Updated: January 19, 2006
Well, as promised, this entire
week's newsletter is dedicated to the coverage of
the 2006 Barbados Jazz Festival. All the exciting entertainment
news will be coming at you next week. You may see some familiar faces in
these exclusive pics! Plus you won't want to miss the coverage of
headliners Lionel Richie (sold out crowd!) and Jill Scott as well
as all the beautiful island venues.
Had a great time but somehow glad to be home - what's up with THAT!? In any case, take the journey with me below - perhaps you'll even consider attending in 2007!
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My first impression of Barbados? Island culture served up with a healthy portion of Her Majesty’s pomp and circumstance. As my time spent in Barbados passed, I came to see that while there is a sophisticated order, there are signs of a fun-loving side as well that enriches the island's flavour. I thank the Barbados Tourism Authority ("BTA") for hosting myself, as well as Donovan Bailey and his wife Michelle - done in first rate and hospitable fashion. Although the real vibe did not hit me as we drifted through the first couple of days of the 2006 Barbados Jazz Festival - it did come and I was able to eventually embrace the celebration of jazz done up in Barbadian (or Bajan) style.
The BTA made
arrangements for the three of us to stay at The Crane (www.thecrane.com)
which was quite spectacular (a hotel, by the way, that I would never normally
be able to afford!). The Crane is Caribbean's first resort hotel and
prides itself on privacy, exclusivity and old-world charm. The view was
one that residents and visitors alike would come out to view. Despite the
construction and additions being built on the property (which was unbelievably
disturbing at times), the service and staff were very accommodating. This
particular hotel is quite far from more dynamic spots on the island and
transportation to and from was lengthy most days. For the high price of
admission, guests are spoiled with age-old hospitality ... an experience I
won't soon forget. I was taken to dinner at Zen, a sushi
restaurant at The Crane, where the chef is from Toronto! What a surprise that
I actually liked sushi! And the service and food were unbelievable – very
Another impression of Barbados (at least at this festival) is that there is a keen sense of punctuality! The Bajans seem to take their rules of infrastructure very seriously and we found ourselves often following procedure - not necessarily a bad thing but I found it surprising for an island in the Caribbean during a festival for some reason. I've only been to a couple of these festivals but I did enjoy and appreciate this aspect.
Now, I'll walk you through the festival and the island as succinctly as possible with the highlights from my viewpoint.
::JANUARY 9, 2006 - ROY HARGROVE AND
SUNBURY GREAT HOUSE::
Monday's night of jazz was Roy Hargrove and Italian Roberta Gambarini at the Sunbury Great House. While I thought that Roy Hargrove was excellent, the standout performance for me was Roberta Gambarini, who, albeit sang jazz standards only, had a great ability to make the standards her own with many of her own arrangements that included mimicking the instrumental stylings of the given artists (Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie) with her highly-trained vocal manipulations. All of this in an outdoor setting with chairs and tents - quite a nice evening.
::JANUARY 10, 2006 - ARTWORK AND WAYNE
RUM FACTORY & HERITAGE PARK::
Tuesday night was the night for local artists to perform and what a load of talent the Bajans have in the jazz genre, namely Artwork and Wayne Willock who performed at Rum Factory & Heritage Park. Unfortunately, due to rain, the attendance was down that night but those jazz lovers that attended, enjoyed a full night of local talent jamming the night away. Dignitaries in attendance that evening included the Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General, the Hon. Mia Mottley and Minister of Tourism and International Transportation, the Hon. Noel Lynch. Due to the high recommendation from our generous driver, Emerson Clarke, we ventured to Oistens for some fresh grilled fish - the best fish I've ever tasted and well-known on the island!
::JANUARY 11, 2006 - PRESS CONFERENCE AND MORE::
Wednesday was the BTA’s press conference to brief the international press, which was led by Director of Marketing for the BTA, Averil Byer (pictured in red). Toronto’s Ebonnie Rowe joined me there for a brief visit (founder of the Honey Jam and Phemphat Productions). Ebonnie splits her time between Barbados and Toronto and is featured in a new Bajan magazine, Circuit (www.circuitmagazine.com). I also stopped by a famous Canadian hangout, Bert’s Bar, owned by Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators (amongst many other things!).
::JILL SCOTT - JANUARY 11, 2006
SIR GARFIELD SOBERS GYMNASIUM::
That evening was the much-anticipated concert of Jill Scott at Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium. Now when I heard it was at a gym, I couldn't figure out why this venue was chosen but it was more of an auditorium. Jill confessed that when she heard it was an island festival, she just wore her 'comfy clothes' only to find that the crowd was stylishly dressed. But who cared when Jill brought her soulful rendition of her collection of material to the very reserved Bajan crowd. Pockets of her fans represented around Sobers Gymnasium but despite her efforts to get the audience involved, it was only during her most popular tracks that there was audience reaction. They did, however, make enough noise to warrant an encore which was graciously supplied by Jill and her outstanding band. All in all, a night of real music ... perhaps not under the jazz genre per se but I welcomed the variation.
