We’re having a great time! The weather is beautiful and everywhere around us young people are barbecuing in front of their little wooden houses. Some of them have big speaker boxes in their cars playing loud reggaeton music which gives us a true holiday feeling.
This article is part of the BoB report series in which we conduct interviews and report about cultural events and local experiences.
Even though it’s only afternoon, people are already busy dancing and flirting. We pass by a group of young men. ‘He dushi, how are you?’ one of them asks. While we continue our way, I feel the eyes behind me are still staring at me.
No Johnnycake, Vis Crioyo and Pan Bati tonight. With us we carry two large bags of Chinese take-away food and not much later we’re having a feast in the sun. With a few bottles of liquor, soda and a cooling box the men create their own open bar. We start to get into party-mood!
While the men are getting more ice, the girls put on their make-up and get into their most beautiful dresses and skirts. And, after a few more cheers, we’re ready to join the big colorful crowd which is moving towards big tents full of cheerful music.
Unfortunately, we just missed the performance of the popular Aruban band B.M.W., but we are in time for Kassav’, the world famous Zouk legends from Guadeloupe and Martinique. With their rhythm and seemingly endless energy Kassav’ blows the audience away. Every hit fires the crowd more and more up and everyone is dancing: to the left, to the right, and down!
The atmosphere in the tents is unique and not easy to describe. It is friendly, free and happy. Easy-going. It’s a certain way of moving. Everywhere there are people talking, laughing and dancing. It feels like everyone knows each other. Like we’re all old friends. Is this what they call an island vibe?
“Every year I come here with my family” tells an old man from the Netherlands Antilles. “It my favorite time of the year”. Outside the tent we also meet people from Cuba, Jamaica and Venezuela. Some of them are wearing their national flag. Such a mixed and international crowd. Later, I even have a a small interview with a radio station: I’m the first Asian they encounter on the party.
After a short rest with a midnight snack and a few salsa moves, it is time for more dancing and sweating! We move on to the sizzling beats of soca-queen Fay-Ann Lyons from Trinidad. A gorgeous lady with a fantastic voice! It’s impossible not to move and the audience goes wild!
In the mean time it’s almost morning, and while the men continue partying I walk back home with the other girls. The moment I touch my bed I fall in a deep sleep.
The next morning we clean up our house, pack our bags and take the train back to Rotterdam…
For one moment I felt like I was the Caribbean and I had forgotten I was just in the meadows of the peaceful Belgium village Hoogstraten. What an unforgettable experience and a fantastic festival!
‘Antilliaanse Feesten 2014’: Danki!
About the ‘Antilliaanse Feesten’:
The ‘Antilliaanse Feesten’ is the largest Caribbean festival in the world. This 3-day festival is annually kept in Hoogstraten (Belgium), a village nearby the Dutch border. You can visit the festival for a day, but of course it’s more fun to go 3 days! The festival organization is excellent (no lines), with fine camping facilities and many (many!) delicious food stalls. Each year the organization brings the best of Caribbean music to Belgium. A few big names who have performed on the festival in previous years are Marc Anthony, Daddy Yankee and Aventura. It’s thé festival for those who love to dance and for those who want to feel like they are the Caribbean!
Antilliaanse Feesten 2015 will take place on august 7th and august 8th!
Thanks to the organization of the Antilliaanse Feesten for their permission to use some of the photographs in this article. The featured image is also by Bram Paulussen.