At the invitation of Alliance Française to perform at the Jazz and Arts Festival of Saint Lucia, jazz pianist and composer Eric Ildefonse entertained at events including Jazz in the South and Jazz on the Square. In addition to his performances on May 5 at Balenbouche and on May 9 in Castries, Eric Ildefonse headed a music workshop at the St Lucia School of Music.
Speaking very little English in our interview, Eric lamented that there is not enough Jazz in the new concept. “I felt the great atmosphere and the warmth of the people,” he said, “but I would’ve loved to hear more jazz.” He was however pleased that at Jazz in the South and Jazz on the Square “there were some amazing jazzy performances.”
According to Idlefonse, the patrons were “really welcoming.” St Lucians are “musically curious.” Although his music is from a neighboring island “the people here are also Creoles, so we managed to understand each other. I find it fantastic.”
On the other hand, he said, there was certain “Africanness” missing in the Jazz he heard. As an African descendant, he wanted to work on drum rhythms which, he says, has been forgotten. He acknowledges the African in himself and hopes to deepen his knowledge of all things African.
His album “Reconnaissance” is, according to the artist, very close to Saint Lucian music. In fact, it contains calypso, ska, chachacha, samba . . . The album focuses on Caribbean music, with contributions by Saint Lucian saxophonist Luther Francois. “It offers the opportunity for Saint Lucians to discover Luther playing a different type of music,” Idlefonse smiled, “a great reason to buy the album.”
He expressed his gratitude to Alliance Française for affording him the opportunity to achieve his dream of sharing his personal evolution with students at the Castries School of Music.
He said he learned a lot from the young people who returned him to his “inner child” so as to better communicate with them. His exchanges with them were “wonderful” and his audience “very receptive.”
He added: “They were highly receptive, they participated, they got involved and wanted more. I found this extraordinary. The future lies there, very young, very innocent. I am glad that I was able to plant a little seed in their curiosity and make them want to focus on several instruments, and also to focus on their own Africanness.”
Richard Payne, the executive director of the School of Music, was also happy with the workshop. He said the partnership started two years ago with Alliance Française and over time has strengthened.
“There are many other exciting projects we are hoping to work on,” he said.
Payne would like his young students to have the opportunity to travel to the Francophone territories like Martinique and Guadeloupe, to share and exchange ideas.
“Like I always say,” he added, “we share the same Creole language and culture. I think that it’s just a matter of discovering that truth. It’s there in our DNA.”