Young acts jazz it up - Festival makes comeback with new blood
The Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, since its inception in 1996, has been an event geared towards a more mature audience. During the show’s over two-decade history, Jamaica witnessed stellar performances from some of the biggest global stars in music history, including Celine Dion, Beres Hammond, Toni Braxton, Chakka Khan, Erykah Badu, Michael Bolton and Frank Ocean. The festival managed to successfully embed itself in the local and international music landscape before going on a five-year hiatus in 2015. This year, however, organisers have promised a musical renaissance like no other as they look to bring back the Jazz and Blues experience.
But with the re-emergence happening at a time when the entertainment space has gone virtual, the show is looking to expand its reach. Organisers have therefore added a host of fresh reggae talents to the show’s ‘comeback’ line-up, hoping to add a younger audience to their already well established mature one.
“So we still have a Jon Secada, a Richie Stephens who are for the older audience but we will be mixing it so that we also interest the young people. While we are still catering to our original jazz fans, honestly, if we (show organisers) don’t start bringing in the young people then our business, our event is going to die,” said co-producer of the event, Marcia McDonnough. “You have to move with the times and it’s not an indication that we are going to move away from what we have become known for, because the older generation of artistes are still excellent entertainers who still have mega appeal, but we’re also aware that we need to bring in the new. What we hope is that we can expose the older people to the young performers and people can see that the show is a diverse one. If you notice, the acts that we have brought on this year are persons who can cross over meaning someone older can listen to them and still enjoy what they bring to the table. That is diversity at its best.”
This year’s staging of the Jazz and Blues festival will see performances from ‘young guns’ such as Lila Ike, Sevana, Mortimer and Tessellated. McDonnough told The Sunday Gleaner that the festival coming back in a time when the world is largely online also influenced their decision to inject more youth in the line-up. “This is their world, their space. The young people will get their people to come on and tune into the show and that is more reach for us so when it (the show) comes back fully they (the millennials) will know it because I don’t think we’re ever going to do away with the virtual even when we get back to a place where we can have physical shows again,” she said also expressing that the young acts on the bill this year are excited to have yet another platform to showcase their talent to the world. “The young people have all been so excited about the show. I remember speaking to Tessellated and he told me how much he is looking forward to being on it and that’s what we like. We like to know that we can give these young people a platform for exposure and that is one of the things that the Jazz festival has always done.” The festival organisers highlighted that the first time she (and many other Jamaicans) heard the likes of Tessanne Chin, Tarrus Riley and raging Fyah perform was on the Jazz stage. Driving home her point of what the exposure can do for one’s career, she pointed out that today, those acts that she mentioned have become household names.
Commenting on the topic of exposure, fast-rising reggae phenom, Lila Ike, said she sees the show as a great opportunity to expand her brand. “Everybody knows Jazz and Blues was like a real huge festival in Jamaica, so many greats have passed through Jazz and Blues and so for me to now be added to that legacy, it’s a lovely thing and I feel honoured. This is definitely more reach for us,” she told The Sunday Gleaner. “Sumfest and the other shows are of course great platforms for us of course but they are geared toward a younger audience. Jazz and Blues was ‘big people show’ so for us to get the opportunity to showcase our talent to people who perhaps wouldn’t have seen us anywhere else, and say ‘da likkle girl ya or da young yute yah a gwaan good, mi ago search fi dem music’. Who knows who may be watching? Maybe some corporate people will see us and like the content and want to invite us into other spaces. So it’s definitely reach for us.”
Sevana agreed. “It is a progressive way to go about things because my generation, we’re doing really good music (and mi ago toot we own horn) so if it fits your brand, invite us. We will deliver. Coming from a place where I used to watch the Jazz and Blues performances and the people dem did just look kinda larger than life to me, I am very grateful that it is back and that I am given an opportunity to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s another platform for us as young entertainers to connect with even more people especially because of the virtual element. I am super excited about the show and I can’t wait to showcase my talent on a stage I had only hoped I would one day get to perform.”