Friday 26 May 2023

Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival 2023 – a review series²

Saint Lucia Jazz 2023

Once again, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority invited me and facilitated my coverage of its signature festival tourism event, the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, for the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. Old friendships rekindled and new adventures encountered as this mammoth event has grown, and approaches its optimal dimensions. As far as Caribbean music festivals go, Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is defining what is possible regionally, and settling in among the top global music festivals, jazz and otherwise. Here are the articles:

  • Dateline: Sat, 13 May 2023
  • Headline: Kingdom Night begins a renewed St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival
Saint Lucia’s hallmark festival tourism event, the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is back with a bang after the three-year stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And with a change of government on the island, the return of the festival to the Pigeon Island National Landmark, its home since inception over 25 years ago, brings it back to the standard and layout that brought visitors in large numbers all these years..

On May 10, the now multi-themed festival kicked off with Kingdom Night, which featured global gospel superstars, Cece Winans and Sinach, along with a host of St. Lucian praise and worship artists, all sharing the stage in front of throngs of committed fans and believers. The demand for this show was evident as people flocked to the venue before the two hour pre-show gate opening time. Pastors, the “marish and the parish,” and the praise worthy all flocked there, “to be sanctified,” as my St. Lucian driver, Willett, noted. His cynicism was acknowledged but the audience was willing and able… 

  • Dateline: Sun, 14 May 2023 
  • Headline: Pure Jazz defines the Festival as a Caribbean space
On May 11, the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival continued it themed nights with the aptly titled Pure Jazz featuring Uruguayan pianist Gustavo Casenave and St Lucian saxophonist and Caribbean jazz icon Luther François. Held at the 400-seat Ramp at Rodney Bay, a purpose built fabric building that facilitates jazz in an intimate space by the sea, this show showcased virtuosity and Caribbean excellence.

Pure jazz, as its name suggests, veers towards the layman’s understanding of what is jazz. Not the freedom associated with improvisation, but dissonance and dexterity that suggest risk, skill and practice, and music that can not be danced to. That was clearly identified with Casenave’s performance. Classically trained, as most musicians of worth are, he balanced studied technique with a keen sense of improvisation and abandon… 

  • Dateline: Tue, 16 May 2023
  • Headline: St Lucia Jazz gets hard fete from Bunji and Fay Ann
The consensus among the 5,000 plus crowd at Pigeon Island National Landmark for the third night of the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, May 12, (Caribbean Fusion) was not so much how great Caribbean music was this night, but how great was this traffic to leave this venue that night.

The festival was back to its maximal best as the weekend shows increased in popularity, with reported sold-out VIP experiences. The ripple effect of this grandeur was the logistical nightmare of moving too many people in and out. But this was relieved, temporarily, by the music — reggae, soca, and dancehall — that delivered potential lasting memories… 

  • Dateline: Wed, 17 May 2023 
  • Headline: Afrobeats chaos adds drama to World Beats marathon at St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival 
From early in the day on May 13, (World Beats) the picnic vibe was prominent at the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, as evidenced by beach chairs, blankets and a general vibe looking for entertainment. 

But African excellence was dashed by a report of an “altercation” between event organiser St Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) and one of the Afrobeats stars backstage, cutting their performance short and resulting in the non-performance of both Joeboy and advertised headliner Kizz Daniel.

Reports from an SLTA official said after hearing an Afrobeats artist, the DJ/hype man for the Afrobeats stars, had freely used expletives to exhort the crowd, “Make some f—ing noise,” a high official of SLTA gave a stern warning to stop cursing onstage, since children were present at the family-oriented event…

  • Dateline: Fri, 19 May 2023
  • Headline: Sting and Shaggy rock on stage
The final night of the St Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival on Mother’s Day May 14, dubbed The Ultimate Celebration, a celebration of St Lucian and Caribbean music excellence alongside a pop music living legend, was, for all intents and purposes, Sting & Shaggy in Concert and the rest.

The disparity between the headliners and the opening acts in their relative successes and accolades may look like an opportunity for connection and collaboration to get a toe in the door of a global music career, but on a local level, and certainly for this festival in 2023, some opportunities were missed. 

There is no doubt that all the opening acts for Sting and Shaggy that night, exclusively St Lucian, are household names here: singers Irvin Ace Loctar and Teddyson John, and musicians Barbara Cadet and Ronald “Boo” Hinkson… 

© 2023, Nigel A. Campbell. All rights reserved.

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