The 2016 Saint Lu­cia Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val: Some­times num­bers do lie!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Toni Ni­cholas

Ok, so let me start with some of what I deem “no­table” points of the 2016 Saint Lu­cia Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val. Firstly, that the “arts” com­po­nent seemed to have taken on a life of its own. What needs to hap­pen now is that there must be a con­tin­ued plat­form for the cre­atives to chan­nel their work year-round and I am not talk­ing a STEP pro­gramme for the arts. Take the Arts Vil­lage for ex­am­ple; as good a con­cept that it was, what now?

The sec­ond thing that some­what caught me by sur­prise was the thriv­ing wa­ter-taxi busi­ness that goes on be­tween Rod­ney Bay and Pi­geon Is­land dur­ing the main­stage shows. For EC$20 (one way) I was able to get to the park quite eas­ily, avoid­ing the traf­fic and long queues in the process. There is even an SLTB tick­et­ing booth right there near the jetty at Pi­geon Is­land.

And fi­nally, over­all the fes­ti­val seems to have cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of lo­cal en­trepreneurs and restau­ra­teurs who seek to cash in on the in­flux of vis­i­tors here for the event. One such ven­ture was Tapas on the Bay’s “Voices on the Bay” per­for­mances which sought not only to give lo­cals and vis­i­tors some­thing on the side with the Jazz main course, but af­forded a won­der­ful plat­form for some amaz­ing young Saint Lu­cian tal­ents.

Now on to the “not so note­wor­thy.” Let me start at the end. The 2016 Saint Lu­cia Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val ended on a re­ally anti-cli­matic note, not that I an­tic­i­pated any­thing dif­fer­ent. This false sense of cli­max was for many rea­sons, some of which I have ar­tic­u­lated in past ar­ti­cles as the is­sues re­main the same. One of these crit­i­cisms that I have di­rected to the SLTB Di­rec­tor Louis Lewis on at least one oc­ca­sion on a “live” TV show is that over the past umpteen years it has been a to­tal waste to spend in some cases close to half a mil­lion EC dol­lars on a head­line act just so pa­trons can walk out dur­ing their per­for­mance. With a ten-day fes­ti­val with so many ac­tiv­i­ties, there is ab­so­lutely no rea­son for the fi­nale on the Sun­day to have five “ma­jor” acts. I have ar­gued that three good acts will do at an event that boasts food, drinks, sidestage per­for­mances and other en­gage­ments for the whole fam­ily. Many per­sons brave the gru­el­ing heat from as early as 1 p.m. for the 2 p.m. start on a day which usu­ally runs some­times past mid­night – way too long. By that time most are ex­hausted, have had too much to drink; some too old to stand any longer or too young to be out so late. Sim­ply put, less can some­times in­deed be more.

And so Marc Anthony be­came the lat­est vic­tim of the walk out on Sun­day for that rea­son as well as the fact that he could not ig­nite the masses with his heavy dose of Latin songs. Yes, I have the mouth­pieces who place them­selves like pam­pers on the SLTB’s bot­tom who say, “the man is a Latin singer.” True, but in these parts most of us know him for his songs sung in English, in­fused with Latin rhythms. Again, the sug­ges­tion has been made that af­ter 25 years the SLTB should be in a po­si­tion to di­a­logue with the artiste about their set with­out in­fring­ing too much on their cre­ative li­cense.

And fi­nally on Sun­day’s fi­nale - where was the wow fac­tor to end the chap­ter of the Sil­ver Ju­bilee? It sim­ply was not there. With a lit­tle more thought, some col­lab­o­ra­tion or sur­prise guest or cameo by a celebrity could have put some ic­ing on the cake.

Talk­ing about sur­prises, two of them also caught my at­ten­tion dur­ing the fes­ti­val. On Fri­day, dur­ing the main­stage show at Pi­geon Is­land, Shaggy brought on Dance­hall singer Pop­caan - the self­pro­claimed “Un­ruly Boss” - as his sur­prise guest. Be­fore he had sung a note Pop­caan was call­ing on the crowd to chant “Co­coon Ma­maw” (a curse word ref­er­enc­ing one’s mother’s pri­vates). While the SLTB may not have been re­spon­si­ble for this un­ruly be­hav­ior, at least a word of apol­ogy im­me­di­ately af­ter to those of us who were of­fended would have been ap­pro­pri­ate. Again I must re­mind the SLTB’s pam­pers that this is a state event, paid for by tax­pay­ers like my­self, and not the or­ga­niz­ers’ pri­vate do­main. On that note too, why was Mo­vado, who is well-known for his ex­plicit lyrics, the choice per­former for the open­ing?

The sec­ond sur­prise was Omar­ion putting on an act on Satur­day that was way be­low stan­dard. It would seem like the R&B singer was en­joy­ing a va­ca­tion here, paid for with our money, to ca­vort on stage with his fam­ily and friends, hardly singing a note. Again, with­out fear of be­ing repet­i­tive, I have said it be­fore: at no point in the fes­ti­val should we al­low an artiste to per­form to play­back mu­sic in­stead of a “live” band. In­stead of Michael Robin­son’s side stage per­for­mance be­ing rudely cut, Omar­ion should have been asked to pass the mic af­ter his third singing at­tempt.

Over­all for me the fes­ti­val did of­fer some good and great per­for­mances, in­clud­ing Saint Lu­cian acts Ted­dyson John, Ace (who was bril­liant) and Ron­ald “Boo” Hink­son. Kas­sav gave another ster­ling per­for­mance on Satur­day while Air Sup­ply again wowed the crowd and Kool & the Gang had ev­ery­one danc­ing on Sun­day. The funk and R&B group could have eas­ily closed the fes­ti­val do­ing “Cel­e­brate” as the fire­works went off, pos­si­bly joined by some of the lo­cal acts. to evoke that awe in the au­di­ence in the end.

In clos­ing, I know that the SLTB will soon be boast­ing the num­bers who at­tended the fes­ti­val. But af­ter 25 years we should have moved past just at­ten­dance num­bers and the fes­ti­val should now be edg­ing closer to prof­itabil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity of the peo­ple’s money. I strongly pro­pose a com­mis­sion to re­view this fes­ti­val, headed by Ron­ald “Boo” Hink­son as some­one as in­formed and close to the fes­ti­val. This group­ing should be man­dated with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­view­ing all the con­tracts we have en­tered into with the artistes, some of which have been quite ques­tion­able. It would also help to in­ves­ti­gate ways of mak­ing the event prof­itable and repo­si­tion­ing it against some of the best fes­ti­vals in the world. I also pro­pose that fol­low­ing the fes­ti­val each year a pub­lished item­ized ac­count is given to the pub­lic as to how their money is spent. Any­thing less will be un­ac­cept­able and will con­tinue to cast a dark shadow over the fes­ti­val and the or­ga­niz­ers as to why the num­bers don’t al­ways seem to add up.

Marc Anthony was the SLTBs choice to close the sil­ver ju­bilee year of the fes­ti­val.

Kool & the Gang show­ing just how we used to get down on it back in the day.

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