KOTA KINABALU: Having experienced his first KK Jazz Festival from the sidelines, Sabahan musician Gordon Chin is excited to be given the chance to share the limelight at the 11th instalment of the highly anticipated annual music extravaganza.
Strumming the guitar since he was only six years old, Gordon has never looked back.
He recalled admiring the festival from afar until he managed to work his way slowly towards it, first as a reporter providing media coverage and then as an artist liaison for the festival in recent years, before landing himself a spot on the coveted stage.
“I’d been keeping myself updated with all the happenings in KK. When the first jazz festival happened 11 years ago, I was a senior in high school and I managed to convince my parents to drive me to the festival, where I watched from the sidelines because I couldn’t afford a ticket.
“Being a musician, I told myself I wanted to be on that stage one day. After high school, I went to college and then became a reporter with a local daily, which was when I covered a good three or four jazz festivals.
“I still held on to that musical dream while doing music on the side, and one day, I decided to pursue music full time.
“That was when I started participating more actively in the festival, by becoming an artist liaison,” he said.
Gordon told The Borneo Post that he had taken care of American-born fingerstyle guitarist, singer and songwriter Shun Ng, as well as Motown legend Bobby Taylor, most noted for discovering and mentoring The Jackson 5.
“I took care of Shun Ng and Bobby Taylor during the ninth KK Jazz Festival in 2015. Then, in 2016, Bobby took me on as his guitarist. And this year, I get to perform as a solo act.”
Gordon said his experience with the jazz festival has been nothing short of surreal.
“This experience, starting from the beginning and looking at the festival from the outside before finally being on the big stage, is surreal.
“It has reminded me that the festival has come this far and musicians here have also progressed so much.
“I really hope the festival will continue to grow stronger every year so that more musicians can get this type of experience and exposure.”
Gordon is currently working on producing his first solo album, which he hopes to release by Christmas this year.
Along with other performers who will be gracing the jazz festival stage this weekend, namely Shun Ng and The Shunettes, Sada Borneo, Dasha Logan and Borneo Big Band, Gordon attended a press conference at the Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club, prior to the first night of the festival.
Organising chairperson Jack Ong noted that the festival had evolved and developed greatly through the years, and Sabahan musicians with it.
“Through interactions with the immensely diverse musicians we bring in, budding musicians who first joined us in their early 20s would have grown up with the festival and are now seasoned musicians in their own right,” he said.
In realising its purpose to nurture fresh local talent, Jack added that the KK Jazz Festival also took the initiative to send promising acts to other jazz festivals, to expose young artists to a wider audience and environment.
He said that the committee also organised jazz fringe events at entertainment outlets throughout KK, where Sabahan jazz bands get to perform.
Jack also told the press that students from Sabah Skills Training College, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) would be volunteering at the festival, to learn how it is run.
With regard to the jazz festival’s accomplishments after a decade of making its mark within the community, co-organising chairperson Roger Wang said, “I believe the festival’s greatest achievement is how it helped transform the music scene in KK.
“I have learned that the true measure of a music festival is not about the number of stars it has featured, nor about the big names it has brought in.
“A music festival is really about the number of stars it has helped create within the community.”
A non-profit event, the KK Jazz Festival also supports community projects by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK) through proceeds from ticket sales.
In the last 10 years, the festival has supported provision of clean water projects, literacy programmes and avoidable blindness campaigns.
RCKK president Dr Ravi Mandalam said that last year, the jazz festival managed to raise between RM60,000 and RM70,000, after expenses were deducted.
This year, he expressed hope that the festival would continue to generate more funds in order for the community programmes to be a success.
To avoid the hassle of parking, the festival partnered with Uber Malaysia through promo code “11KKJAZZF”, which will award ticketholders with two free rides worth RM5 each, to and from the festival yesterday and today.
Festival doors open at 6pm till 11pm on both nights. Tables and chairs are provided at the venue, with availability on a first-come-first-served basis.
Food and beverage operators will also be present during the two-day event, namely Carlsberg, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Party Play, Borenos Fried Chicken, Fruto, Adelphi and Co, Alexys, Wineshop and Purple Cane. F&B coupons of RM20 and RM50 will be sold at the venue.
Tickets to the festival are sold at various outlets around town such as Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Damai and Wisma Merdeka, Party Play, Adelphi and Co, Alexys Cafe and Borenos Fried Chicken, at RM100 per person per night and RM150 per person for two nights.
Yayasan Sime Darby returns as the main sponsor of the event, with other sponsors including the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Sabah, PACIFICITY and Uber Malaysia, supported by Kota Kinabalu City Hall and Carlsberg.
The Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival is a premier event included in the Sabah Tourism annual calendar of events, and is also a key component of the Kota Kinabalu Arts Festival.
More information on the festival can be obtained through its website, kkjazzfest.com, as well as on other social media platforms under the same handle.