::JANUARY 12, 2006 - TIAMI AND MORE::
Thursday the BTA hosted most of the Canadian press and some other special guests on the Tiami, a catamaran day cruise which took us around the island for snorkeling, jet skiing, eating and drinking. The gods shone on us, as it was a perfect day weather-wise with a great crew and stops along the way to see familiar water spots on the island. A great, fun and relaxing day with our Canadian reps!
Maxor Vacation Services and the BTA invited us to a cocktail reception that evening in St. Michael - a lovely and tranquil spot where we relaxed amongst good people, including Orville Folkes from Marville Travel who handled all our ticketing. We were then whisked to a local hangout called The Ship Inn in Christ’s Church – a really good live band called The Strategy Band.
RICHIE - JANUARY 13, 2006
SIR GARFIELD SOBERS GYMNASIUM::
Friday - the highest priced ticket of the festival - Lionel Richie in concert again at Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium. Another questionable choice as a headliner in a jazz festival but definitely a favourite artist among the Barbadian people - or at least that's what we thought at the price of $100 US which was sold out. Lionel brought all he had to the stage, having just arrived in time for the show from a 12-hour flight from Honolulu where he performed the night before. But again, we noticed watching from our seats that the crowd barely responded to their favourite Lionel Richie songs until he demanded that they stand up and dance which they did so hesitantly. But then the audience seemed to settle in again but with a smile on their faces this time. I really enjoyed this show and was impressed at how Lionel interacted and entertained. Definitely a veteran performer who knows how to read his audience.
After the concert we were taken to a VIP reception at the same venue for some snacks and mingling with some of Barbados' most esteemed dignitaries. A great way to cap off the concert. Then a house party with a great DJ and lots of dancing (ok and drinking!). One of my highlights of the trip with great people who spoiled us.
::JANUARY 14, 2006
FARLEY HILL NATIONAL PARK::
Saturday was a line up
of jazz artists of varied backgrounds that was held at the famous Farley
Hill National Park where you can see both the sunset and the sunrise.
Those involved in the festival seemed to be most excited about these outdoor
concerts all week long. We kept hearing how Farley Hill was the favourite
for two day jazz concerts and that it was the most fun of all the jazz
events. It's a beautiful park with a huge turnout and the vibe was
much more relaxed than the previous events thus far. Once again, our
very generous and kind driver, Emerson, drove us up the east coast of the
island where we glimpsed an entirely different view of the island - remote,
less populated and very hilly. A beautiful and natural landscape that I'm
glad we witnessed.
We were treated to the jazz stylings of Cindy Alexander, Arturo Tappin and Norman Browne. Host of the festival, Wayne Simmons, surprised the attendees by inviting Donovan and Michelle Bailey on stage much to the crowd’s approval. The next day at Farley Hill included artists Boney James, Gary Davis Band, and Cuban Jazz All Stars, although I missed this day of concerts to partake in other island activities.
All in all this was a great trip to Barbados to witness the Barbados Jazz Festival. Barbados rates as a high end vacation spot to me – partly because of its beauty and sophistication and partly because it is one expensive island! Donovan and Michelle Bailey enjoyed themselves immensely and we all thank the Barbados Tourism Authority again for its hospitality in inviting us down. Special mention goes to our deemed host, Cheryl Carter, Senior Business Development Manager of the BTA-Canada, who was the best host that anyone could ask for. She took us under her ever-expanded wing to gatherings with dignitaries, friends and family alike. Cheryl went above and beyond to ensure that we enjoyed every aspect of the festival and the island. Without her, it would have been a different experience for us.
[For more factual information on the jazz festival, go to www.barbadosjazzfestival.com. The festival is produced independently by Gilbert Rowe. For more factual information on Barbados, go to www.barbados.org.]
Business Development Manager of the BTA-Canada, my star! For going
above and beyond each and every day to ensure that all t's were crossed and to
reach your objective of us leaving the island having had a great time (and
knowing absolutely everyone!). Thank you.
Donovan and Michelle Bailey - For having doors opened to me ... just by your presence and for allowing me to fill in the gaps when needed.
Emerson Clarke, Driver Extraordinaire - For being the most patient man I know, not to mention the best tour guide ever. Each and every suggestion was appreciated and thanks for doing something extra for us each day.
Gail Stewart - For facilitating our negotiations in the early stages and for the extra ticket ...
Monique and Robert Hinds - For your unbelievable hospitality and for opening your home to us.
Nina Clarke - For opening your home and having us over to 'lime' on a busy day - a welcome stopover while plying us with fantastic food.
Nicole Jolly, Venus Santos and Ashante Infantry - The Canadian Home Team! For making me laugh all the time! (Who could forget Nipplegate!?) and giving me great advice 'breakdown' style.
Wilfred Abrahams - For taking me sightseeing, introducing friends (and pets!), introducing me to Zen's sushi and making me feel welcome overall.
Bev Carter and Thérèse Crocker - the "Brits" who kept me laughing with lots of life stories.