Discover Bahamian Art and Music
By Candyce H. Stapen
The islands of the Bahamas—700 of them-- bloom with some of world’s loveliest sands. But the real jewel of your Bahamian vacation may be something you didn’t expect: sampling some of the local culture.
In the Bahamas, listen for Rake n’ Scrape, a musical genre Bahamians lay 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 loyal to the British who fled the American Revolution. To the drum, over the years, the 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.
The songs can still be heard on the laid-back, little populated out islands. On Great Exuma—too far for a cruise daytrip, but definitely worth a visit—you can hear the soul tapping sounds while you down a pint and dine on conch fritters at a local bar.
The Four Seasons Great Exuma at Emerald Bay offers upscale lodging, good food and a children’s program. Ask the concierge about where to go to listen to locals playing Rake n’ Scrape.
In sophisticated Nassau, Rake n’ Scrape is hard to find. Nassau’s rhythms tend to 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.
Nassau has a cultural gem as well. On a hillside just a few blocks from the bustle of Nassau’s Bay Street the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas 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.
After touring the museum, we like to visit local artists in their studios. On a visit with Stanley Burnside, a legend in the Bahamas’ art world, he tells us how a nightmare about slavery served as his inspiration for “Whispers and Screams, ” a canvas of ghostly faces appearing against a background of fiery colors. Burnside’s work, is exhibited in many galleries as well as in the collection of the National Gallery.
For an over-the-top resort, stay at the Atlantis Resort, a mega-property with a large outdoor aquarium, wall-size tanks of fish indoors, a snorkeling lagoon, a waterpark, a casino as well as lots of shops and restaurants.