Caribbean Today July 2002Howard ‘Flagga’ Duperly

Jazz fest serves up sweet Curaçao culture

Legend has it that in the mid-18th century the Governor of Curaçao ordered his fellow citizens to paint their homes and buildings in colors other than white. The color white, he said, gave him a headache.

The people obliged with a caleidoscope of colors that obliterated the white that dominated the island’s architecture. Today that tradition continues and symbolically it’s a true reflection of the island’s vibrant culture.

There's nothing bland about Curacao. Just like the bright colors that adorn the country's landscape, so too are its people. Curaçao held its 15th Annual Jazz Festival last month, and in addition to the music, visitors got glimpses into the island's rich culture. The music was a wonderful presentation of mainstream jazz, showcasing groups from the Netherlands, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Uruguay.

The setting for the festival was an intimate amphitheater packed with an appreciative audience who lavishly applauded the entertainers. Opening night featured The JJ Rojer Quartet, a local group led by Jean Jacques Rojer, whose acclaim is rooted in the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. From Puerto Rico came the six-piece ensemble Jibaro Jazz.

However, it was Izaline Calister who reigned supreme that night. The local lady, now international diva, had the fans eating from the palm of her hands. Now living in Holland, and touring mostly on the European circuit, Calister came back to superstar status, after being crowned Curacao's Tumba Queen last-year for her song ‘Sa Sa Na Awasa’ - a piece that pays tribute to the island's famed Brion Square.

Tumba is to Curacao what reggae is to Jamaica, and Calister's fusion of the tumba rhythm and jazz proved to be the perfect recipe for the crowd who showered her with standing ovations. (…).

(…) Making an encore appearance was Calister, and again the fans turned out. Deviating from her set on opening night, she used the opportunity to perform with the youth, plucking kids from the audience to join her on stage. Her new album - ‘One Woman's Dream’ - is sung in her native papiamentu language, but is so rich with rhythm and instrumentation that it will appeal to jazz fans worldwide. (…)