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2019 Tobago Jazz


Alva Viarruel

November 27, 2020

Jazz festivals in Tobago have been something of a hit and miss in recent times, but the 2019 Tobago Jazz Experience managed for the first time by the Tobago Festivals Commission, can be summed up in one simple phrase: short and sweet.

If we’re to believe the exit survey of the Tobago Tourism Agency (TTAL) then for certain the 2019 Tobago Jazz Experience was a success. With an impressive 75% of respondents claiming satisfaction with the product and an even higher 83% expressing a willingness to return in 2020, the organizers of the well patronized shows must be very pleased indeed.

It was no surprise, though, to see Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and members of his executive doing the electric boogie in the VIP section at the scenic Speyside grounds, as Jamaican entertainer Marcia Griffith performed her signature song. The veteran artist had invited guests on stage to “boogie” with her and was clearly the hit of the night. Interestingly, it was the first time the island’s Festivals Commission charged an entry fee to the venue for what is billed as Caribbean Night, but as Chief Secretary Charles noted afterward, such was the turnout, that vendors also sold-out.

Apart from the food fare, the offering on stage was certainly up to par with local artist Olatunji Yearwood wowing his audience with his trademark pumped-up performance. Local band, Imij & Co, were also high-energy and engaging, providing back-up for the local acts as well.

The show followed the preliminary offering of the four-day music concert series dubbed Jazz on the Waterfront, which featured a host of local acts. Newcomer LeAndra stood out, as she performed genuine jazz and classic songs, leaving the audience begging for an encore.

Local diva Vaughnette Bigford pleased fans on the International Night, closing concert performances with her polished signature act. Desperadoes, the steelband from the hills of Laventille, rocked the house with their perfect execution of several pieces as internationally known Tobago pannist Cannon Jack joined their ranks under the guidance of the talented Clive Zanda; followed by the self-proclaimed king of soul, Jacquees.

The last in the concert trilogy had not one but two feature acts, with veteran Michael Bolton proving to be a true crowd pleaser. Ageing like fine wine, his powerful voice resonated, proving he was as powerful on stage as he is in the studio. Bolton engaged his audience with the story behind his compositions that have become timeless treasures. Closing the show was the American singing diva Toni Braxton who showed a love and appreciation for the fans as they sang along during her selection of chart-topping hits. Another successful year, for an event that continues to grow in size and talent.