Come To De Islands Mon!

Come To De Islands Mon!

Courtesy of USVI Tourism

The U.S. Virgin Islands is a paradise with so much more to offer than the traditional beach vacation. Visitors wishing to immerse themselves in a profound cultural experience can enjoy historical tours, culinary encounters, artisan fairs, parades, storytelling and other special presentations.

Walking tours on St. Thomas and St. Croix feature the diverse architecture, evidence of nations that colonized the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you’re feeling energetic, walk one of the many street steps, the most famous being the 99 steps on St. Thomas, or hike one of the many trails on St. John, this is a common way of getting to higher ground.

Your cultural journey continues with a look at the life and creations of artisans and crafters who earned a living creating functional and decorative pieces. Restored greathouses now serving as museums, like Haagenson House on St. Thomas and Whim Museum on St. Croix, preserve this past, displaying masterfully created mahogany pieces, delicate linens and original art. Local craft cooperatives, art galleries and artist colonies present the works of today’s tradition-bearers. Annaberg Plantation ruins in St. John’s National Park offers daily cultural demonstrations, including cooking the old-fashioned way – on a coal pot over an open flame.

The Unique Sounds of the Islands

In 2003, the Legislature passed a bill proclaiming “Quelbe, the vocal and instrumental style of the Virgin Islands’ folk music which traces its ancestry to Africa and Europe. Quelbe is a fusion of bamboula rhythms and chants, cariso songs and melodies, and the official traditional music of the Virgin Islands.”

Historically speaking, the scratch band sound that is Quelbe was created by slaves, self-taught musicians who made their own instruments and who lived and worked on sugar plantations. Since strict Danish laws forbade drum beating and dancing, slaves incorporated European sounds and dance steps into their practices. The newly created rhythmic styles produced “persuasion bands” that used homemade bamboo flutes, bass drums, steel triangles and squash (a dried gourd, grooved and scraped with a wire prong) to produce the sound. As they evolved musically and instrumentally, a new kind of music was born. Instruments changed through the years, including the addition of a guitar, tambourine, the “pipe” (an old tail pipe) which replaced the bass drum and the ukulele. The music offers commentary on such things as current events, cheating spouses and rum smuggling in ladies pantaloons. Modern-day Quelbe or scratch bands have an additional instrument or two and enjoy more popularity today.

ST CROIX, USVI

Since African dance was also prohibited by plantation owners, slaves copied and adopted the Europeans’ quadrilles, lancers, jigs, mazurkas, schottisches and other dances, giving them their own interpretation. The popular French quadrille was loved because of its hip swaying and rhythmic steps. Today’s dancers wear madras costumes and handmade head ties. Groups like the St. Croix Heritage Dancers, who dance the French form of quadrille, perform with local Quelbe bands at special events and dances.

The Department of Tourism looks forward to welcoming you to the U.S. Virgin Islands! Our recovery from last year’s storms has been very strong. Power has been restored, beaches and attractions have reopened, restaurants are serving up extraordinary dishes, and the USVI spirit is as warm and inviting as ever. Airlines and cruise lines have returned to our shores, and many hotels, bed and breakfasts and condominiums are available to overnight visitors even as our rebuilding work continues. The USVI yachting industry is unrivaled, and we have wonderful villas to accommodate groups large and small. More hotels will open near the end of 2018, and we are confident we will have an even better tourism product. Please contact your airline, accommodations provider and/or travel advisor for specific updates before you travel. The best way to continue to help the Territory is to visit us! Also, please visit usviupdate.com for more details. #USVIStillNice

Publishers Note: We here at the Old Town Crier recommend that you consider securing your lodging at the gorgeous Cliffhanger Villa on St. Thomas and the popular Hillcrest Guest House on St. John. We have had the pleasure of staying at Cliffhanger and it is a fabulous place owned by local Alexandrian Larry Hirsh. We look forward to staying at Hillcrest on our next trek to St. John. See their ads in this section or contact us for more information at office@oldtowncrier.com.

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