Hey guys, I went to my very first Jamaica Jazz and Blues, and of course it was truly an adventure-hello, my name is Ayeola George right?? Expect nothing less.

So let's start with me making my way to Trelawny. I could not make the cushy, ever-so-comfortable, air-conditioned Knutsford shuttle, so I had to race downtown to get a country bus. Fortunately, I had had my baptism by fire last year, so my eyes , instead of opening in a mix of shock, amusement and admiration (for their tenacity); easily glazed over the vendors hustling all manner of travel comforts like water, napkins, hand-sanitizer, cheese bun and such. Being spoken of as a commodity, and then strategically fitted into my place to maximize the buses sitting capacity, was quite expected. Hey, I'm going native and knowing that my reward will be Machel Montano, Erykah Badu, Queen Project, Billy Ocean plus my Dominican ladies marie-claire and Nelly Stharre makes the driving at breakneck speed, the undertaking and overtaking, the loud music, the cramped position on this four-hour drive (well maybe three and sintin) somewhat bearable.

This is most certainly not a piece on the pitfalls of commuting through the Jamaican countryside, but it should paint for you a picture of my relief as I lumbered out of the bus towards the lights of the Greenfield Stadium. Walking towards the gate I hear the sounds of music in the distance. "Oh my God. No way. Already? It's barely 8PM!" Oh damn is a white man that organize de ting eh.. lol. My heart races and my feet scurry along with its beat while I hear Kelly Price wailing in the distance "Why, Whhhhyyyy???" Oh Kelly good question. Why I missing allu? Allu being Kelly Price, Tamia and Deborah Cox- the trio that make up Queen Project. I still got to hear Deborah sing "Nobody's Supposed to be Here." Tamia also did "Stranger In My House."

So by now I've gotten my pass from Carlette DeLeon of Headline Entertainment, gone to the restroom-fixed my makeup, relieved myself (but is a must), and walked back on to the field where by this time, Machel Montano is on stage. Aye-ya-ya-aye-Wo-yo-yoy....Put up unno hands up, raise up unno hands up. Ahhhh...I'm running to the stage screaming at the top of my lungs, mad over de soca. I can never get enough Machel. Never. Never, never, never. Oh now he's taking me to Afriiikaa! Affriiiikaah. Oh yes, I'm kicking up dirt, I'm jerking and twerking like a hunter on the Serengeti, I just cant do the yell. Not the caw caw, or the one loud yipe; I'm talking that repetitive loud, shrilling gurgle of a yell. Yeah, that one. I want to get it down so bad though. Maybe when I get to Africa, it will be like deja vu and I will just acquire that skill. Meantime, I got the dancing down pact.

I climb past the bleachers and make my way to the media booth. It's well-decorated, cozy and classy. I like to see it but I already don't like where it is. For one, Machel is out of my view. For two, he is out of earshot. For three I have to watch him on a flatscreen. I want to feed off his energy. This is not working for me. Ever seen those ads for Ally Bank? I'm the kid on the bike in the tiny square. I guess for media houses with multiple staff, its a cakewalk but for a one-woman show like me, it's gonna pose some serious problems.

Queen Project walks in, they are gorgeous and very tropically attired. No, no coconuts, or palm trees, or hibiscus. They are just rocking some island colours, actually more like Deborah Cox is... but they are just glowing. I tried to at least get their pic. Arrrgggh! Hot Damn what in the ???? This is so not a good look Ayeola. I still kept it though. Is my pic.

Queen Project- That would have been an awesome pic...lol

I left the press area to explore a bit, save for me being behind God's back, I like the layout. Facing the main stage, there are bleachers on the extreme right. On the ground in front of the bleachers is a seating area and to the left of those seats are some VIP booths where patrons can sit at a table and dine and such. Then, there's an open area for standing room and another set of VIP booths. In the middle of the ground there is a HUGE screen projecting the show as well as ads from various sponsors. Further back is the new talent stage which is flanked on the right by vending booths and food booths. One booth that drew my attention was Smirnoff's. Well it was more like a mini-club than booth, with DJ Nikko from Fame FM spinning the latest Dancehall hits. So in between all the Jazz sets youcould and bubble to some Kartel or Mavado or Busy and ting. Heineken was representing with an igloo but I never managed to get to it. Jamaica Tourist Board another major sponsor also had a large booth.

