I got a media pass and I’m not afraid to use it.

GIJF logoWhen my editor handed me the assignment for the Genting International Jazz Festival, I had only started work two weeks. Although part of me was thrilled to be off on a first assignment like that, another part of me was doubtful, wondering if my editor was right to entrust such a task on me.

I had never been a media personnel before. Whatever privileges I know of were only as real as they are on the TV screen. So, forgive me if I sound amateurish getting so starstruck for the first time in my life. We were given an itinerary for the next two days of the Festival, a media pass, the key to our hotel room and tickets to both concerts. Back then, I was too shocked to even jump for joy. It was not everyday someone would just hand you backstage passes, concert tickets and hotel keys and expect nothing in return. But well, in this case, a nice write up of the Festival. Heh.

Junkofunc @ GIJF interview.

It was a nice experience to enter a private room and interview the musicians face-to-face. They sat only a few feet away and they were at our disposal for as long as an hour. Half of the time, I was expecting crazed fans to burst in and scream their heads off while clawing at the stars. I had to remind myself constantly that they aren’t superstars like Justin Timberlake or those Jonas Brothers. But still, it was surreal, sitting with musical talents and talking about their careers as if we were best buddies.

I have always wanted to meet musicians and ask them what inspired them to write, what pushed them to be musicians and what kept them going, who are their idols and who they would like to collaborate with. And this was a chance for me to do that. Sure, they aren’t Damien Rice or Ben Gibbard or Chris Carabba, and I don’t get to ask them the story behind The Blower’s Daughter or who was the girl behind Dusk and Summer, but it was better than nothing.

I do admit that Jazz isn’t exactly my forte and the last time I had really gotten in touch with Jazz was during the Penang Jazz Festival a while back. But it is still music, and music will always be the beat to my stomping feet and the air circulating in my lungs. So, it is more than enough for me to want to take in as much as I can during the interview session and the concert.

Ben Belinga @ GIJF interview.

Hamilton @ GIJF interview.

I never liked interviewing people who I am not familiar with. I am always afraid I will ask a question that is already known to the general public. So, I was cautious when I talked to these musicians. Yet, it did not stop me to ask questions constantly and just drinking in whatever they are willing to offer.

They were quite nice in person too. And it just relieved me that there are people out there who see music as important as I do. Granted, we do not see eye-to-eye in the sense of music genres, but when it all comes down to it, it is still the life they breathed through the notes they played. Hearing them talked about using their instruments as a way to speak to their audience and portray their heart, it made me glad. For some reason.

It intrigued me too the choices of instruments they decided to take up.

Saxophone is a common instrument amongst the Jazz community, but the way Ben Belinga spoke about the saxophone he had in hand, it made you wonder if he were just crapping his way through or if he really meant every word he said. But, judging from the passion that burned in his eyes, and the cockiness that walked with confidence in his words, you are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Hamilton’s poison is, of all things, a mandolin, which played quite a crucial part in the marriage of Jazz and Samba. I will not spoil anything in this entry, as I will speak more of his performance in another post.

Diamond Dave & The Doodaddies @ GIJF interview.

Salsa Celtica @ GIJF interview.

Key Elements @ GIJF interview.

When they themed the festival ‘passion meets fusion’, and when they said it’s ‘international’, they mean it. They did not just string together a bunch of local acts with only one international act and call it a day. They really did go out and do their job, calling up musicians and bringing home the best. There are acts from all over the world; France, Brazil, Australia, Jamaica… And not only that, each of them brought to us a piece of their homeland too. You aren’t hearing the same type of Jazz for the two nights. You are listening to music hybridisation in the works. Funkadelic Jazz. Samba Jazz. A Capella Jazz. Blue Jazz. New Orleans Blues. Heck, there’s even a Salsa Celtic fusion that just made you ponder how did that happen. It’s all over and pieced into a single body.

Schalk Joubert & The Four Continent Sextet @ GIJF interview.

Jazz Jamaica @ GIJF interview.

And just when you think that’s as much as fusing music can go, wait till you see the Schalk Joubert’s ensemble. Four continents sextet. Any more Joubert is all set for a worldwide domination. Just sitting there and seeing them pass the microphone around to introduce themselves, it was as if they were about to explode anytime. There were also other big bands like Jazz Jamaica and Salsa Celtica. It’s just. Fuck, man, they’re just this close to putting together a freaking orchestra. What is wrong with these people?!

Tangora @ GIJF interview.

Neader\'s Jazz Band @ GIJF interview.

During the concert, the media have the privilege to be front and centre too, and the performers were on the other side, where the media were free to go over and chit chat. Sitting there was just incredible while they performed right in front of us. If it were an indie rock concert, I think I would have just died a happy girl there and then.

My photographer knew Fawzy from Junkofunc in person and I got to exchange contacts with him for another assignment. I got to sit down with Eric Vinceno from Tangora’s band and just talked about music and how amazing their performance was when everything was done. I took a picture with Hamilton while I congratulated him on his performance. We got to rub shoulders with Neander’s in the restaurant where we went to for a very late night supper.

I know. I know. I’m blowing things way out of proportions. They aren’t as internationally acclaimed and known. Heck, I don’t know if the Jazz fans in Malaysia even know half of the acts that night. But it was a real fantastic experience for a newbie like me. This is what it feels like to come from the media. This is all the good stuffs we’ll be able to get a hold of. OK, now I’m bragging. Heh. But, if all of this is true, not just a dream that disappeared when I wake up from a sleep I never knew I fell into, then pour me another glass of what I’m already drinking.

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