Best for soul sensations: Barbados

Despite what resorts in Barbados would have you think, steel drums, or more mystifyingly, steel drums played over Eighties and Nineties soft-rock muzak, are not the most popular music on the island. That honour, it seems, goes to R'n'B and soul. It rolls out of my taxi from Grantley Adams Airport and there's no let-up at the Fisherman bar in ramshackle Speightstown, where the tuneless trill of Ne-Yo accompanies my flying fish and cou cou – a sort-of fruit version of mashed potato – doused with the local Banks beer and rum.

I'd come for what is nominally called the Barbados Jazz Festival, a small but well-formed rival to St Lucia's own celebration of the genre, the largest event of its kind in the Caribbean. "It used to be more jazz when it started," the waitress at the Fisherman tells me. "Now it's all R'n'B." She was, at least, hoping to see a performance by Babyface, the US soul crooner.

I was looking forward to escaping the frozen wastes of Britain – a week-long music festival in Barbados in January sounded like a good way to do it. But as a pale-skinned, freckle-faced Irishman, extended stays in the sun don't work out well for me. I spend more time hiding in the shade and applying sun-cream than basking in the sunshine; sunbathing is pointless. I find little consolation in the evening as there isn't much to do – decent culture in sun resorts is thin on the ground. Usually my holidays are spent loafing around warm cities where there are amenities beyond sunbathing. A jazz festival in idyllic surroundings could offer the best of every world.

By the fourth night, I've set aside my quibbles. Soul singer Lalah Hathaway, daughter of Donny, is performing in the gardens of Ilaro Court, the official residence of Barbados's Prime Minister. It gets dark very early on the

island and the gardens are lit up; the mansion sits glowing up on a hill to the right of the stage. Hathaway puts in a spirited two-hour performance and the crowd, made up largely of Bajans, is warmly appreciative. It's admirable that, given how dependent the island is on tourism, the festival caters as much for locals as it does for more moneyed outsiders (my musical questioning be damned).

The final two days of the festival take place in another impressive setting, high up in the Farley Hill National Park in the north end of Barbados. Beyond Farley Hill, it's worth trekking even further up the island to the North Point, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes against stunning cliffs. Perhaps then travel down along the east side of Barbados: this coast is less of a tourist destination than the west because of the rough Atlantic Ocean. Apparently it's not as alluring as the white sands caressing the Caribbean Sea on the west, but the rolling hills with small houses dotted along are a fine site and the beach still appeared pretty nice to me. In many ways this less developed side holds greater attraction than the more popular west coast, with its array of fancy resorts. However, the tranquil Caribbean Sea and that gleaming sand have an inescapable pull.

I'm staying for the week at the Colony Club, a fine beachside hotel on the west coast, where the draw of the sea helps me forget my aversion to "sun holidays". There is a free water taxi – a fine way to see some of the island – to the hotel's four sister resorts of the Elegant Hotel Group. As I wait for the boat at the watersports stand of the Crystal Cove Hotel, I speak to an elderly Bajan man who runs the stand. "I realised this was paradise in 1979," he says, "That was when I lived in Canada." As I glide over the beautiful water of the "Platinum Coast", the sun beating down and the boat's canopy shading my precious skin, it's hard to argue with him. Sorry, Canada.

Festival fun

# Nine concerts in nine legendary spots where J S Bach lived and worked. Hear his music in the German venues he frequented or performed, such as the Church of St George in Bach's natal town of Eisenach. Seven days in June from £2,510pp. See martinrandall.com

# Celebrate Chopin, whose bicentenary festivities are at their grandest in his native Poland. The world's leading pianists will play in Warsaw at a series of concerts in February and in the Chopin & His Europe Festival, in August. Kirker ( kirkerholidays.com ) offers six-night tours from £1,766 pp.

# It's a full week of partying, so not for the faint-hearted, but the Sziget Festival (12-17 August) is putting Budapest on the dance- music map. The Danube River has rarely looked so lively, with prices that undercut Ibiza several times over, a starry line-up of DJs and a truly underground atmosphere. See sziget.hu .

# France's best rock/pop festival, Eurockeennes with be held from 3 to 5 July in the town of Malsaucy, near the Swiss border. At €85 for three days, tickets are comparatively cheap for a mega-festival which features Kanye West, the Ting Tings and death-metal veterans Slipknot. See eurockeennes.fr

# Haven't yet got it together for the imminent carnival season? Then try St Lucia's Carnival, which has, for the last decade, taken place in July. The party was moved back a few months to avoid clashing with the Trinidad and Tobago carnival in February but has now come into its own as a soca and calypso cultural event. See stlucia.org

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit