CASTRIES, St. Lucia – British musician Seal, noted songwriter and singer Babyface, jazz diva Nancy Wilson, percussionist Pancho Sanchez, and the soulful Reverend Al Green are the headliners for the 15th edition of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival to be held in the creole island nation from May 5-14, 2006.
The 15th St. Lucia Jazz Festival, its crystal anniversary, was launched in Castries, St. Lucia this week, heralding the start of what many regard as the world’s third most popular music festival but which is certainly the Caribbean’s most popular jazz festival.
Staged by the St. Lucia Tourist Board and produced by BET Event Productions, a division of Viacom subsidiary Black Entertainment Television (BET), it has also attracted the smooth sounds and musical genius of Freddy Cole brother of the late Nat King Cole, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, rhythm and blues singer Ciara, and Barbados-born music sensation Rihanna, who each will take the stage at the legendary Pigeon Island National Park.
And there’s more, Chairman of the St. Lucia Tourist Board, Costello Michel says, as soon as other contracts are signed, more artistes will be named. He noted that despite budgetary challenges, the best combination of possibilities for a wonderful musical event has been assembled. “We have to understand that although it is important to continue to have the best festival in the region, and probably one of the best in the world, we have to do it within the limitations of what a country like ours can afford to spend on one event,” he told the launch ceremony.
Cybelle Brown, Vice President for Sales and Marketing for BET Event Productions and for BET Digital Networks, said the network will now switch its promotional gear to another notch in the US market, with the airing of a 30 minute preview show hosted by actress Kim Fields which airs on BET and BET Jazz this month. Television promotions for the festival will also air. “We have every confidence this will be one of the best festivals in St. Lucia and our team is resolved to stage an amazing production,” said Brown.
St. Lucia tourism minister Philip J. Pierre, under whose watch the St. Lucia Jazz Festival has consolidated and expanded island-wide, says he expects that this year’s festival “will again attract record numbers, as we continue to cater for all tastes and take the spirit to all corners of the island, from Pigeon Island to Fond d’Or and from Vieux Fort to Bocage.”
The St. Lucia Jazz Festival was first launched as a marketing tool to attract visitors to the destination at a time when occupancy levels have traditionally been low. A record 13,500 patrons attended last year.
Since its establishment in 1992, St. Lucia Jazz has grown in magnitude and stature to become one of the preeminent Jazz festivals in the world, featuring multiple shows daily, ranging from acoustical, to new age and straight-ahead jazz, soul, fusion and R & B. Unique to the festival are its “fringe” events, which are held in a variety of locations and venues around the island. For more information and updates about St. Lucia Jazz, visit www.stluciajazz.org.