Fusion 2 draws hundreds to NAPA's forecourt

From left: Captain of the NSSO Kareem Bruce, Artistic Director and Conductor Akua Leith, NSSO’s Manager Avis Bruce, and Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr. The Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at “Fusion 2”

When the poui begins to recharge the parched landscape of the dry season, we know that one thing is on the horizon- Jazz Season in Trinidad and Tobago.

Last year, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts (MCDCA) experimented with a concept- merging steelpan music with the mellow rhythms of jazz. This was certainly not the first attempt at blending both styles of music within the local cultural arena. However, creating a premier outdoor musical experience featuring world-class jazz and steelpan headliners, all at no cost to attendees, was a feat yet to be achieved. Thus, “Fusion- the Jazz Experience” was born. Following the tremendous success of this event in April 2018, a repeat in 2019 was greatly anticipated.

The entrance to the epicentre of Port of Spain’s cultural artistry, the National Academy for the Performing Arts, once again provided the perfect backdrop for this evening of fusion music. With the full moon towering over the steps of NAPA, a casual ambiance was set by the entertaining skit of the National Theatre Arts Company, who walked the audience through the evening’s programme.

Led by Artistic Director and Conductor Akua Leith, the National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) brought forward their usual mastery of the Genesis steelpan (the G-pan), reproducing Liam Teague’s popular arrangement “Chant”, Kes’ “Savannah Grass” and much more. Trumpeter, Arranger and Composer Rellon Brown joined the Orchestra for some of their opening pieces, engaging in a friendly “musical battle” with the NSSO’s Arthur Peters on the double seconds pan. The likes of Quinton Neckles and Kay Alleyne also added a smooth rhythm to the evening. With the NSSO’s steelpan accompaniment, Neckles’ striking rendition of Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall”, followed by his duet with Alleyne for Otis Redding’s classic hit, “A change is gonna come”, took the audience to a euphoric state. The popular jazz ensemble, ‘Elan Parle’, led by founder and keyboardist Michael ‘Ming’ Low Chew Tung also joined the lineup, performing hits like Farmer Nappy’s “Hookin Meh” with a jazz twist.

Perhaps the biggest star in the “Fusion 2”constellation was the legend himself, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, who collaborated with the NSSO for several performances. “Boogsie” debuted his new composition, “My New Life”, which spoke to his recent transformative journey. His explorative mind took the seasoned NSSO pannists on a new adventure, one which they graciously embraced.

The evening would not be complete without the MCDCA’s Craft market, which saw artisans showcasing locally-made jewellery, cuisine, clothing and other exquisitely crafted items at NAPA’s Foyer. Many attendees were visiting from abroad, and saw this as the ideal opportunity to purchase their last minute souvenirs.

“Fusion 2” brought the best of the jazz and steelpan worlds to NAPA, proving that the event is set to become one of the premier concerts of Trinidad and Tobago’s Jazz season.

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