KOTA KINABALU: If the first night of the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival (KKJF) was mesmerizing, the second night was nothing short of scintillating.
With an estimated 4,000 people in attendance over both nights, the ninth edition of this glittery event might just be the best one ever.
“We have the most fabulous trumpeter, a great line-up of performers and fans came out in full force. After nine years, I think jazz has finally arrived in Kota Kinabalu,” said organising chairperson Jack Ong.
Also present on the second night of the festival was Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.
“I think the standard is getting better and better every year, and the crowd is growing as well,”said Masidi, when asked to comment on the event.
“KKJF is fast becoming an event which is widely known in this part of the world. My hope is that it will eventually become the premier jazz festival in this region and I’m sure it can, one day.”
He also commended the efforts of the joint organisers, the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK) and the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu (SPArKS).
“I think they’ve done a wonderful job, considering that all of them are volunteers. This is something that all of us in Sabah should be very proud of. The fact that they are able to attract quality performers indicates their confidence.”
Masidi wrapped up his statement by saying:“Tourism is one aspect, but the most important thing is the Sabahans’ ability to organise something of a world-class standard, and I think we are moving towards that.”
The first night of the festival saw outstanding performances by local and international talents alike, namely, Faizul Sany and The Hybrid, Headhunters and of course, the legendary Bobby Taylor.
It certainly raised the bar for the second night, but what unfolded exceeded all expectations.
Suria Buskers set the stage with their mixture of various genres, consisting of world music, pop and rhythm and blues, just to name a few. This highly experienced group of professional musicians, comprising of bands from Sandakan boasted a catalogue of music styles that best complemented the event.
Following Suria Buskers was Eilvane Chang, who is no stranger to the KKJF stage. Returning for the second time around, Eilvane reminded the crowd why they fell in love with her in the first place, displaying exceptionally smooth vocals and a repertoire the audience adored.
Eilvane, who is of the opinion that jazz is“one of the best genres out there,” shared her views on why it is an important genre to upkeep.
“To me, jazz is like an expression of life,”said Eilvane.“The thing about jazz is that everything is so unstructured; nothing is really set in stone. That’s kind of the way life is. Everything just happens and we make improvisations along the way. The same thing goes for jazz. It’s the best expression of life, in a musical way.”
Next on the exciting lineup was Chinese songstress, May Mow, who wooed the crowd with her alluring stage presence and rich, bassy vocals. May exhibited divine showmanship not only with her golden voice, but also with the interpretive choreography that provided the crowd with a whole other level of entertainment.
As a Chinese language artiste, May believes that it is important for people to keep listening to Chinese music as“it is a classic.”
“I feel that the younger generation should keep listening to classics and make them more modern and relevant in their era so that the next generation can listen to it as well. This classic sound could then be passed down from generation to generation,” said May after her breathtaking set on Saturday.
The event culminated with the performance everyone had been anticipating, by none other than the celebrated Indonesian trumpeter and vocalist, Rio Sidik, of The Rio Sidik Quartet.
Rio, who had performed on the KKJF stage in 2012, blew the crowd away from the first few notes of his trumpet.
With a phenomenal display of skill and stage presence, it was clear to all who was watching that Rio is a very accomplished performer. His clear command of the trumpet was matched with his equally exquisite vocals and the reactions he elicited from the audience was remarkable.
The air was charged as Rio’s initially reggae and jazzy set made way for a more rock-influenced vibes when he brought out two special guests to join him onstage. They were veteran performer, Amir Yussof, and Rio’s sister, Marina Sidik.
Rio ended his set with a rousing rendition of Carlos Santana’s ‘Make Somebody Happy,’ as requested by a fan who greatly enjoyed Rio’s performance of the piece three years back.
Following Rio’s astounding performance was an artist who was just as superb.
Shun Ng dazzled the crowd with his peerless fingerstyle dexterity when he took to the stage with only his guitar. Everyone watched in awe as he demonstrated a technique that was second to none, infused with soulful vocals and a compelling energy.
Shun’s performance peaked when he delivered a smashing take on a Queen’s classic,‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
Everyone enjoyed the exhilarating performance, but little did they know that Shun was actually playing with a broken string. However, the seasoned performer carried on as though nothing happened and by the way he was playing, no one would have ever known that he had broken a guitar string.
Former Estrella lead singer, Liyana Fizi, took to the stage next, lending an air of intimacy to the venue with her stripped back acoustic set.
Liyana performed a number of original compositions that were underlined with indie-pop accents, capitalising on simplicity to connect with the audience.
The shining moment of Liyana’s performance was when she sang her hit single,‘Stay,’from her Estrella days. The crowd worked itself into a frenzy of excitement and sang along to every word of the iconic song, exemplifying the impact Liyana has made in Sabah since 2008.
Last but certainly not least, Indonesian blues power trio, the Gugun Blues Shelter, brought the evening to a close with their high-octane, genre-crossing performance that incorporated rock, funk and soul. The band played well into the night as the audience kept calling for encores.
All in all, KKJF 2015 certainly set a high standard for upcoming festivals. Celebrity host, Daphne Iking, reminded attendees that KKJF is only a year shy of celebrating its 10th anniversary. Needless to say, it is certainly an event to look forward to.
Proceeds from the festival will provide funding for community projects initiated by RCKK to benefit locals, especially those in rural areas, through efforts such as providing clean water to villages and literary campaigns.
KKJF is sponsored by Sime Darby Foundation, Royal Brunei, Mega Boogie Sound and Lighting as well as Sutera Harbour.