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Jazz Safari to tour region

Tony Best

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It’s a word that entered the English language in the late 19th century. More than 150 years later, any mention of it conjures up images of an overland journey that enables people to capture the sights and sounds of wildlife in a country, especially on the African continent.
But the Swahili word “safari”, which means a long journey, is being used by Tom Hinds, managing director of Damal Investments Limited, and his colleagues to describe an unusual musical initiative in the Caribbean.
Beginning in Barbados in January and ending in Guyana towards the end of 2013 with stops in between to various countries, Bajans, Grenadians, Antiguans, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Belizeans, you name them, will be able to enjoy the best in jazz music.
Called a Jazz Safari, it is dedicated to the idea that the music which has hundreds of millions of followers around the world is there to be enjoyed by people across the region.
So when Hinds, a Barbadian restaurateur and jazz buff, came to New York recently to launch the 2013 Jazz Safari at a mid-Manhattan restaurant and entertainment centre, there was a noticeable buzz in the air as anticipation ran high among those in attendance who wanted to find out what was in the works.
“What we are attempting to do is to shine the Caribbean light and give opportunities to some Caribbean musicians to perform alongside many jazz greats from the United States, while at the same time exposing some of our young people to the music performed by top performers in the business,” said Hinds, who owns Naniki Restaurant in St Joseph.
“But the Safari isn’t simply trying to attract lovers of jazz. We are joining arms with the Travelling Guitar Foundation to hold interactive workshops in each country, beginning in Barbados, to bring the guitar to our young people and give them an opportunity to hear from and play with some of the best guitarists.
“Of course, a key component of the initiative is the promotion of the tourism industry in our part of the world,” he said.
That explains why officials of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) led by Sylma Brown, Campbell Rudder and Peter Mayers of the Barbados Tourism Authority, and their counterparts from Antigua and other Caribbean countries, as well as Aja of Barbados, participated in the launch at the Tryst Ultra Lounge on Manhattan’s East Side.
“This is an important undertaking that should benefit the tourism industry in the region in general and the various venues of the Safari in particular,” said Brown, the CTO’s director in the United States.
In a Press statement, Hugh Riley, the CTO’s chief executive, said his organization “was fully supportive of this new and innovative series of events which will enhance the regional tourism product and bring jazz fans special packages to experience regional and international talent in some of the most stunning outdoor venues in the region. We are delighted to see the involvement of some of our member countries”.
The musical journey is being undertaken in phases, the first of which, the Barbados leg of the Safari, is scheduled to begin on January 17. Over four days it will feature live performances by drummer T.S. Monk; Nnenna Freelon, a vocalist; pianist Cedar Walton; Marin Conange; Elan Trotman, a Barbadian saxophonist in Boston; Annise Hadeed, who plays the steel pan and is based in London; Jeff Lorber and Melanie Fiona at such venues as Hilton Barbados’ Old Fort, the Frank Collymore Hall, Harrison’s Cave, Ilaro Court and the Naniki Amphitheatre.
The Jazz Safari moves to Antigua March 1-2; St Vincent and the Grenadines, March 30-31 and Grenada, April 26-28.
The second phase will take place in Jamaica in June, Belize in July and Suriname in August. Next  will be performances in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana in November.
“This regional outreach, with its fundamentals in quality jazz performances, education and tourism, will shine the Caribbean light,” said Hinds.
“It has never been tried before in the Caribbean and it will delight jazz fans from Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean, as well as those from outside of the region, offering the highest quality of music performance in exotic settings,” he added.
“The Safari will also create opportunities for Caribbean musicians to gain international acclaim and strengthen their global networks.”
Hinds emphasized the educational component, which he described as “an essential pillar” of the undertaking that, in the end, should spur further growth and development of the “music sector” in the region.
“The education element and the performances are inextricably linked and we are extremely happy to have Arturo Tappin involved,” he said.
“He is very supportive and will be travelling to Belize and Suriname. In every country, the Guitar Foundation will reach out to young people, those up to age 14, and will donate guitars to schools. We see this as a great opportunity. It’s going to be an exciting opportunity,” Hinds added.
Aja, master of ceremonies at the launch, praised the venture, calling it unique and fascinating and Hinds an enterprising person.