Splash Page: The home page to the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival where Celine Dion will make her Caribbean debut.
Non-Jamaicans may be surprised by the animated responses Celine Dion songs elicit at sound system dances across the island. Patrons excited reactions to Dion mainstays like "A New Day Has Come" and "My Heart Will Go On" include pounding walls or bar surfaces, repeatedly blaring sirens and raising their hands in simulated gun salutes, all grand endorsements in the dancehall reggae/sound system sphere that are typically reserved for the latest releases by gritty deejays Vybz Kartel or Mavado. And soon, some of Jamaica's biggest Dion fans may get the thrill of a lifetime.
Celine Dion will make her Caribbean debut at the 16th annual Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival which will be held Jan. 26-28, 2012, at the Greenfield Multi Purpose Stadium, Trelawny, a 30 minute drive from Jamaica's resort capital Montego Bay. Also on the lineup: hip hop-funkster (and vocal coach on NBC's The Voice) Cee-Lo Green, The Temptations Revue (featuring Dennis Edwards) and acclaimed jazz guitarist Earl Klugh.
"This is the only show Celine is doing besides her Las Vegas gigs and it will be the most memorable event ever staged in Jamaica," enthused Jamaica Jazz and Blues producer Walter Elmore, CEO of Art of Music Productions (AMP).
Dion commenced her second Las Vegas residency, "Celine" at The Colosseum, Caesers Palace, Las Vegas, on March 15 and which will run through 2014. Billboard's Boxscore listings ranked "Celine" the number one show in North America with 54 consecutive sold out performances before 230,000 fans between March and August 2011.
Born in Charlemagne, Quebec, Dion, 43, is Canada's all time best selling artist and the second best-selling female artist in the U.S. of the Nielsen SoundScan era. In 2004 she was honored with the Chopard Diamond Award at the World Music Awards in Monaco as the best-selling female artist of all time, based on sales figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI); according to Sony Music Entertainment, Dion has sold over 200 million albums worldwide. Her signature hit "Because You Loved Me" topped numerous international charts in 1996 including the Hot 100.
Possessing a five-octave vocal range, Dion is consistently praised for her technical virtuosity and regarded as one of popular music's most influential voices. Her lushly orchestrated pop-ballads enjoy a widespread, unique appeal among Jamaicans and several of the island's artists have recorded reggae versions of Dion's songs. For example, Pam Hall transformed the grand Titanic theme "My Heart Will Go On" into a touching lover's rock lament;
Ghost had a significant hit in Jamaica with "Waiting For You", his unique interpretation of Dion's "To Love You More"
And Terry Linen's raspy yet pliant vocals fashioned a heartfelt rendering of "That's The Way It Is".
"In Jamaica we listen to everything, hardcore dancehall fans listen to Celine Dion at home so it's not unusual to hear her music in a (dancehall) session because Jamaicans love her," notes Tarrus Riley, the contemporary roots reggae star. Riley delivered an outstanding performance at Jazz and Blues 2011, accompanied by his equally impressive Blak Soil band.
Jazz & Blues Fest's Elmore acknowledged Dion as the most expensive artist he has brought to Jamaica. Although he wouldn't disclose her fee, he is confident the expenditure will be beneficial. "Because Celine Dion has never appeared in this region nor at a music festival, this is a coup for us," he said. "We are certain her appearance on Friday Jan. 27 will bring more visitors to Jamaica and enhance the stature of our world class event, building upon the recognition we received from a recent HBO special."
HBO is anticipating a viewership exceeding 300 million, spanning 23 Caribbean/Latin American countries, for their special "One Love: Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival 2011," which debuted on Sept. 22 featuring performances and interviews with 2011 headliners Maroon 5 and Natalie Cole.
Conceived as a vehicle for increasing Jamaica's tourism during the low visitors arrival period, the Jazz and Blues Festival was launched in October 1996 with Air Jamaica as its title sponsor. Featuring primarily jazz and blues artists the inaugural festival attracted 1,500 patrons. In 2004 Elmore's Turn-Key Productions (reformed this year as Art of Music Productions) took control of the event. Elmore's inclusion of vintage pop and R&B acts including Air Supply, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, and Earth Wind and Fire swelled annual attendance figures to approximately 30,000 patrons over three nights. "Basically, we feature artists that Jamaicans love to sing along with," says Elmore.
Jamaica's Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett estimates Jazz and Blues 2012 will generate nearly five million dollar for the island's economy. "We previously made about three million from this festival but we expect 2012 to be the biggest yet," noted Bartlett. "In 2011 hotels within Montego Bay and other areas close to Greenfield Stadium reported full occupancy for the duration of Jazz and Blues. The transportation industry, restaurants, taxi and attraction operators and sub sectors can attest to the returns from this event," Bartlett stated, singling out airport taxes, which amounted to $200,000 for the period.
Jazz and Blues 2012 will commence on Thursday Jan. 26 with a kick-off celebration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence, which will be observed on Aug. 6; Shaggy, Yellowman, Richie Stephens and German reggae superstar Gentleman will headline an all-star cast performing selections from five decades of Jamaican recorded music.
Sponsors for the 2012 festival include The Jamaica Tourist Board, Red Stripe Beer, Flow telecommunications and several hotels in and around Montego Bay and Elmore anticipates increased sponsorship within the next few weeks. "With Celine Dion as our headliner, I am sure one of our backers will step up offering title sponsorship," he says. "Because nothing like this has been done before in the Caribbean it is very attractive to sponsors."