Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival officially launched
For one hour on Tuesday, the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival held the attention of music industry players and sponsors as they used their official launch event to cement the festival’s return, after a five-year hiatus. All the various elements of the three-night festival, rescheduled from a previously announced date in January to March 4-6, came together during the virtual event guided by jazz festival doyenne Marcia McDonnough.
The organisers, Steady Image Media Group and Touchstone Productions, outlined their plans for the first-ever fully virtual staging of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, which is huge on providing not only memorable performances, but “an experience,” virtual or not. Under the theme ‘Bringing Back the Magic’, the event has captured the attention and support of sponsors and partners, including Appleton, the Jamaica Tourist Board and Mastercard, whose representatives spoke glowingly of the upcoming event, while alluding to its legacy.
There were cameos from an intriguing array of Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival newbies, such as Tesselated; Zia Benjamin; Music Unites artistes Moon; Earth and Fullness and Janine JKhul, an alternate singer who was recently featured on CNN’s ‘Voices of the Pandemic’, as well as reggae singer Jah9, who recalled performing years ago on the festival’s much-sought-after Small Stage. Also among the young faces featured were all eight members of the band, Eight; the ATF Band, and Raven, who will all perform on the first night, having impressed in the Bandquest search.
This is testament to the festival’s desire to reach a wider audience. McDonnough noted that the audience has to “evolve into our young people”. She added, “Their music is ageless and we believe that the people my age will enjoy it and at the same time, they will bring in a new audience into the festival. We have to evolve to ensure the festival’s future is ensured.”
In sync with that mandate, social media influencer Quite Perry will host Night One; Terri-Karelle Reid, Night Three; and the family that is increasingly being known across the world, the Mitchells, has a special role carved out, which includes hosting Night Two. The family, whose YouTube reality show Meet the Mitchells has secured a huge following, has been roped in for a tourism-related feature called ‘Stay With Us’, which showcases some of the hotels in the island. This also ties in neatly with ‘Circle Jamaica’, labelled as an adventure across the island, with host, singer Richie Stephens, who is seen checking in at some of the best getaway and hangout spots. This is all part of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues experience.
With assistance from the Tourism Enhancement Fund and the Tourism Linkages Network, an artisan village will be set up virtually, hosting a group of 10 to 12 of Jamaica’s finest creative and artistic entrepreneurs who will promote and sell original art, sculpture, clothing, ceramics, woodwork and jewellery. The village will open shortly before the festival and close after festival.
With regard to the line-up that has so far been revealed, McDonnough noted that the festival is changing the way things are perceived. In answer to a question about the top act, she explained, “We are moving away from a top act. We have an international already booked, which is Grammy-winning Jon Secada, who has been with the festival before. One of the things we are doing is bringing back artistes who have performed on the festival before. One of reasons we had to postpone is that COVID in the States is really bad and we are working at getting some more international artistes, but we don’t have any to announce today; but we will in the future.”
Lila Iké, Sevana and Mortimer are also confirmed for the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
There will be no mandatory charge, but the organisers will be collecting donations for a charity to assist out-of-work technical event practitioners.