Jamaica Jazz and Blues returns for 2021

Jamaica Jazz and Blues returns for 2021

Observer senior reporter

Friday, December 04, 2020

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The Jamaican entertainment calendar is scheduled to get a lot busier come January next year, as the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival is set to make a return, albeit virtually.

The event — which has been on hiatus for the past four years — has been licensed to Florida-based Adrian Allen of Steady Image Media Group in partnership with local marketer and event producer Marcia McDonnough of Touchstone Productions, and will be staged over three nights from January 28 to 30.

Allen explained that having been part of the festival's staging for 12 years, he decided to take the step to execute the festival in order to fill the void on the local musical calendar.

“Marcia and I have been involved with Jazz over the years and we just decided to take the step and execute this year's event. The most difficult part is that we have to work to bring back a festival which has not been held for a number of years. But on the flip side, staging events is what we have been doing for the past 12 to 13 years, so it was right up out alley. We understand the brand and know what people want,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

The organisers were not willing to divulge the name of the acts for the festival, noting that contracts were still being finalised and an official announcement will be made in short order. However, Allen did note that the event will feature a mix of local and international acts, and will be live streamed free of cost of an online audience, with a number of elements thrown in for added entertainment.

“Our broadcast won't be your regular live stream. It will be engaging, immersive and interactive. Aside from the music component, we will be producing tourism-driven content. Our tagline says: 'The Magic is Back', we also want to show that Jamaica is open for business and we are welcoming visitors. There will also be various strategies leading up to the event to engage our audience,” he said.

“As for the line-up, when we looked at it more that 450 acts have performed on the festival over the years. So especially with the international performers, most of the ones we were thinking of have already performed here. So the decision is to bring back one acts who has been on the show before, and then look to some new acts to take in the younger demographic of our target market. We are looking to cover the younger, middle and older market segments, taking into consideration the traditional, but not leaving out the younger market which is more familiar with the digital space,” Allen continued.

Part of the audience engagement ahead of the festival will involve the selection of six young Jamaican bands, who will take to the stage on the first night of the festival.

“The first night is being dubbed the 'Band Quest Stage'. Come next week, we will be inviting Jamaican bands to submit their videos and the public will vote on the top six who will perform on the first night. Their performance will be interspersed with footage from past staging of the festival. Each day's performances will last for four hours. The second and third nights will be a mix of the local and international artistes,” said Allen.

The organisers are hopeful that the broadcast of the festival will reach a target audience totalling about 100,000 over the three days.

Launched in 1996, Jamaica Jazz and Blues (formerly Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues) was created to encourage visitors to come to Jamaica during a traditionally slow tourism period for the island. The first staging had a stellar bill: Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, Toots and the Maytals, Ernie Ranglin, and guitarists George Benson and Buddy Guy.

Air Jamaica eventually faded from the Jazz and Blues Festival, which had several venue changes while attracting healthy crowds and a number of popular acts like Al Jarreau, Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Air Supply, Maroon 5, Mariah Carey, Peter Cetera, The Pointer Sisters, Celine Dion, and Babyface.

It was last held in 2015 in Trelawny.

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