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Bands, instrument players get Jamaica Jazz festival off to fine start


Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival kicked off Thursday evening with up-and-coming acts showcasing their talent to the world, in the first online version of the event which is resuming after a five-year hiatus.

There were pulsating melodies for the approximately three hours that the show lasted, with the newly minted bands and individual players of instruments drawing on material from different genres of music, with reggae being the focal point.

Intertwined between the performances were advertisements, messages and interviews from the sponsors and a message from past performer Billy Ocean, with host Debbie Bissoon expertly blending all the pieces together.

According to producers of the show, Marcia McDonnough of Touchstone Productions and Adrian Allen of Steady Image, their association with the show over the years enabled them to “bring back the magic”, although having to settle for an online staging due to the coronavirus pandemic.

McDonnough said organisers decided to make the event free for the public to watch in order to maintain the festival's close bond with fans that it developed over the years. She, however, asked for a donation throughout the three days, to assist the more than 800 individuals who work behind the scenes at the shows and have been unemployed because of COVID-19.

Funds from the show, McDonnough said, will also assist Music Unites Jamaica Foundation, a charity, which has stopped receiving funding because of COVID-19. Music Unites helps young musicians to develop their craft.

Onstage, the online audience got the opportunity to witness stellar performances from acts seeking to add their names to the list of elite artistes that the island has produced.

The bands and instrument players on display during the night. dubbed 'Band Quest', were drawn from social media online voting, after they uploaded performances to be judged.

Among the performers were 8, Rayven Amani, Ken Ellis, Joe Davis, Keturah ‘Soul Flutist’ Gray, Iron Kyte and Roots Percussionist.

Davis and Gray impressed with their ability to play different musical instruments. In his solo act, Davis played keyboard, bass guitar, drum and harmonica, while Gray constantly switched from flute to saxophone throughout her set.

Roots Percussionist, who had earlier joined Ken Ellis on stage for a duet, closed the night. He plays the percussion for many of the island’s top acts including the internationally acclaimed Chronixx, whose song ‘Skanking’ Sweet’ he covered during the performance.

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