The islands of the Bahamas lure vacationers with palm-tree lined sands, top resorts and bountiful reefs teeming with rainbow colored fish. You can also explore aspects of the rich Bahamian culture in Nassau’s art museum and listen to indigenous music on the out islands.
The Bahamas consists of 700 plus islands and 2,000 cays in the Atlantic Ocean. Like the Caribbean islands, the Bahamas have been fought over, exploited and developed by a succession of European colonial and imperial powers. Each ruling nation has added its own distinct traditions to the local culture. The result: a vibrant mix of art, cuisine and music.
Rake n’ scrape is a musical genre that Bahamians claim to have created. The beat driven sound has as its base the goat skin drum and the African rhythms that the slaves held in their hearts despite oceans and decades divorced from their homelands.
The slaves were brought to the Bahamas in the 1770s by plantation owners who, loyal to the British, fled the American Revolution. To the basic drum, over the years, islanders added the utilitarian “instruments” of plain people –-a stick struck against a washboard to create chords, a saw scraped with a knife, and eventually a guitar.
It’s more likely that you will hear rake n’ scrape songs on the laid-back, little populated out islands than in Nassau. In Great Exuma, for example, you can hear the music at some local pubs while you down a pint and dine on conch fritters.
Rake n’ scrape is hard to find in sophisticated Nassau, whose rhythms run to the ka-ching of slot machines and the crack of dice on the casinos’ gaming tables. Urbane, crowded and mega-developed, the Nassau area, especially Paradise Island still has soft, sugary sands and turquoise waters.
On a hillside just a few blocks from the bustle of Nassau’s Bay Street, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, a cultural gem, portrays the evolution of island art from its beginnings in 17th century colonial portraits through mid-twentieth century images of palm trees and marketplaces to diverse contemporary works that frequently feature social conflicts. In the museum and in local galleries, look for works by such noted Bahamian artists as Stanley Burnside.
Two great places to stay on Paradise Island in the Nassau area: Atlantis Resort and the One and Only Ocean Club. Atlantis is a 2,000-plus room mega-resort with a huge water park, many pools and one of the world’s largest outdoor marine aquariums hosting 50,000 critters. The resort has a large casino as well as a children’s program for ages 3-12 and a teen club. In summer on selected days the resort hosts Fantasy Camps for kids and teens. These include a Lego learn-to-build class for ages 6-12 as well as a stand-up comedy camp for ages 11-14 and a marine adventure camp for ages 6-12.
If you want all the features of Atlantis without its bustle, then stay at the One & Only Ocean Club. The luxury resort offers spacious rooms and butler service.