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The Barbados Jazz Festival
"Come And Enjoy Jazz On The Island!"

This island is home to the Barbados Jazz Festival, one of the most popular festivals in Barbados and the most famous jazz festival in the Cairbbean.

So if you think that jazz is only performed in dark and smoky jazz bars in the heart of large European and North American cities, then think again.

Some of the worlds best jazz performers head to Barbados for this annual celebration of one of the most celebrated musical genres. For those that aren't familiar with this type of music, you have to experience it to understand it.

Louis Armstrong is quoted as saying "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know". There can surely be no better place to find out for yourself than the tropical Caribbean island of Barbados.

Established back in 1994, the Barbados jazz festival is one of the most important music events in the Caribbean and is also known as "Paint It Jazz". The festival celebrates the very best in International and Bajan jazz music and is the flagship musical event of Barbados.

There is big support from the local population and it attracts musicians and  jazz lovers from all over the world as well as being a major draw for tourists visiting the island at the time of the festival.

When is this Barbados Festival Held?

The jazz festival in Barbados is held every year during the 2nd week of January, for a week, coninciding with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. 2010 was the 17th anniversary of this Barbados festival.

The Barbados Jazz Festival is organised and promoted by GMR Productions, headed up by former travel agent Gilbert Rowe.

He previously helped organise the St Lucia Jazz Festival and decided that his native Barbados would also be a great place for a jazz festival.

He started out organising the festival on a very limited budget, so thankfully after the first couple of years, he managed to start attracting sponsorship from the likes of the Barbados Tourism Authority.

The Barbados Jazz Festival now generates approximately BDS $5 million each year.

Who Performs At The Jazz festival in Barbados?

The festival traditionally features a mixture of local acts and well known international stars.

In the past these have included:

• Alicia Keys

• AL Jarreau

• Angie Stone

• Anita Baker

• Arturo Tappin

• Dionne Warwick

• Elio Villafranca

• Erykah Badu

• Gill Scott

• James Blunt

• Joe Lovano

• Karen Briggs

• Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds

• Kite

• Lalah Hathaway

• Lionel Richie

• Macy Gray

• Marisa Lindsay

• Regina Belle

• Randy Crawford

• Ray Charles

• Robin Thicke

• Shane Forrester

• Smokey Robinson

• The Barbados Community College Jazz Project

• Will Downing


Where is The Jazz Festival in Barbados Held?

Performances take place at various locations in and around the capital of Bridgetown. The venues used for the festival include the Fairley Hill National Park, an open air venue where you can picnic whilst enjoying the music in the sunshine, this part of the festival usually lasts for 2 days.

The Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex hosts some of the events, and can take quite a large crowd of up to 5,000. It is the biggest entertainment venue on the island and usually hosts the most popular, headlining acts - Alicia Keys in 2005, James Blunt in 2009 and Smokey Robinson in 2010. 

The most historical venue is the lovely Sunbury Plantation House which is over 300 years old. This is traditionally the venue for the opening night.

Some performances take place on specially constructed stages by the beach. The grounds of the Prime Ministers residence, Ilaro Court have also seen some great jazz performances during the Festival.

Heritage Park and The Rum Factory usually host Day Two, which is a favourite for those who enjoy listening to jazz under the starry night sky, whilst enjoying some Bajan rum!

As well as the main concert performances, post concert jazz sessions take place at hotels around the island, including The Crane Resort and Residences. 

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