I decided to take in Erykah Badu from the bleachers. She is so eccentric. She wore a top hat with grey sweater and what looked like a red scarf around her neck, some pleather pants and sky high boots and of couse nuff silver-jewelry that is. Now from my vantage, I could swear that her pants and shoes are connected. Is a shoe-pant or a pant-shoe dat? She sang expected hits like "Love Of My Life", "Next Lifetime" and "On & On"; and like so many artists that have come to Jamaica, she just had to sing some Reggae. "Na,na, naaaah...Try Jah Love". She started playing beats on an electric drum shouting "Dem try to fool the black man by telling him Jah-Jah dead. Jah noh dead." I'm trying to be serious here but the famaican accent is so killing me. "Jah noh dead"Ha. I'm sorry, ya'll. Of course she promoted her new album New Amerykah Part II: Fourth World War. It was inspired by a documentary called fourth world war. Erykah is a visionary, an activist, a soldier and her music is her weapon. She gave words of inspiration to the audience saying, "It's never too late to work on you." I was disappointed to not hear "Bag Lady" and "Tyrone" but her voice is such a beautiful instrument, I still felt blessed.

Dame Dash greets Erykah Badu in the media tent

I saw her backstage and its funny how things look so different up close. For one that grey sweater is a leather jacket, and that read scarf is actually some beads and as for the pant-shoe/shoe-pant? Is a pant and is a shoe...but dem dere was so tight it did look like one ting on stage. Know what else else was brought to light for me? Erykah Badu has a big booty. Yeah, I said it. No seriously, some serious ba-dunk-a-dunk. I know you're not expecting to read that in a review of a jazz festival, heck I wasn't expecting to see that either. As Machel would say, she have a bright future behind her bey. Lemme stop. Damon Dash showed up with his entourage and he took some pics with her.

Billy Ocean took the stage shortly before I left. Now Machel is hands-down my favorite in the entire lineup of artists but lemme tell yuh, Bully Ocean did the damn thing! He busted out hits like "Love Zone", "Colour of Love" "Stay The Night" and "Caribbean Queen." Walking out with Christina, the host of College Lifestyle TV and photographer Tiffany Lue Yen with whom I was spending the night, I bumped into Ras Kassa. I was so shocked at how tall he was, he even shock me more than Erykah. I had never met him in real life and every pic of video I have seen of him he is hunched over a camera or sitting down, so to see that I had to stand on tiptoe to look him in the face was for some reason fascinating to me. Now for his part, he could not believe how soft my head felt. I still don't get the fascination people have with how my head feels in their hands. Like the song says, everybody got their something.

What is it about de ballhead nuh? Ras Kassa is fascinated.

Ayeola and Christina striking a pose after the show.

And its Saturday.....
I'm on time. In fact, I'm early. Ha! Ashley Martin and Mario Evon open up the vibes.

Ashley Martin and Ayeola

I took most of Marion Hall's performance from the grounds eating corn and jerk chicken and coffee. What a combination, eh. She did a jazzy set and really moved the crowd with her song about her struggles with infertility "No Less Than A Woman (Infertility)". But Lady Saw, her edgy and raw alter-ego, could not stay repressed. She thrilled the crowd with some of her hits including "Sycamore Tree".

While on the field I also took in Lymie Murray's performance on the talent stage. Wow. Like seriously, why is he on the small stage?? Why isn't half the crowd eating from his palm??? Many people missed an amazing performance. Amazing. Just to clue you in, think Maxwell meets a Beres or Freddie and that's something close to Lymie.

