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The much-awaited open-air Bahrain Jazz Fest attracted music lovers and their families from across the island and the region for a day of music and mingling at the Royal Golf Club.
The event, which has attracted more than 8,000 attendees since its inception in 2017, featured local and international bands, starting at noon and spread across two stages.
The third iteration of this festival was this jazzy journalist’s first ever experience of a music festival in Bahrain, so showing up bright and way too early was top of the agenda.
Title sponsors BNP Paribas Middle East Africa head Jacques Michel said: “This year, we have endeavoured to diversify the support through a specific focus on youth, who are the future of jazz.”
The morning kicked off with a performance by the St Christopher’s School Big Band on the Room2Rock stage, playing mildly familiar arrangements with their own unique twist. After loading up our Mastercard- powered cashless payment bands, we took a walk around and checked out some of the local vendors and food trucks.
From Big Texas to Joe Mamas to Florencia Ice-Cream, every course and then some was covered. As we grabbed beverages to cope with the high noon heat, This Might Be Jazz, the first act on the main stage started with a rendition of Down by the River and Elton Shera’s saxophone gave the official green light to Jazz Fest.
The afternoon also brought a special announcement for aspiring youth jazz musicians, as BNP Paribas presented a BD5,000 cheque to Clockwork Professional Services festival principal and managing partner Jude D’Souza to support the creation of a long-term plan to develop music abilities across the island.
Jacques said: “The BNP Paribas Emerging Artists Programme, a first for the Middle East, will benefit schools and music groups that don’t have a jazz music programme. It will be implemented across schools during the course of the 2021 academic year and will involve activities such as workshops, master classes, focused trainings, music management and instrument support.”
The festival has actively promoted up-and-coming local talents through several initiatives including band hunts, workshops and pre-festival concerts and with this programme, it hopes to further develop jazz talent across the kingdom and the region and build awareness around music education.
BNP Paribas also awarded the “Emerging Artist of the Year” to Mohammed Hashem and Ahmed AlQasim, who entertained guests at the private lunch with some swinging and striding songs.
As we returned from the announcement, we noticed some people managing to work away on their laptops with the jaunty background jazz music. As The Relocators took to the stage, their pop jazz tunes got everyone up and moving, leaving all productivity behind for an evening of fun and frolic.
Couples, families and friends floated in throughout the day and seemingly, everyone from Bahrain and the GulfWeekly’s past few editions manifested themselves throughout the day, which got much louder and crowded; at one point occupying the entire green, speckled with a variety of tents. The music too, expansively explored the different sub-genres of jazz, blues, swing, funk, soul and afrojazz.
Jude explained: “Bahrain Jazz Fest is built around the basic concept of bringing the best of world-class jazz to Bahrain and showcasing the best of Bahraini talent to the world. We work very closely with our strategic partners Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority and the Economic Development Board to create a marquee event music festival that will also attract a huge number of tourists to the kingdom.”
The evening brought with it larger crowds as well as international musical acts like Jaye & Foe, Flash Mob Jazz and Lone Star Blues.
While they were well past my memory lane, the crowd cheered loudest and collected around the stage for 10-time Grammy nominated band, Spyro Gyra.
The event, co-founded by Jude, alongside business partner Paul Gindra and BMMI events manager Michael Goodger, drew the 45-year old band and some of its fans to the kingdom, and their enthusiasm was infectious, despite us having been there all day.
The evening wrapped up with some afrojazz beats by British band Nubiyan Twist and with a brag-worthy t-shirt tucked under my arm, I drove home, wondering how the festival could be topped next year.