THE opening night of this year’s staging of the International Ocho Rios Jazz Festival will serve as Jamaica’s first major event in celebration of the International Year for People of African Descent, Basil Walters reports in the Jamaica Observer.
The matriarch of the 21-year-old annual jazz festival, Myrna Hague, widow of its late founder/promoter Cecil Valentine ‘Sonny’ Bradshaw, made the announcement at the launch of the 2011 renewal at the Four Seasons Hotel recently.
Prefacing the announcement with a mission statement of sorts — her mandate is to keep her departed husband’s legacy alive — Hague said that this year is a good year to heighten public awareness that jazz is black music.
“My mandate is to keep Sonny Bradshaw’s legacy alive,” she said before unveiling the plans for the June 11-19 festival.
“I was very fortunate to come into his life at the time when I did, and I am grateful for the opportunity of knowing him, working with him, learning from him. I came back to Jamaica after having left as a young person not knowing anything about my Caribbean heritage and having the opportunity to learn about Jamaica from somebody like that and to live it. To learn about Jamaican music and culture was an extraordinary experience,” she said.
“So I really feel that I owe him a lot towards my own personal, artistic, particularly my cultural, growth as a Jamaican person and discovering myself as a Caribbean person. I owe him a lot for that. And so it’s a labour of love to have taken on the Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival, the second year that we are doing it,” Hague added.
“Because this year is the International Year of People of African Descent, we are hosting our own event in that regard towards pulling together the African elements that came to the West to create this music that we call jazz,” she said.
“A lot of Jamaicans feel that jazz doesn’t have anything to do with them. We have been trying for 21 years to say uh-uh. This is a good opportunity this year for us to widen the public awareness of the fact that jazz music belongs to us right here in the Caribbean as much as it belongs to anybody else.”
On December 18, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year beginning on January 1, 2011, the International Year for People of African Descent.
The year aims at strengthening national actions and regional and international co-operation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights; their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society; and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.
In collaboration with the Swedish Government, the opening night concert will feature a top musical outfit from Sweden called Mynta, an Indo-Swedish fusion jazz band which uses Indian vocals, African and Latin-American rhythms, Arabic sounds, Swedish folk music and Cuban violin, together with Indian traditional instruments the tabla, kanjira, ghatam and tampura.
Mynta (Swedish for mint) was formed in 1979.
Other acts scheduled for the festival are the Jamaica Big Band, Whylie Whrythms, Dean Fraser, and Canadian singer Kiralina.