After 21 long years the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, presenters of the annual Saint Lucia Jazz Festival decided it was time for change. A change in the outlook, focus and mandate of the event originally conceptualized as a marketing tool for the island designed to attract visitors during what was previously a sluggish period.
With those objectives having been successfully achieved, the SLTB has been under pressure over the years to continuously grow, improve and review the festival. After a consultative process last year involving various sectors the event was rebranded, refocused and repositioned as the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival 2013.
The event got underway with a Caribbean party at the Mindoo Phillip Park on April 30 featuring a number of high-powered Saint Lucian acts like Mongstar, Superman HD and Ricky T as well as T-Vice out of Haiti, Kerwyn Dubois and Benjai from Trinidad and Jamaica’s Konshens.
For the SLTB this is their most challenging event yet, but one they are hoping to pull off with much success.
“Naturally it is a challenge putting on an event of this magnitude,” SLTB’s public relations manager John Emanuel told the STAR. “However, it is a labour of love for us. Over the years we have built a cadre of professionals in various areas where events are concerned and we have been engaging the services of many of these persons in areas such as stage management, sound and décor to help produce the event. All in all, we are ready to go.”
With the festival now underway Saint Lucians and visitors are expected to be enthralled by 13 days of events that will take place all over the island featuring music, fashion, visual arts, craft, dance, spoken word and more.
Last week deputy director of the SLTB Tracey Warner Arnold told the STAR ticket sales had been “brisk.”
“Right now they are about the same as they were last year and we are expecting a spike just a few days before each event, which is usually the case,” she said. She acknowledged that while there is VAT on the tickets, she did not expect ticket sales to be adversely affected.
Part of the allure of the event organizers say, is not just having a great line-up but the ambience of the venues and the attraction towards the island itself. This year the Festival will see a number of new venues opening up as well as the return of two venues, the Derek Walcott Square and Balenbouche.
Labowi Promotions who have embarked on a relentless journey to add art, education and soul to the event kick things off on Wednesday May 1, with the start of Jazz in the South at the Rudy John beach in Laborie.
The National Cultural Center, once the bastion of pure Jazz during the festival will return with an event on May 2 being staged by Labowi promotions. With support from the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), organizers commissioned the Soufriere Action Theatre under the artistic direction of Kendel Hippolyte, to create an original production using Jazz and enacted word to convey meaningful messages about the environment and climate change. There will be a repeat on Friday, May 3 at Coconut Bay in Vieux Fort while Jazz in the South will culminate at Balenbouche on Sunday, May 5 headlined by Guadeloupian diva Tanya St Val.
This weekend the focus of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is on Caribbean, World beat and Jazz fusions. Friday, May 3 Jazz on the Bay at Marigot is being held for the second year with a stellar line-up of Saint Lucian performers while Saturday’s Fond D’or event will feature headliner Kassav, the internationally renowned Zouk band. Heading into next week the event will feature a number of art and craft showcases in Rodney Bay and the city as well as Jazz on the Grill at the Fire Grill restaurant, Jazz on the Square, Tea Time Jazz and events at the JQ and Bay Walk malls.
The first major Jazz fashion event will take place on Tuesday, May 7. Dubbed ‘Hot Couture’ the event will be held at the Audi Center.
‘Jazz showcase’ will introduce main-stage events on Wednesday, May 8 and Thursday, May 9 at the Gaiety featuring Roberto Fonseca, Etienne Charles, Fal Frett and the John Scofield Uberjam Band. Pigeon Island comes alive on Friday, May 10 where Saint Lucian performer Ace will open for Ginuwine and the Jacksons.
The final two days of the Festival are expected to be the main attractions with Tito Puente Jr, Robbie Greenidge, David Rudder, Luther Francois and Akon on Saturday, May 10 and the big climax on Sunday, May 12 with Emrand Henry, Ronald Boo Hinkson, the O’Jays and R&B heavyweight R Kelly.