18th Aug 2012 3:29pm | By Carol Driver
“It’s the rum that invented rum,” the barman shouts over the music, handing me a drink with a wide, cheesy grin.
I turn, and almost walk into a girl standing in front of me, her arse shaking hypnotically in time with the song – no mean feat considering the club we’re in is blaring out Caribbean soca tunes at 120bpm.
Everywhere I look, there are gyrating couples; the small venue is heaving with glistening bodies, the intense humidity making everything just a little bit sticky.
Crowds of dressed-to-the-nines locals are kicking around outside waiting to get in for a piece of the action. It’s Friday night, and, in Bridgetown, this is the place to be. There’s an almighty cheer from inside the bar as the DJ slaps on a Rihanna song.
We Found Love blasts from the speakers, and beautiful Bajan women with too-perfect hair and ample booties begin ‘wukking up’ – writhing their behinds in the shapes of ‘0’s and ‘8’s – losing themselves in the beat, as tall, incredibly handsome, impeccably dressed guys dance behind them protectively.
Everyone’s here to party – and hearing the sound of their girl-next-door-done-good (Rihanna grew up in Bridgetown) sends the crowd into a frenzy.
(Although, mention the name “Chris Brown” to anyone, and it’s as though you’ve just insulted their mother – the rapper is not welcome to set foot in Barbados.)
Drink in hand, I make my way around the tightly packed venue, which by day is the Mount Gay Rum Visitors Center, near the stunning Brighton Beach.
I can spot my group easily, not least because the men fail to display the same suave dance skills as their Bajan counterparts, their alcohol-fuelled moves instead looking awkward and clumsy as they enthusiastically attempt, but fail miserably, to master the same sense of rhythm.
“Let’s go,” Fred, our friendly Barbadian guide, shouts at us, probably out of embarrassment at the dad-dancing going on beside him. “Where to?” I ask. “It’s time I introduced you all to the rum shops,” he replies.
‘You’re not supposed to get sloshed’
The day before, our minibus whizzes through Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados on the south-west of the island. Fred – who knows everything there is to know about the city – points out the influence of the British.
It’s everywhere, from the layout of the streets and the colonial-style architecture, to the road names (Tudor Street, Trafalgar Square) and the fact cars drive on the left.
Brightly coloured traditional chattel houses in every shade of blue, yellow, pink and red blur past, before we stop at Kensington Oval. Unfortunately, the West Indies are away, playing against England at Lord’s in London.
“People come to Bridgetown just to come and stand here,” Fred explains earnestly, as we stare at the empty venue. “Soak up the atmosphere. Cricket means so much to so many people here. And this stadium has seen some superb games.”
We’re soon on our way up the west side of the 21-mile-long island, along a coast dotted with luxury villas and resorts.
Boasting postcard-pretty beaches, pristine sand and turquoise water, this is where the rich and famous come to play, and where Rihanna’s family moved after she hit the big time.