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Music lovers throng inaugural Sabah Jazz
Published on: Monday, April 29, 2019
By: Ricardo Unto

KOTA KINABALU: Everything from jazz fusion, swing, bossa nova and fingerstyle guitar playing was celebrated in the inaugural Sabah Jazz.

Braving the intermittent drizzle, music lovers, flocked to the festival venue at Sutera Avenue on Saturday to experience top-class performances.

Organising Chairman Arthur Lee said the two-day festival was listed under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) International Jazz Day.

“The International Jazz Day celebration around the world kicked off during the weekend and Sabah is fortunate to have its own event, Sabah Jazz, to join the celebration,” he said. 

“Sabah Jazz is pretty much organised by the jazz community of Sabah where all performers, this year, are in some ways part of the organising committee.

“Each of them wanted a platform where they can express themselves and at the same time celebrate jazz music together as a community.”

He added that the event was supposed to be held in 2015. 

“However, due to resources limitation, it never came to fruition until May last year, where a number of individuals came together and decided that 2019 would mark the first edition of Sabah Jazz.

“These individuals now sit in the Sabah Jazz committee. 

“The ultimate goal is for jazz artistes from around Malaysia to come together and celebrate jazz music on the same stage. 

“Held in conjunction with International Jazz Day, it makes the whole thing even more meaningful,” he said. 

In 2011, Unesco had officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. 

International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artistes, historians, academics and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact, raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding and reinforce international cooperation and communication. 

Each year on April 30, this international art form is recognised for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity, eradicating discrimination, promoting freedom of expression, fostering gender equality and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change.

International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April. 

In 2012, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly formally welcomed the decision by the Unesco General Conference to proclaim April 30 as International Jazz Day. The UN and Unesco now both recognised International Jazz Day on their official calendars.

“Jazz is like love, it is something we recognise when we encounter it… it is very hard to define -– it is fun to listen to, and it is complex, creative and inspiring. 

“Jazz is the root of most music. When you talk about jazz in a jazz musician’s perspective, it is life for them, it is always moving forward. 

“Jazz is music of the past, it is music of the present and it is definitely going to continue to be music of the future,” said Lee. 

Aiming to promote local talents, Sabah jazz played host to some of the top jazz performers in the country.

“Sabahan and Sarawakian jazz artistes are regarded as the most technically gifted musicians in Malaysia. 

“But most do not know this. This event will showcase that to them. 

“Over the past couple of years, I have seen quite a number of groups from Sabah flying out to the Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival and the biggest Jazz festival in the world, Java Jazz Festival. 

“To see them flying out to these events is pretty promising. 

“Sabah does not really have a quality jazz event so far, perhaps Sabah Jazz could possibly fill that up. 

“We could even bring quality jazz artistes from the region.” 

Among the performers who graced the stage was one of Malaysia’s best jazz fingerstyle guitarist, Hady Afro, who has represented Malaysia to perform at numerous music festivals. 

“Also performing are Grupo Da Bossa, who is headed by Malaysian Latin jazz songstress Joan Jim. 

“Other jazz artistes featured include Swag Big Band  from Sabah, Boogie Woogie Bears (Sabah), Ta’Dan (Sarawak), Wavez (Sarawak/Sabah), Joe Balanjiu Jr (Sabah), Gordon Horace Chin (Sabah), Alton Wong (Sabah), A.S. Drum and Bass Duo (Sabah) and Asif and Rene,” he said. 

The response for Sabah Jazz had also been encouraging even though it was only held for the first time.

“We are overwhelmed by the public response as we did not anticipate quite a large number of people wanted an event like this in Kota Kinabalu. We even have foreigners from countries like Japan, Russia, Argentina and Brunei Darussalam purchasing passes.

“Some Sarawakians and a number of groups had also made a trip to the City for the event.”

To this end, Lee hoped that Sabah Jazz will continue to be listed under Unesco’s International Jazz Day.

“If that happens, then it will be likely that Sabah Jazz will take place. However, we may need to find a bigger venue next time,” he said.



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