Lymie Murray and Mutabaruka holding a meditation

By the time I climbed that mountain to the media tent, Jon Secada had already performed and was doing photo ops. "Just Another Day" my favorite song of his, was definitely loved by me and the crowd. He's up there in age, but my what a body! No wonder the ladies were swooning so. Gladys Knight performed for over an hour singing songs like "Midnight Train" and "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me". Does this lady not age?? She even came back for an encore.

Jon Secada and Ayeola

Hall and Oats to me were the best sounding of all the acts. I mean, it's like I wanted to take their sound and just wrap myself inside of it. It didn't matter what they were saying. They just blended beautifully; music was damn near perfect. The best part of their act was when Maxi Priest and Billy Ocean joined them on stage for "Love Train" and "Caribbean Queen." Oh man; a pure Kodak moment.

Third World closed the show. Now I love, love, love, love them; but when during their rendition of "Now That We've Found Love" a familiar bass line was calling to me from across the field, I made a bold dash for the new talent stage.

Third World on the big stage

Nelly Stharre was on singing "Peace and Love", my favorite. She is amazing (damn I need a thesaurus). And Walter Elmore Big stage for Nelly next year, uzeemi. It's a pity so few of the massive crowd saw her performance. She did a unique interpretation of Peter Tosh's "Vampire" that so wowed a local journalist, he was compelled to do a write up on her set.

Nelly Stharre totally rocked the stage...Who miss loss....

marie-claire followed singing "Motherless Child" in opera. She also did two songs from her upcoming album , "Care For You" and "Jah Guide". I'm so proud that these ladies represented for Dominica.

And then it was time to go home...

marie-claire brings opera to reggae

Now for the conclusion...
First off, I know I wrote a lot. Can you imagine if I had to write about Thursday night and all the other performances leading up to the main event? Hush, as they say here ( I hope I didn't use that out of context, lol). Now having been my first Jamaica Jazz and Blues, I can't compare it to the the previous location at Rose Hall. All I know is when I looked up at the sky and saw the moon and the dark sky, it probably would have looked the same from there. The cool mountain breeze probably would have been no different either. I think TurnKey Productions did a fantastic job with the layout and the stage management. The restrooms were immaculately clean, with attendants on hand to regulate the line and make sure soap, lotion, napkins were always in constant supply. Headline Entertainment staff Carlette, Jerome, Koreiann and especially Allison must be commended for their professionalism. I felt totally at ease and never did I feel less than the big media houses. They accommodated me as best they could. I got to meet persons in the media like Winford Williams and celebs like Lennox Lewis.

Ayeola and Winford Williams host of On Stage on CVM television

Boxing Champ Lennox Lewis

As far as suggestions go, I think the talent stage was very neglected. Although artists performed in between sets on the main stage, their performances were not put up on the big screen, nor were they amplified to the point where people who were in front of the main stage could hear. I know ads were played on the screens during those times and sponsors have to get their money's worth but that is something to consider. My biggest peeve of course was the media booth. It is just too far and too isolated. I don't know how organizers can make it work, but when someone has to report on a live event and on their left is a wall, in front is a glass door leading into a concrete building, to their back is a parking lot and to the right is a fence through which you can glimpse the action, no amount of dressing up is gonna replace the vibe that comes with being close to it. A flat screen TV just can't do it for me.

If I were just a spectator, I could rate it a grade A-, but for all that walking I had to do up dem steps only to miss an interview or photo opp because I was taking in the live show or vice versa, I would take that down to a B-.

So who's up for Jamaica Jazz and Blues next year? I am. No doubt. But we taking Nutsford for sure; and hopefully both Nelly Stharre and Lymie Murray will be on the big stage. Cyan wait!!!!!!!

go to the JJB official page for pics when they become available.
I will be posting the rest of my pics on Facebook sometime, just keep checking back.

Bookmark and Share
Related Posts with Thumbnails