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Kingdom of Bahrain
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As the Jazz Fest revs up for its third iteration, it may seem difficult to believe that it all started with a coffee table conversation and now, a mere three years later, the event has grown into an international phenomenon putting Bahrain firmly on the international jazz scene.
Co-founders Jude D’Souza, Michael Goodger and Paul Gindra had peripherally known each other for a few years, often roaming in common circles, before a passion for music and music festivals brought them all together.
Jude said: “Individually, we each wanted to do something to elevate the music, and especially the jazz music scene in Bahrain. We started talking about it one day and each of us comes from a different professional background, giving our team a very diverse set of skills.”
Jude, managing partner at Clockwork, a marketing consultancy firm took care of the business and marketing side of things while Michael, the beverage and events manager at BMMI and Paul Gindra, the director of food and beverage at the Royal Golf Club handled the operations side.
When they first started planning the event, they were hoping to attract a small crowd of about 500-700 people. But once Paul Gindra, who also works as the director of food & beverage at the Royal Golf Club was able to secure the driving range as a venue, the trio realised that this could be much bigger.
On the day of the festival, 3,500 people turned up and tuned in as bands regaled them with everything from blues to bebop. That’s when they realised they had a strong idea. This year, they expect well over 5,000 people to attend and with every iteration they improve the music and customer experience.
Jude added: “This year, we have decided to introduce cashless payments. Every experience we create must be seamless, so we don’t try to add too much at once. This year, attendees will get a RFID wristband when they enter the festival venue and load it up at a few stations with cash or credit. They can then use their wrist band like an eWallet with all the vendors at Jazz Fest. Since Bahrain is growing to be a FinTech hub, we thought we would have a fun but very useful implementation of it during the festival.”
On the music side of things, cult band Spyro Gyza will be headlining this year’s event along Nubiyan Twist and Lone Star Blues, with local bands like The Relocators and This Might Be Jazz showing off their latest work. There will also be a second stage where bands like the St Christopher’s School Big Band will perform.
Jude said: “We really want to break the stereotype of jazz. Jazz influences and is influenced by so many cultures around the world. Contemporary, Acid, Afro Jazz, Latin, there are so many variations and we want to bring the spectrum to Bahrain. Yes entertainment is the main goal, but we also want to educate and broaden people’s minds and expectations when it comes to jazz.”
Every year has brought with it new changes and according to Jude, the boys knew the festival was a success when they attended “jazzahead!” which is the world’s premier jazz enthusiast event, and were bombarded with artists and bands from ‘musically advanced’ markets like Europe and North America.
That’s not to say the boys have not had their challenges. At last year’s Jazz Fest, they were paid a visit by a very unwelcome and unanticipated guest: hail and rain. Though, they stuck through the storm and the show went on, they learned valuable lessons about back up plans and always adjusting and evolving, which they continue to imbue in their DNA.
Paul said: “Since we started, it’s been a lot of fun, even the tougher days. Every year we have tried to evolve and introduce something new to the experience. In the first year, we came up with free parking rides, essentially shuttling people to the venue.
“Last year, we built on that with the mobile app, which replaced all the paper festival guides with one, hard-to-misplace guide. This year, we have the wrist bands and we also have expanded the pre-festival events and added almost a week’s worth of club nights, working with lounges across the kingdom to bring more tourists to the island and highlight Bahrain as a hub for all things jazz.”
Find out more about the Jazz Fest and buy tickets at www.bahrainjazzfest.com