Jamaica to stage first 2021 virtual Musicfest

Tessanne Chin
Marvin Bartley Studios Ltd., file

Jamaica is acclaimed for blazing trails in transforming cultural norms.

Reputed for transcending obstacles despite challenges, the Caribbean nation could well be typified for being the island acclaimed for “making lemonade out of lemons.”

Boasting a long list of pioneering accomplishments related to fads and trends the world has embraced Jamaica has been credited with revolutionizing industries representing culinary, sports, tourism, fashion, dance, language and music.

Next month the first English-language, Caribbean nation to attain independence from Britain will host the first virtual interactive music festival of 2021.

And while the assumption might suggest the music of choice will be the genre birthe there, the spotlight will focus on jazz not reggae.

In order to replicate some of the successes of the 1990s, promoters are aiming to revisit the era of the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, which booked planeloads to the island during the slowest tourism season.

According to the new promoters, the slogan for the rebranded presentation promises nostalgically “The Magic Is Back.”

Florida-based resident Adrian Allen of Steady Media Group is the brainchild behind the renewal. He acquired a license to stage the comeback concerts despite the fact this will be a third opportunity at establishing the jazz genre as an attraction since the airline abandoned the festival to rename it the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival.

Allen has partnered with local veteran marketer Marcia McDonnough of Touchstone Productions to return the attraction for a three-night kickoff from Jan. 28-30.

With little else on the musical calendar during that period, they are convinced Jamaica and jazz could provide the escape tourists might crave during the winter freeze.

“We want to show that Jamaica is open for business and we are welcoming visitors,” Allen said.

His 12 years of affiliation with the previous jazz presentations along with McDonnough’s marketing expertise gleaned from the myriad events she participated could lead to a successful execution of the virtual project.

The pair are not strangers to the climate, the beat or the allure of the destination.

“Marcia and I have been involved with jazz over the years and we just decided to take the step and execute this year’s event. Staging events is what we have been doing for the past 12 to 13 years, so it was right up our alley.”

“We understand the brand and know what people want.”

Although the jazz fest has been off the radar for four years, both agree that “the most difficult part is that we have to bring back a festival which has not been held for a number of years.”

He told the Jamaica Observer that prior to the performance dates numerous strategies will be implemented to invite audience participation.

The target is that 100,000 viewers will log onto the three-day music fest.

One of the features will include the selection of six new Jamaican bands.

Young musicians are now being solicited to submit videos which the public will vote the best of six. On the first night, those performances along with vintage footage from past staging of the festivals will be interspersed to highlight the four hours.

“The first night is being dubbed the Band Quest Stage.”

The other two nights will feature a mix of local and international acts. Audiences will be able to interact during the event.

Live polls, competitions, a Q&A session to speak with representatives, games, virtual vendors and booths are all planned for the interactive event.

With purposeful and innovative strategies, the promoters have implemented novel ways to engage audience.

A jazz app is already in the works to enable easy access to the portal.

“Our broadcast wont be your regular live stream. It will be engaging, immersive and interactive,” Allen explained.

The fact that the live stream will be presented free to online audiences adds to the allure.

“Aside from the music component, we will be producing tourism-driven content.”

He said ‘Bringing Back The Magic’ will reimagine the nostalgia of “the music, the passion and the one-of-a-kind- experiences that our fans have become accustomed to – sharing the beauty, the culture and the vibe of Jamaica with the world.’

Despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaborators are convinced that the island nation is the ideal destination for a winter festival.

Since its humble beginnings at Pier One in Montego Bay where this Insider, a cadre of international music scribes and pop singer Jeffrey Osborne were forced to run for shelter from what seemed like a cloudburst, the festival has featured an eclectic grouping of pop, r&b, country, jazz and reggae acts, including Michael Bolton, Kenny Rogers, Arturo Tappin, George Benson, Celine Dion, Ernie Ranglin, Toots, Estelle, Marroon 5, Lionel Richie, Tessanne Chin, Smokey Robinson, Erykah Badu, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross and as many as 400 talented artist.

Next year’s lineup will be announced later and is expected to include at least one past top performer as well as acts appealing to both traditional fans and younger audiences.

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