A weekend jamboree of jazz
Jazz fans were given a treat in the form of live performances by some great acts at the second Mercedes Benz Colombo Jazz Festival. Held over the weekend at the Galle Face Hotel, the two day sell out event was punctuated by tropical storms which insisted on trying to put a dampener on things but it did not count on the stoic Sri Lankan spirit of resilience.
The Mercedes Benz Colombo Jazz Festival is the brainchild of Gehan Fernando, the force behind Main Stage events who are credited with bringing some big name music acts to Sri Lanka in the past. With a good track record to boot, Main Stage Events has got the support of many corporates and the Jazz Festival has grown in strength.
The audience arrived wearing smiles in the knowledge that the festival line up was full of great music despite the rain cloud laden skies. Food and drink stalls along with a fashion kiosk added to the vibe of the event.
Day one of the festival started with Sri Lankan band Brown Sugar followed by the Beer Puppets from neighboring India. Then the heavens opened and the music stopped for a couple of hours until Jerome Speldewinde sought shelter under the awnings and entertained the crown in an impromptu sing along. Next up Lynieve Austin of RMXD from the UK stepped in and unleashed her velvet tones on the audience who by now had once against raised their water logged spirits and were dancing on the sodden grass.
After the rain break, Incognito the band which most people were waiting for took to the stage and what a rapturous they received from the die hard jazz aficionados who had waited patiently for over four hours for play to resume. The rich velvety tones of Vanessa Haynes filled the air with soulful jazz followed by Imaani Saleem. Of mixed Sri Lankan and Jamaican heritage Imaani was ecstatic to perform on home ground and sang a specially composed song which expressed her delight to be able to return home and perform in Sri Lanka for the first time. Andrew Oh and his band from Australia brought the festival to a close on Saturday night.
Day 2 of the jazz festival opened with UK band Miles Davies Experience showcasing their repertoire of jazz. Following them South African band Major Minor exuded their new generation African Music. At this time the heavens decided to open and the audiences were in for another long break after which legendary Geoffrey Fernando took to the stage where he proudly flew the flag for Sri Lankan music. And he did that exceedingly well with his rendition of Barry White's "Practice what you preach" which had the hairs on my nape standing up as his delivery was pitch perfect. Next up were the Diablos who unleashed a set of rip roaring funk with a splash of Tarrantino mixed with the soul of Wilson Pickett as they played classic hits with a modern twist.
By this time the audience had multiplied considerably and they were there in force not letting a bit of a tropical fizz get in the way of their entertainment. Sannie Fox hailed as the rock and blues queen of South Africa took to the stage and delivered an energetic performance. Soon after Austrian Band Varmint Control provided an exceptional performance with character as they connected and manipulated different elements and stylistic trademarks of jazz, rock and funk. Andrew Oh was back on stage followed by Chicago Blues luminary Mud Morganfield son of legendary singer Muddy Waters. The subtle artistry of his voice, the atmospheric spacious arrangements with lots of loose guitar and harmonica made the Chicago blues come alive at the Galle Face Hotel. El Trio with noted singer Marco Mendoza who has performed with Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy were the final act of the night. Mendoza used his voice as another instrument to wow the crowd, rich and raspy his voice pierced the night air as El Trio stole the show as they brought an end to two days of unsurpassed jazz and blues entertainment than rained down on Colombo in more ways than one.
Comments from the audience
The Colombo Jazz Festival brings together a host of musicians from all parts of the world to relish in indigenous tunes and ARTRA Magazine & Daily ARTRA is all about celebrating art, in its universal sense. We are very happy to support the festival as it plays a role in setting the stage in identifying Sri Lanka as a hub for the arts."
What could've been a perfect evening, hiccupped by the weather but remedied by the jazz.
Great planning and fabulous event. Though the weather didn't cooperate the sprits were high. Would have been lovely if the event was spread to several stages and added rock and gospel as they do in the west. Seeing the diverse crowd, shows the event has become more and more popular each year.
Natasha and Zak
A super event with a great line up of performers.
The line up looks interesting and it promises to be a great event.
Davina and Janice
We loved the festival... can't wait for the next one.
PHOTOGRAPHS by Kanishke Ganewatte