Jazz Festival Opens in Belize City
The first ever Belize International Jazz Festival opened with a live concert at the House of Culture in Belize City just moments ago. The first of its kind in the Jewel, the festival will run through to June fourteenth with several performances in several municipalities as well as performances at the Radisson, Spoonaz Café and several other locations. A free concert on Saturday at the Memorial Park in Belize City will feature international artists from Cuba, the U.S., London and the Caribbean. But the highlight of the festival will be a Blissfully Jazz concert at the Bliss Centre on the twelfth of June that will feature the Garifuna Collectives and Morena Son from Cuba. The festival is an important initiative that promotes heritage preservation through educational tourism and music. So why jazz when there is a diversity in cultural music in Belize? Why not…says theatre director at the Institute of Creative Arts, Karen Vernon.
Karen Vernon, Theatre Director, ICA
“The official welcome concert is this evening at the House of Culture…it starts at eight p.m., featuring Omalewa and Errolyn Wallen, she is a pianist in London and so she came for the jazz festival. And tomorrow, we have a huge free concert at the memorial park. We have marching bands, we have all the steel pans. We have the two groups from Cuba—Morena Son, which is an all female band; they are awesome and Influenza Jazz playing as well. We have Ascenthium; Liam Teague, who is from Trinidad; he is one of the world’s best pan players. We have Luciano, who is a Belizean trumpet player, but he lives in Chicago so he came for the festival as well.”
“Talk to us about this coming to fruition. Why a jazz festival?”
“Why not? Carlos came towards us last year and said we have to have a jazz festival; it is overdue. And you know how Carlos can be…he says we have to do something. ICA was very excited about it and so we jumped on board right away and started planning. He already had lined up what he envisioned would be the first jazz festival in Belize. We are ready and as I said, it opens tonight and continues for ten days. We have workshops; Radisson has five nights of concerts. There’s two nights at Spoonaz café; there is one in Belmopan next week Friday…a free concert sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. There is a concert at the Mexican embassy as well sponsored by the Mexican Embassy featuring a quartet from Mexico. So it is a jazz fusion next week Friday at the bliss, we have Moreno Son along with the Garifuna Collective. So it is fusing jazz with what we have here in Belize to offer together and introducing it to the public.”
Hundreds Participate in First Even Jazz Festival
Three hundred and eighteen musicians, twelve engineers, nine international and eleven local bands have signed up and will take part in the festival. The ten-day kicked off this morning with a workshop with jazz musicians from Belize, the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Liam Teague, Head of Steel Band Studies, Northern Illinois University
“I firmly believe that most people around the world are not always consistently exposed to the instruments uniqueness and profundity. And so this is what I try to bring to the table; really highlighting different musical styles and possibilities and combinations that the instrument can relate in. And so the performance tomorrow night will really highlight that and hours worth of different musical styles, working with some of the best musicians here in Belize. Most people when they hear the steel pan, they think about it in the context of calypso music, which is also from Trinidad, or even playing some Latin music, which is fantastic. And then I am also trying to bring those elements as well as music that is influenced by the Middle East or India or classical music or jazz oriented music; a little thing for everybody.”
Luciano Rosado, Trumpeter, Belize International Jazz Festival
“I’m one of the ones that is representing Belize. My role…whatever they tell me to do…stuff like this to promote it. I live dah Illinois…so promote it there and gather musicians. This is the first year, so it is just building so next year, we want to make it even bigger and with more emphasis on musicians that are willing to teach because workshops to me are one of the most important parts and to make Belize hear some really good professionals and what they sound like. The beauty in it is creativity, self-expression; that the individual regardless of weh country dehn deh, dah wah universal language. Like Creole, you got five million Creole speakers in the world and like me and Mister Liam we di talk; we have different accents, but we understand each other ina Creole. Ina jazz, it is the same thing. I played a show with a guy in Cuba, Chichito Valdez. He spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish; we got together but we played [really good] because we speak that common language. So the more people hear the language of music or jazz, the more dehn start to understand it and realize, wow. It takes a high skill level to learn the language, a lot of years of study. It takes a long time and you have to learn from more skilled musicians. And that why I am here. Anybody want come and learn to play trumpet…I noh teach anything else but trumpet. I open for any lessons; I noh deh yah fi make money, I deh yah fi teach.”
The closing concert will be on the June fourteenth at the Romac’s Plaza; entrance fee is ten dollars.