During spectacular Curaçao North Sea Festival held last September, the Velvet Rope had the opportunity to rub shoulders with various artists and performers in attendance. They graciously shared their experiences of Curaçao, what in their opinion makes music universal, how music has impacted the generations and eventually their own lives.
The festival was sold out on both nights and was well attended by locals and tourists who jammed on the tunes of crowd favorites like Sting, Kassav, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Juan Luis Guerra, Dionne Warwick and Rubén Blades.
The two-day event was also packed with an array of jazz phenomenon like Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band featuring Terence Blanchard, continued by Danilo Perez Trio and the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Chucho Valdés Afro Cuban & Messengers, and Roberto Fonseca. The festival also got its funk fix by the legendary groups Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Chic featuring the super talented and generous Nile Rodgers, who donated several items to local charities for auction.
The local boys also left their mark when Ronchi Matthews and his All Star Band rocked the house with their rhythmical Antillean Jazz renditions, and up and coming lovebird Levi Silvanie touched our hearts when he proposed to his girlfriend on stage.
Jocelyne Béroard, the matriarch of Zouk music and lead singer of Kassav talks about what makes Kassav’s music universal. Jocelyne Béroard’s eyes lit up when she spoke about her love for music. Her enthusiasm was infectious and before we knew, we were having a very animated conversation about the importance of music and what makes it universal. “Music needs to say something and when it does, it transcends all language barriers and cultural differences”, she stated. “With Zouk, there was a need for our wave of music and that’s why Kassav is still loved by generations”, she explained. Kassav’s music has an eclectic and mixed sound that is timeless, and based on the adoring reaction from the crowd who came early to enjoy Kassav’s classics, it’s evident that they haven’t lost their touch. “I love performing in Curaçao and get so excited when I hear that young and old still enjoy our music”, Ms. Béroard said. “Besides, our music is not retro or old fashion music”, she said defiantly. The secret of to Kassav’s longevity lies in their friendship and the fact that the timing was right. “There was never a breakup or any significant problems within the group”, Ms. Béroard explained.
Kassav was formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus and Jacob Desvarieux and besides the above mentioned people and Ms. Béroard, the group also consists of Jean-Philippe Marthély, Jean-Claude Naimro and Georges Décimus. Over the past thirty years Kassav has released over fifteen albums of which the latest one, All you need is Zouk, was released in 2007. “For the past three years, we’ve been on our world tour, so after we finalize it, we plan to release another album in 2012”, Ms Béroard explained.
Ronchi Matthews, the father of ‘Antillean jazz’, shares his hopes for showcasing Antillean Jazz. When David ‘Ronchi’ Matthews finished his M.A degree in 1984 in Jazz & Composition from the prestigious Berkley University, he returned to Curaçao with great expectations and a great vision. Mr. Matthews hoped to introduce jazz music to the Curaçao population and also share the Antillean music with the jazz world by encouraging international jazz musicians to play Antillean composers. “I always related to music that transcended genres and I call our fusion of local rhythms influenced by international jazz influences, Antillean Jazz”, he explained. For the past 25 years, he’s been teaching music to schoolchildren and is credited to shaping a large portion of the Curaçao population through his teachings. When we asked Mr. Matthews how he felt about being able to perform on the prestigious stage of the Curaçao North Sea Jazz’s, true to his soft-spoken nature, he admitted that he was excited but a bit nervous. “It’s an honor to present such an eclectic Antillean Jazz sound to the public”, he shared. “We have a talented group of local musicians and I want to showcase what they are capable of”, Mr. Matthews concluded. And Ronchi Matthews and his All Star band didn’t disappoint.
It was very touching to see international jazz musicians enjoy and cheer on our local talent during their performance. Mr. Chin Behilia also enjoyed to show in a trance like state and beamed with pride when he saw his music performed by renowned musicians like Uti Gregorio, Pernell Saturnino, Stanley Betrian, just to name a few. After such a captivating showcasing of Antillean Jazz, Ronchi Matthews and his All–Star Band will hopefully embark on a fast track that will take this unique sound to the masses.
Jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard talks about how his soul beats. You will recognize a soulful man by the way he shakes his hips and the manner he enjoys his food, and in the case of Terence Blanchard, he’s definitely passionate about the stage and seafood. This thoroughbred Southerner, who hails from New Orleans, Louisiana, was fortunate enough to get the best of both worlds when he enjoyed a few succulent dishes while unwinding from the festival. Mr. Blanchard had a few extra days on our island before he continued to his next performance in Colombia and explained over a delicious stewed conch or ‘carco stoba’, how much he missed his family, however he admitted to be in his element while on stage. ‘I’ve been playing music from a very young age since I come from a musical family, but I became interested in the trumpet after I heard Alvin Alcorn play in middle school”, he explained. “When I’m on stage, I feed of the energy of the people and that feeling is indescribable”, he shared. Mr. Blanchard got his big break in 1980 with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and then shortly thereafter with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. While the renowned bandleader, composer, arranger and film score composer enjoyed various local specialties, he shared his thoughts on the importance of music. “Music can unify people, a good example is ‘When the Levees Broke: a Requiem in Four Acts’, a Spike Lee documentary we did about Hurricane Katrina, where the music played a very therapeutic role in the totality’, he explained. Besides the Grammy winning documentary,
Mr. Blanchard also won four other Grammy Awards and was nominated twelve times. It was recently announced that he will be inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2012 for his body of work.
Looking back at a spectacular Jazz festival we can conclude that this event has achieved it objective by putting Curaçao on the map and make the world notice the many splendors or our tiny nation. Our visitors were enchanted by our warmth and laid back outlook and the speculation and anticipation for next year’s lineup has already started. Whoever is on your wish list, make sure you are ready to join next year’s party.