Jazzing up Jamaica | Caribbean Beat

Originally written for and published in Caribbean Beat magazine in 2007

June is jazz month in Jamaica, with the 17th Ocho Rios Jazz Festival continuing this year as the main attraction, running June 9-17.

Founded back in 1991 by Sonny Bradshaw, the festival started as an experimental one-day event they called the Ocho Rios “Mini” Jazz Festival, featuring some of the most prominent names in Jamaican jazz. For Bradshaw, himself an accomplished musician and teacher, the inspiration was to add something to the reggae-dominated Jamaican musical landscape, and to provide an entertainment event that families could enjoy. As a result, Father’s Day 1991 was the date chosen for the event, and the day remains pivotal in the festival’s programming.

Within three years, the festival expanded to eight days and locations throughout Jamaica—Kingston, Montego Bay, Negril, and of course, Ocho Rios, and now includes a youth programme, free daily concerts, a photo exhibition, and a jazz hall of fame of major Jamaican and Caribbean musicians.

Perhaps as a result of the post-9/11 decline in the tourism market, the festival has struggled in recent years for funding and sponsorship. Nevertheless, festival directors Bradshaw and his wife Myrna Hague are determined to make it a permanent fixture in the regional tourism and cultural calendar.

This year, the focus is on what they call “World Jazz”, with the culmination being their classic Father’s Day Take Dad to Jazz closing concert. The line-up of artists includes: Arturo Sandoval, Ginetta’s Vendetta, Lorraine Klaasen, Byard Lancaster, Effie Burt, the Antelope Valley Big Band, and Idris Ackamoor.

For more details and information, visit the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival website: www.ochoriosjazz.com

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