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“GENERATIONS ago,” says the 30th edition of Fodor’s Bahamas, “many Bahamians didn’t have the money to buy instruments, so they made music using whatever was at hand.” That was the origin of Rake ’n’ Scrape music, said to have been born on Cat Island, one of the Bahamas’ remote southern Out Islands, and still the best place to hear it.
“An authentic Rake ’n’ Scrape band uses recycled objects to make music,” the guidebook explains: a saw, a piece of wood, some fisherman’s line, a tin washtub, plastic bottles filled with pigeon peas, plus a goatskin drum. Today’s bands may add a concertina, guitar or saxophone. “There’s something about Rake ’n’ Scrape music that makes you want to dance,” says the guidebook; “even the most rhythmically challenged will be hard-pressed to stand still.”
Each June, Cat Island hosts the four-day Rake ’n’ Scrape Festival in Arthur’s Town. (In 2016, 2-5 June.) “Dozens of bands from all over the Bahamas and the Caribbean” play at it, and up to 3,000 people attend, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but the island’s population is only 1,500 and the guidebook warns that, “accommodation is hard to find if you book late.”
To hear Rake ’n’ Scrape music at other times of the year the guidebook mentions Da Smoke Pot in Arthur’s Town and Regatta Beach Fish Fry in New Bight (both offering “an authentic Bahamian experience”) as places with regular shows.
Cat Island, by the way, wasn’t named for cats but for the pirate Arthur Catt, a frequent visitor and contemporary of the better-known Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. The island is also where Hollywood actor Sidney Poitier grew up, and lays claim to the highest spot in the Bahamas, Mount Alvernia (63 metres), with a tiny stone abbey at its top.
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