Bahamian contingent to perform at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture officials, entertainers and Bahamas Events International principles gathered on Thursday morning to announce a reunion 29 years in the making.
The 42nd Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will feature a star-studded line-up that includes world-class Bahamian talent. A contingent of Bahamian artists, including Junkanoo performers, will travel to the Big Easy for the event, to be held from April 28 May 8 this year.
“It’s really the re-uniting of these two wonderful cultures,”said artist Freddie Munnings Jr., who represented Bahamas Events International, at the press conference on Thursday.
The contingent will be sponsored in part by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Minister Charles Maynard expressed his ministry’s endorsement of the project.
“I’m pleased to endorse the project on behalf of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and I’m pleased to offer our partnership in the project in terms of financing and logistical support to make sure that our Bahamian artists can get exposure to this prestigious festival,”said the minister.
The performing artists scheduled to make the journey include Freddie Munnings Jr., Bahamen and Raphael Munnings, among others. Max Munroe, a Bahamian producer who has lived and worked with major recording artists in the United States for the past 30 years, will work with Bahamas Events International to present the artists at the festival.
Raphael Munnings, former lead singer of the Beginning of the End band of”Funky Nassau”fame, celebrated the return to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. The upcoming performance coincides with the 40th anniversary of the hit song.
“This is a special event,”said Munnings.”This time we’re giving the fair grounds a treat. They’re going to have the best that The Bahamas has to offer.”
Nadir Hasan, a member of the festival’s board of directors, joined the government officials and entertainers in announcing the country’s participation in the festival. Hasan recalled The Bahamas’debut at the festival in 1982, adding that the impact of the original performance remained in the minds of some of those who were there.
“It really was a great event,”said Nadir.”And as you can see it still has that impact on me today.”
Back in’82 a contingent of about 25 Bahamian artists traveled to perform at the New Orleans Jazz Festival following an invitation from the Black Musicians Association, Munnings said. The association had held a music workshop in The Bahamas the previous year on the invitation of the Bahamas Musicians and Entertainers Union and Ronald Simms.
“While they were here, we introduced to them the sounds of Junkanoo people like Dr. Offf and High Voltage and others,”said Freddie Munnings Jr.
The artists introduced the festival to Junkanoo in an unforgettable way.
“When those drums roll over, trust me, we had a congo line of maybe 5,000 to 6,000 people,”Munnings remembered.”At the end of the performance High Voltage and Raphael hit the stage, along with Dr. Offf. There were literally 20 to 30,000 people just being drawn to that rhythm of the drums reverberating throughout the festival grounds. And that was the beginning…”
A few years later, the artists found that their performances had attracted two major conventions to the country.
“The Black Mayors of America and the Black Journalists of America were there and saw the experience. Two years later the Black Mayors were here. And the following year, the Black Journalists were here, so it’s like the pied piper effect,”said Munnings.
The group have similar expectations of their participation in the 42nd Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in a few weeks. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture hopes to use the experience as a springboard for a unique Bahamian music festival that has been in the works for several years.
“What is very important for us as well is the next half of what we would have started negotiations on, and that is for the creation of a unique Bahamian festival that can be a part of the whole festival movement,”said Minister Maynard.
“We’re hoping that with our participation in this particular festival, this will move forward that position for us to establish a permanent annual festival in The Bahamas.”
Munnings connected the New Orleans excursion to the viability of the use of culture and entertainment in attracting visitors to Bahamian shores.
“With the new Baha Mar development and Atlantis, we need to attract more visitors to our shores. One way to attract additional visitors is to present world class events similar to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,”he said.
He congratulated the ministry on supporting the endeavor and on its plans to move ahead with other such initiatives.
“The world is waiting for us,”he said.”We just need to invite them here.”