Italian couple break into Jamaican house scene

Observer writer

Friday, December 14, 2018

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Enrico and Cristiana Lionello, an Italian couple living and doing business in Negril, are seeking to diversify the entertainment scene in Jamaica's tourism industry by introducing house music DJs and events to hotels in the island. House music is a genre of dance music that was born in the 1980s and remains hugely popular among audiences around the world.

Their plan has already been initiated through a collaboration with the Hedonism II hotel that sees them organising events for the Negril-based property.

Before migrating to Jamaica six years ago, the Italian couple owned and produced an Italian television show called Enjoy Television which covered house and electronic dance music for the European market. After arriving in Jamaica they created the InDaHouse radio show which airs regularly on local radio station, Fame FM.

InDaHouse has featured iconic international djs such as Armin van Buuren, Afrojack, Bob Sinclar and Louie Vega. The show has also broadcast from the world-famous Ultra Music Festival live from Miami to a Jamaican audience.

At Hedonism II, the Lionellos collaborate with the hotel to stage three events per year.

“Currently we work with the hotel to produce their New Year's Eve event, their anniversary party and an Easter event,” Cristiana explains. “We have hired DJs who are well known in the vibrant international culture of the house music scene. One of them is Stefano Mattara, the DJ who created the official remix for Justin Bieber's hit song Sorry. We also brought in Nicky Siano, who played at the world-famous New York City nightclub, Studio 54, in the 1970s.”

Kevin Levee, Managing Director at Hedonism II, has expressed his satisfaction at the positive reception these events have received from the hotel's guests.

“Hedonism II has always been well-known for providing a very high standard of entertainment and so our guests who consist of a significant number of repeat clients have come to expect nothing less than the best from our events,” he asserts. “I am very pleased with our collaboration with Enrico and Cristiana. These events have been a hit with the visitors here and have added even greater diversity to the wide range of entertainment we offer our guests.”

Enrico believes the house music industry can have an additional benefit to Jamaica's tourism. He uses Las Vegas as his example.

“Las Vegas diversified their entertainment beyond casinos to include famous house and electronic dance music DJs playing in extravagant nightclubs,” he says. “This attracted a new and younger high-spending crowd to the city. Even during the recession, these clubs continued to be successful while other avenues of tourism were struggling in the city. We can follow the same plan in Jamaica to rejuvenate our tourism and benefit from this younger market. I often hear Negril businesspeople lamenting that we don't have enough younger tourists visiting the town.”

Enrico sees no reason why a foreign music culture could not be part of a local entertainment product. He believes that it could be merged with Jamaica's amazing natural settings of beach and tropical vegetation for outdoor events. Local support companies such as music equipment and lighting rental companies as well as bar services would benefit from additional business. Local performers can be part of the shows as well.

Kevin Levee at Hedonism II has experience with keeping a local identity even when foreign influences are incorporated into the hotel's entertainment.

“We are known at Hedonism II for having used local entertainment coordinators and dancers throughout our history as a hotel,” he states proudly. “Whether the music and concepts were foreign, the actors and dancers were local. In the case of the events that Enrico and Cristiana have organised we have our entertainment staff and dancers complementing the work of the famous djs by interacting creatively with the crowd as part of the show. Ultimately our guests will remember this as a Hedonism II experience above all else.”

One of the big names in the international house music industry, Dj Hector Romero, will be the star performer at this year's upcoming New Year's Eve party at Hedonism II which is already sold out.

Through years of experience covering house music, Enrico and Cristiana Lionello have interviewed and developed connections to superstars such as David Guetta, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Kool and the Gang, Sister Sledge, Crystal Waters, Robin S and more. These names have pulled thousands of people to venues around the world wherever they have performed and it is their firm conviction that they can do the same for Jamaica.

The Italian husband and wife team see their work at Hedonism II as just the first step in accomplishing something special for a more diversified and rejuvenated Jamaican tourism product. It is their intention to bring other hotels on the island into this very different music and tourism venture.

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