Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Jazz and Blues to ‘Bring Back the Magic’ in 2021 - Virtual festival tipped as ‘an experience’

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2020 | 12:14 AMYasmine Peru - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Andrea and Peter Cowan are mesmerised by Billy Ocean’s incredible talent in this 2008 file photograph.
Andrea and Peter Cowan are mesmerised by Billy Ocean’s incredible talent in this 2008 file photograph.
The 2008 staging of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival was quite the event. The audience was glued to the performance of Anita Baker.
The 2008 staging of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival was quite the event. The audience was glued to the performance of Anita Baker.

Jamaica Jazz and Blues licensees, Adrian Allen of Steady Image Media Group, and marketer and event producer, Marcia McDonnough (inset), of Touchstone Productions.
Jamaica Jazz and Blues licensees, Adrian Allen of Steady Image Media Group, and marketer and event producer, Marcia McDonnough (inset), of Touchstone Productions.

R&B singer Joe was a crowd- pleaser on the second night of Jamaica Jazz and Blues in 2014. The line-up that year included Chrisette Michele, Protoje and Toni Braxton.At right: Billy Ocean gives a sterling performance at the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Fest
R&B singer Joe was a crowd- pleaser on the second night of Jamaica Jazz and Blues in 2014. The line-up that year included Chrisette Michele, Protoje and Toni Braxton.At right: Billy Ocean gives a sterling performance at the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, taking the coveted title of ‘show stealer’ in 2008.
Billy Ocean gives a sterling performance at the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, taking the coveted titled of ‘show stealer’ in 2008.
Billy Ocean gives a sterling performance at the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, taking the coveted titled of ‘show stealer’ in 2008.
The late Kenny Rogers had patrons eating out of his hands with songs such as ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’, ‘Lady’, ‘Lucille’, ‘She Believes in Me’ and ‘The Gambler’ in 2007.
The late Kenny Rogers had patrons eating out of his hands with songs such as ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’, ‘Lady’, ‘Lucille’, ‘She Believes in Me’ and ‘The Gambler’ in 2007.
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With less than two months to go before a virtual event which will be spread over three nights, and which will have much interaction and engagement with prospective patrons and brands in the run-up, the organisers of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival are focused on the theme of the event, ‘Bring Back the Magic’.

The licensees, Adrian Allen of Steady Image Media Group, and marketer and event producer, Marcia McDonnough of Touchstone Productions, are promising to deliver just what the Jamaican Jazz and Blues Festival is known for – an experience.

“The festival has always been waiting on the right time to come back,” Allen told The Sunday Gleaner. “We were one of the very first events to live-stream in 2010, so we decided to go with the virtual in 2021. In my day job, I produce virtual events and content for national and international events, and Marcia is on the ground in Jamaica and deals with a lot of events,” said Allen, who was associated with the festival for 13 years.

The licensing agreement, he explained, allows him and his partner to stage the event in a virtual format. “Jamaica Jazz and Blues is owned by the Art of Music Productions and it may come back in-person as an actual event. We then said ‘let’s do a licensing deal to produce a virtual event and then a hybrid, a mix of virtual and real’,” Allen shared.

The recent announcement that after a five-year hiatus the festival is making its auspicious return seems to be a silver lining on a COVID-like nimbostratus cloud, and Allen admitted that he is “delighted that the responses are very positive”. He has already attracted sponsorship from FLOW, Appleton, the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the Tourism Linkages Network and Donna’s Restaurant for the free event, scheduled for January 28-30, 2021, and is encouraged that more sponsors will jump on board.

“It is a leap of faith to do it for free because all bills have to be taken care of. But finances, we know, are tight, and one thing that I advise my clients is that the money is not necessarily on the dollar value, but in the data and the reach. We are getting quite a bit of support from brands who have bought into the value of the digital reach, which enables them to capture three times as much as actual events, and we are continuing to look for more support,” Allen said.

A donation element

He added that the festival will include a donation element. This will enable patrons to give towards those workers in the entertainment ecosystem whose jobs have been virtually wiped out. “The technical team, the ones who build the stage, man the ticket outlets, the volunteers, all the people [who] no longer have jobs because the productions are virtual are our focus. So, over the three nights of the festival, we will be asking for a donation to assist these persons,” he explained.

The virtual Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, which follows on the heels of Reggae Sunsplash and Reggae Sumfest, also staged virtually, stands out as the only one to propose an ambitious three nights of concerts. “Ambitious? Yes and no,” was Allen’s cryptic response. “Jamaica Jazz and Blues has always been an experience, and even though it’s virtual, we are trying to keep the virtual as close to the real as possible. We are not planning an event; we are going to create an experience that is different from other previous concerts that have taken place globally,” he emphasised.

He outlined some of the pre-festival activities which will include a band search, which will see fans voting for the best young, local bands, from videos which each band interested in entering the competition will be required to submit. The top six will perform on Day 1 of the festival on the Band Quest stage. There is also pre-produced content, for example, Circle the Island, a video series with singer Richie Stephens designed to showcase the beauty of Jamaica. Also on the cards is the creation of an online marketplace section, where local artisans can showcase their products.

“This is being done in collaboration the TEF, and we will showcase products made in Jamaica by Jamaicans that people can purchase at the festival,” Allen, who says he has been living in the virtual space for 20 years, outlined. He added,“We are very excited, pumped up and energised.”

Regarding the line-up, he was unable to reveal specifics until the contracts are signed off, but disclosed that, just like previously, it will comprise both local and international acts.

The Jazz and Blues Festival was first staged in November 1996 and was then known as the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival. The festival has presented a variety of exceptional artistes, including Beres Hammond, Chakka Khan, Aaron Neville, Erykah Badu, Shaggy, Toni Braxton, John Legend, Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley, Michael Bolton, Tessanne Chin, Celine Dion, Maroon 5, Alicia Keys and a host of others. The Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival was last staged in 2015.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com