave., Miami. 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. $35. Call 786-286-6166, or visit socafestmiami.com.

This all-night fete in Miami focuses on the cheaper Caribbean side of life. It's a BYOB affair, hence the title CoolerFest. As far as music goes, the large and lovable Denise Belfon will whine and grine, and three-time soca monarch Iwer George is slated to perform as well. There's also a decidedly Trinidadian feel to this party, as the bulk of the performers are from sweet T&T. Expect plenty of soca and calypso (natch) but also some chutney and bhangra music from Dil E. Nadan to keep the Indian aspect afloat as well.

Sunday

Broward Caribbean Carnival

With Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Shurwayne Winchester and Traffik, Rikki Jai, Kaushun Band, Leon Coldero, and Krosfyah. Central Broward Regional Park, 3700 NW 11th Plc., Lauderhill. Gates open at 9 a.m. $20. Call 800-954-7866, or visit caribbeancarnival.org.

This is the big shebang for Broward's Caribbean community, and the folks behind this county's Carnival don't want to be outdone. They've got the legendary Byron Lee and the Dragonaires kicking things off, alongside a stadium full of marchers ready to party like they're back home in the Caribbean. Roughly 15,000 people are anticipated to attend, so get there early. Expect lots of colorful costumes and marching at this daylong event and plenty of good music as well.

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