November 25, 2020

ALL THAT JAZZ – Festival can happen says music boss

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CEMA President Jean-Eric Smith

The music and entertainment association has offered to take control of Cayman’s near-defunct Jazz Fest, hiring artists, gathering sponsorship and delivering “a stellar line-up” at cheaper costs.

Speaking at the last quarterly meeting of the 150-member Cayman Music & Entertainment Association (CMEA), President Jean-Eric “Notch” Smith said the Department of Tourism should not try to organise the winter music festival because  “they don’t know how to do it.”

“They should only be involved to market it overseas, not to organise it,” he said. “They should use music people here for music-related events because those are the people who know how to do it.

“You can’t approach artists as the Cayman Islands government or it’s suddenly $1 million. If the CMEA did it, it would be $250,000 and you’d get a stellar line-up. Local production companies could easily do it, we’d all work together and put it on” Cayman’s last Jazz Fest, the sixth annual event, was staged at Camana Bay exactly two years ago, in December 2009. Featuring a sensational performance by Alicia Keys, the gathering cost a whopping $1.4 million.

In an effort to offset the expense of the loss-making event, however, ticket prices were pegged out of reach of most people, hovering in the same neighbourhood as the previous year’s three-day festival:
$75 for the Friday night, $50 for Saturday and $160 for the full weekend.

Alicia Keys who performed in Cayman

In the face of the gathering’s expenses and loss-making, and citing budget constraints, the UDP in 2010 discontinued the event indefinitely.

“I have spoken to the premier about working with local partners for a Jazz Fest,” Notch said, “We need to do advance planning and allocate funds for next year.

“If we don’t have one in 2012, the UDP may have squashed it completely,” he warned.

To make it work, the CMEA required only “a base budget of about $500,000 from the government.

“We get $8,000 per year from the government, have no offices, nothing. This is supposed to be a tourism Mecca, Jamaica and other countries are still [staging festivals] because they’ve been provided with a base budget.

“We could get corporate sponsorship, talk to, say, Maples and Calder, Ernst & Young. PriceWaterhouse, Cayman National. We could do a good job, and they could have their own corporate tent.”

Local bands should feature more heavily in the line-up, he said pointing out that more than 100 albums involving more than 800 Cayman musicians were on the shelves, and that the annual Pirate’s Week and Batabano festivals, six months apart, should serve as a national showcase for them.

“We want to have a ‘Battle of the Bands’, and the winner would headline at Pirate’s Week, where there are no local bands at all,” he said, “The runners-up would feature at Batabano.”

Both winners would travel to Cuba’s two national music festivals, Havana’s 15-year-of Cuba Disco and Santiago de Cuba’s 30-year-old Fiesta del Caribe, appearing as part of their annual focus on a Caribbean island.

“The Cayman Islands has never been there, and we have a lot of historical and cultural, traditional ties to Cuba,” Notch said, “but those exchanges have never been a political priority.”

“Last year, Trinidad was featured, and there was an invasion of soca and steel pan. What happens is that is incorporated into the local music culture, strengthening it,” he said, recommending Cayman’s Swanky to the Fiesta del Caribe in particular.
The Department of Tourism said yesterday government was looking at Jazz Fest  2012, and left the door open to the Music and Entertainment Association:

“I understand that the government is considering the opportunity and no decisions have been made at this point, “ said DoT Public Relations Manager Gina Matthews. “My understanding is that if the government did decide to move forward with Jazz Fest, it would be in partnership with another entity which would mean a lower price point to government. I am sure that once a decision is made further information will become available.”

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