Over the years, Memorial Day traditions have waned from what many view as a traditional day of observance for fallen soldiers. However, one can argue that the respect for our fallen soldiers and their fight for our freedom is well celebrated as we garner the ability to come together regardless of our color or origin and celebrate what they often fought so hard for us to maintain freedom of life, love and happiness here in America. One celebratory event that has become one of these Memorial Weekend traditions is the UCLA JazzReggae Festival. For 21 years now, UCLA opens the grounds of its Intramural Field to host some of the best musical acts over a two-day celebration separated into Jam Day and Reggae Day.
Jam Day, a day filled with the eclectic sounds of Soul, Hip-Hop and pure R&B music, commenced on Sunday, May 27, 2007. Because this was my first time attending the festival I didn't know what to expect, but I was relieved that my 'partner in fun', Fully Graphix owner Mario Chacon Jr., and designated media technician for the weekend had been attending the festival for years. His expertise led me to be prepared for a long day in the hot sun by wearing flats, slathering on plenty of sunscreen, toting a blanket to sit on and brining my own bottled water. The media entrance was a buzz as press and artist alike waited to be adorned with color-coded wristbands. Once you were in, press had the access to the backstage area or right in front of the stage to record video streams and take pictures. Where we couldn't venture was the heavily guarded VIP area that was proclaimed for artists and their entourage only. However, I began to question this notion because isn't media one of the most important aspects to festivities of this nature? Oh well, let's move on shall we.
The day kicked off with the music of Dujeous a group of seven members that infuses Hip-Hop, Reggae, Rock and Jazz to produce an intoxicating melody that melts over its listeners; Chrisitian Scott - a phenomenal trumpeter that hails from the hub of jazz music, New Orleans; Soulive - one of the most sought after soul-funk quartets to come about in the last decade and J*DaVeY - a one of a kind partnership between Jack Davey and Brooke D'Leau that has managed to become on the steering mastermind behind a new wave of Funk, Pop-Rock and Hip-Hop music. Before prepping for the later half of the day, I had the chance to speak with Jack Davey (don't let the name fool you, Jack is a girl) about their performance and their plans for the future. 'It is so amazing to come out and get so much love from the audience,' states Davey. 'Our debut album will be out by the end of the year under the Warner Brothers label and we are excited about that.' When asked if they have any more live performances coming up, the duo will be headed to Paris, France for a performance, but doesn't have anything scheduled state-side yet.
The wrap up of Jam Day was amazing with performances from Les Nubians, Lupe Fiasco and Jill Scott with the finale. Les Nubians performed and melody of their hits as they mesmerized the crowd with their tribal-esque looks and rhythmic motions on stage. From Paris, France, Les Nubians manages to mix their native language (French) with English to create some of the most revered songs in the genre of neo-soul music. I was amazed to see many members of the audience singing along in French. Helene and Celia, the sisters that make up the group, were very gracious in with their media time after the performance.
Posing to take pictures and answer questions was done with the utmost enthusiasm and it is easy to see how they manage to get endless love from their fans. When asked about any opposition with the language for fans here in America, Helene stated, 'Because we speak both French and English, it is not a problem. And, even if our fans don't speak French, they can feel and understand the music.' I would agree that good music transcends any language barriers. The duo has many more tour dates slated both here in the U.S. and abroad. They split their time between here and Paris so it is not easy to pin them down. For more information on where you can catch this sister-act and obtain their music, log on to www.lesnubians.com.
A roar from the crowd only meant one thing, the next hot act had taken the stage and that's when Mario and I kicked and pushed our way to the front to hear Grammy nominated rap artist Lupe Fiasco. With his hit single 'Kick, Push' on the tips of festival attendees tongues it wasn't hard to understand that this Chicago native has made his mark in the world of Hip-Hop. In 2006, his debut album 'Food and Liquor' made waves as the new sound of rap and he was quickly pushed (excuse the pun) to the helm of his career with a Grammy nomination. Another single that got rave reviews was 'Day Dreaming' which features our closing act for Jam Day, Grammy Award winning vocalist Jill Scott.
Jill Scott, what can I say? I love her music and I love what she represents in a world filled with fallacies and preconceived notions of what makes you hot and what makes you not. I was so excited to gain the opportunity to pose questions and take pictures. However, my excitement soon fizzled when I learned that media was not going to be allowed to get within screaming distant to Ms. Scott. Managing to see her drive up on the trolley was as about a close as I was able to get and questions, forget about it. On the contrary, she is Jill Scott and I still love her music all the same. As we sat from the sidelines trying to gain a glimpse of the lovely Scott, I looked out into the crowed and saw them all standing and swaying to a voice so rich and sweet it seemed like a sin to be listening. One of the mesmerized listeners was North Carolina native Bianca Laverne Jones who stated, 'This was my first Jill Scott performance and she is just amazing!'
There was a host of celebrities that stuck around to hear Scott perform including, Lupe Fiasco, Les Nubians, Malik Yoba and Elise Neal. At about 7:30p it was time to head out. Remnants of the days festivities were displayed on the field grounds and I could only imagine the cleaning crews faces when they seen what they would have to tackle. It was only day one and a long one at that. I couldn't wait to get some rest because we would be back here, tomorrow morning for the much-anticipated Reggae Day!
Additional pictures from the day!