The fourth KK Jazz Festival supports local artists, full on! June 18 and 19 (Fri and Sat)

“The KK Jazz Festival 2010 has really come on strong this year to support our local talent,” Co-Organizing Chairman Roger Wang (SPArKS) said, at the festival’s first press conference held at the Theatre, Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club.

Roger said the business of choosing the musician line-up in a festival begins right after the last festival ends. He said when the festival first started, there was some reliance on international acts, and the organisers worried that they would run out of local bands.

“This is definitely NOT the case now. In fact, we have way too many bands to choose from,” he said. Going forward, the fringe events — which were made up entirely of performances by local musicians — are likely to become as big if not bigger than the main event, he said.

Adding to that, Event Coordinator Cheong Kok Ann (SPArKS) noted how last year’s festival had two jamming sessions before the main event. This year, the festival held three very successful fringe events at Hyatt locations, plus a Sabah-wide Talent Search earlier in the year. This brought to the forefront several bands (some of which we featured in earlier posts, like Ranau’s awesome fusion band FAZER). In the main festival, contest winners Fingerstyle (KK) and Kidz (Kudat) will be the opening band for the 18th and 19th June respectively.

RTM Kombo Leader Moses De Silva confirmed the benefit of the KK Jazz Festival to local musicians.

“The committee has done a very, very good job. From the first time it (the jazz festival) started, I was just a music student. The impact since then has been really big, in the sense that more and more local musicians are totally coming out. Because by far, this is the biggest platform for music in Sabah now, and I think every musician out there is dying to perform in this festival! So, I think this event will only get bigger.”

Festival advisor Frankie Fu (RCKK) said he and Datuk Adeline Leong (SPArKS) took a lot of flack from the media after the first jazz festival. “There were some derogatory comments about the publicity value of the event. But we stood firm and continued,” he said, adding that they are stronger now, the festival has its own brand, and their vision of how things could be is becoming a reality.

Representing the bands for the first night’s line-up, Syuwari, lead guitarist for Fingerstyle, said the band didn’t have expectations about winning a contest, they just loved to play. Fingerstyle is normally a 5 piece band, “but this time we will feature our boss, Mr Richie of Lazerbeam.” Syuwari introduced his younger brother Syuraih, who is 15 years old and the drummer, and his school friend Sabri on bass, along with Kichi. They will play jazz, Latin, a bit of samba, soul, Earth, Wind and Fire. It will be a 20 minute medley.

Matlan Kidz – Raimon – thanked the committee, and Roger Wang. He said Kidz is made up of drums, guitar, bass and keyboard. He spoke in Malay, and I would LOVE to share what he said, but I need someone else’s help for that! PLEASE feel free to post below what Raimon said!

Moses said Kombo RTM Sabah will be the first kombo from RTM Sabah to perform in a jazz festival. “I saw this as an opportunity after seeing the RTM Orchestra in KL perform for the Java Jazz festival.  I thought Kombo RTM Sabah should do the same.” There are ten members, and nine will be performing performing about 5 or 6 songs, from various genres, “As you know, in RTM we play all types of music…and we would like to tell the people of Sabah that we also play jazz, lah.”

Later during Q&A, Moses said Kombo RTM Sabah usually plays as an orchestra, but for the jazz festival the line up will be purely rhythm section. “We have one saxophonist and one cellist. We have one vocalist, and she is also the cellist, she’s Annabel (Tiu).”

Of the visiting bands, Wilson Quah of the Island Jazz Connection (Penang) humourously said the age difference from their youngest to oldest band member spans four decades, so their music hopefully will reach an equally wide range of people. To make their music most accessible they will be taking very popular music and turning it all into jazz.

Amir Yussof said the music of Roots (KL/KK) will be a bit bluesy and jazzy. “It’s kinda mixed, like me,” he said, to some laughs. “The guys I’m playing with have been playing together for 30 years, which gives them quite a presence on stage,” he said.

Atilia Haron and her band Phunk Mob are here from KL. She said she just launched her second CD and will be selling it here. She said she first spoke to Roger a month ago about playing here, but at that time the music requirements were filled. So this is a last minute booking, and they’re happy to be here.

During Q&A, Roger said this festival will be bigger than before, “The set up, the stage, the way we are laying it out. That’s very different. People walking in for the first time will get a big first impression.”

Also, the pricing for the tickets has changed. “We fought very hard to make it as affordable as possible. We want as many people to come. Last year we had two categories: RM100 for two days, and RM50 for two days. That was an issue which we have been dealing with for a long time, the two separate categories for tickets. Finally we were able to agree on having just one, because we believe people shouldn’t be divided at a festival. You want people to mingle, so there’s one ticket price with free seating. So it’s RM80 for two days. But if you just want to come for one day it will be RM50 for the day.”

Roger said, now that the KK crowd are getting used to this festival, they will realise that it’s not a sit down concert. People have a chance to mingle. Apart from the music it’s about the atmosphere: there will be food, drink, hopefully they will be relaxed enough to dance.

Kok Ann expanded on what a festival should do for its local community. Apart from entertainment, there are other benefits, he said. Of course, local artists get exposure to overseas musicians, but the opposite is also true. “International artists see our local instruments, see how we interpret jazz,” and this all adds to the pool of cultural exchange.

Organizing Chairman Jack Ong (RCKK) said another difference this year is the beer! (Cheers from the audience.) He said Carlsberg has been really supportive, and hopefully the fringe events will grow to be even bigger. He noted that, after the fringe events, more people are aware of the existence of jazz bands and hotels are asking if they can book more bands.

When I asked whether the musicians’ repetoire included famous Sabah songs done in a jazz idiom, Moses said: “We are Sabahans, and we are composing songs, and these are already considered Sabahan songs. We don’t actually have to say we are playing Sabahan songs in a jazz version. Like here, (gesturing to Matlan Kidz) the Kidz are playing ALL original songs, and we can consider all of these to be Sabahan songs.” Too right, Moses!

Frankie Fu (President, RCKK) talked about the significant number of successful Clean Water Project initiatives the festival has raised money for, which has improved health and sanitation issues in many kampungs which have not yet been reached by the government, and Datuk Adeline thanks the Ministry of Tourism for its support, along with the many volunteers who make this KK Jazz Festival possible.

“It brings KK alive,” she said.

The festival is an annual fund raising event jointly organised by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK) and the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu Sabah (SPArKS).  http://www.kkjazzfest.com/

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