It’s just before sunset and the beach at La Cabane in Barbados is packed. The DJ, Soul Clap, is spinning a mix of funk, house, and disco while three beautiful women and one guy dance on top of a makeshift stage. My friends and I were all invited to dance up there, but I don’t think any of us would dare. We’re so awestruck by the dancers — their moves, their curves, their outfits (sequined one-piece sarongs over tiny panties and overstated gold jewelry) — that it’s far too intimidating. I’d felt underdressed earlier in the day, but now I think maybe I’m simply wearing too many clothes.
The energy of the dancers and the crowd inspire me. There’s no sitting around and people watching at the Vujaday Music Festival. The event demands active participation in every sense of the word, which is maybe why only a few hours later, my body is covered in lighter fluid and I’ve become a part of a fire dancer’s performance piece. By the time the music dies down, I wash off with a swim under the moonlight — a perfect introduction to Vujaday Music Festival.
Destination music festivals are playing a huge role in the Caribbean these days. In the last year alone, I was invited to go to St. Martin, Jamaica, Tulum, and Barbados for highly curated, inclusive, and culturally immersive music experiences. Still, Vujaday is unique. Apart from being set on Barbados, one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean, they take music curation very seriously. Forget about mainstream electronic stuff, the lineup, which is spread across five venues, is aimed at a specific type of attendee – one madly in love with deep house and techno. And with its small number of attendees, personal touches, and a more balanced mix of travelers and locals than most fests I’ve been to, Vujaday feels way more like one big house party than another sprawling destination festival.
Just like at any good house party, truly anything goes. If you’re thinking of freeing your own inhibitions and joining in on the fun, here’s my guide to getting the most out of this high-energy festival.
Barbados, The Welcoming Host
Barbados is an easy flight from most major U.S. and Canadian cities (as well as many mainland European hubs). Los Angeles is probably one of the longer travel days to the Caribbean from the United States, but if you take an overnight flight, as I did, it’s not too rough. I not only got there on time, but I was early. Upon your arrival, Vujaday takes over and makes the whole process incredibly smooth — it’s the anti-Fyre Fest. Upon landing, I was out of the airport in less than 15 minutes, wristband on, and in a car headed to my lodging.
One thing I loved about this festival is how every local Bajan (or Barbadian) I met was also pumped about Vujaday being there and excited about the chance to party. That’s not always the case with festivals. Many are less respectful of local culture. I once witnessed a protest mid-festival in St. Martin because people were so upset about the way venues were managed and rented out. From what I saw, Vujaday seemed to inspire respectful visitors and travel practices. It doesn’t hurt that it’s capped at 2000 attendees to minimize any negative impact on local life.
The festival also felt inclusive, like this was an event we were all sharing together — watching some of the best DJs in the world in an intimate setting, rather than forcing the festival and hordes of partiers onto an island that did want to play host.