Cayman gets jazzed up

Although the sweet sound of cool music is the thrust of the second Cayman Jazz Fest starting this weekend, the festival will also serve to reinforce Cayman as a top tourist destination.

And with international ticket sales for this year’s jazz fest double those of last year there is already more interest from abroad this time around.

Cayman jazz fest begins tonight, and the opening night differs from last year’s in that it will be a small, intimate concert at The Westin Casuarina Resort (from 7pm) with Intransit, Earl Klugh and Najee.

Friday’s outdoors concert at the Treehouse (from 7pm) features Hi Tide, Kay Kay, Al Jarreau, George Duke while Saturday at the same venue (from 2pm) features Sea n B, Notch And Club Dred, Pandemonium Steel Pan, Swanky Kitchen Band, Dance Cayman (Cultural Dance), Dance Unlimited (Cultural Dance), Arturo Tappin, Ravi Coltrane and Yolanda Adams.

The focus of Saturday will be a cultural family day, when, along with live music there will be arts and crafts, cassava cake and food, thatch making and Spongebob Squarepants. Also featured will be Batabano dancers and pirates to promote some of the other local festivals.

For the past month and a half, work has been ongoing at the site of The Treehouse. Mr. Shomari Scott Department of Tourism’s Marketing and Promotions Manager (USA) explained that trees have been pulled and marl laid down, extra sand brought in, and electricians and plumbers brought in. A stage is also being set up.

Locally, ticket sales have been slow, says Mr. Scott, but this is typical for Cayman. Sales usually pick up at the last minute, which is now starting to happen.

The Tree House can hold up to 3,000 people and tickets are limited to 600 or so this evening at the Westin.

The goal of the Cayman Jazz Fest is to promote the Cayman Islands overseas. ‘We definitely want to use it as a marketing tool,’ said Mr. Scott. ‘We’re trying to build it up and eventually there will be droves of people coming here for it.’

The festival is being organised by DoT in conjunction with BET Jazz. The concerts will be presented on VH1 and BET channels, along with previews and post shows featuring the Cayman Islands. Advertisements for the Jazz Fest have also aired on US national TV.

‘Even if people are not interested in jazz, when they see the Jazz Fest advertised on TV they see sea and sand and blue skies in the background, and even if they don’t come this year it could be next year or the year after,’ he said. The ads on TV do not just focus on the jazz, but show the diversity of experience available in Cayman, he said.

Internationally the festival is also being promoted through print, radio, internet and direct mail to both consumers and travel agents. The DoT’s advertising agency designed and produced the ads; and BET Jazz produced the preview show which aired on its network.

The major lesson learned from last year’s event being televised was that the night is not conducive to capturing the beauty of the Cayman Islands on film, said Mr. Scott. ‘The cameras don’t ‘see’ the beauty of the outdoor location, with the sea in the background. This was a major reason for moving one of the concerts to the daytime to ensure that not only the music experience is captured, but also that the visual experience of the Cayman Islands is also captured.’

US media coming to cover the event span from lifestyle to travel to jazz publications. Journalists are carefully selected based upon US gateway cities, secondary cities and lifestyle, said Mr. Scott. Some publications covering it include Travel Weekly, NY Newsday, Boston Herald, Patriot Ledger, Brilliant Magazine, the Atlanta Voice, Black Meetings & Tourism, New York Sun.

Launch Radio Networks will also cover the festival.

The local music association has been an incredible partner, said Mr. Scott. ‘The number of local artists participating in jazz fest has increased and this has a two-fold benefit: jazz fest attendees benefit as they will hear, feel and experience Caymanian music and local artists will benefit as sharing a stage with world renowned performers and gaining international exposure will be enriching for their personal musical experiences.’

Since last year’s event took place in June, the timing of this year’s festival will be examined to see which slot in the calendar suits the island best, said Mr. Scott.

Tickets for tonight cost CI$75, for Friday night CI$50 ($75 VIP); and for Saturday CI$25 (buy three get one free).

Tickets are available from the Department of Tourism, Funky Tangs and Reflections, or online at www.ticketweb.com.