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Jazzing it up! Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival pulls all the stops

Published on 13 March 2018|
2 min read

Sounds of the acoustic guitar and saxophone reminded me once again why I have a deep love for jazz and swing.

 by Tommy Duncan, Carrybeans 

It was a wonderful weekend of jazz

Kota Kinabalu was dancing to the beat of jazz when the KK Jazz Festival (KKJF) returned to our shores for the 12th time last weekend! Held on 9 and 10 March, the two-day show was organised by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK) and the Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (SParKS).

The covered tennis court of Sutera Harbour Marina & Country Club transformed into a breezy theater, and the parking lot was full even before the sun had set. Of course, everyone wanted to get the best seat possible! Jazz tunes floated in the air and greeted attendees before the show started.

It definitely got us in the mood – recognise this piece, jazz fans?

With good music and food, what’s not to love about KKJF?

For the hungry crowd, food coupons were sold at the main entrance for RM20 or RM50 per book. Participating food outlets included Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Borenos Chicken, Wineshop, Tempurung Ice Cream, Chopping Block, Jom Penyet and Carlsberg.

Regular ticket holders (RM100 for one night, RM150 for both nights) had the choice of two areas. I chose to sit at the free seating area (located at left and right corner of the court) as it offered a bird’s eye view of the main stage as well as the crowd.

Now, let the show begin!

On the first night, visitors were entertained by local jazz artists such as Kissinger, Vivace, Power Line, Christopher Aban, Infiniti, Jumero, Esther Applunius and Rozella. Our very own Sabahan lass and popular celebrity, Daphne Iking, emceed the night and did it with grace, finesse and style.

Daphne Iking

Esther Applunius (second place for One In A Million 3) hit the stage with her group The Esthers. The Esthers was the champion of Borneo at Hard Rock’s inaugural international band competition in June 2016. They certainly rocked it out that night.

Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun (centre) on the first night of KK Jazz Fest / Credit: KKJAZZFEST 

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun also attended the event in a show of support for our local talents. And on the second night, Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil joined the crowd for a night of great music. The Movement (Tawau) opened the show on the second day, followed by Andy Ngew (professional finger-style guitarist) who happens to also be a guitar teacher and concert organiser.

My personal favourite, however, had to be Christopher Aban, winner of both Tommy Emmanuel’s Get Inspired Finger-Style Competition 2010 and Borneo International Guitar Festival 2013.  Aban really knows how to engage with the audience and with his catchy Uptown Funk/Staying Alive mash-up, the crowd was soon singing along.

For the international acts, Mezzotono from Italy came back due to popular demand. The a capella singing group consists of five members, and they had graced the stage four years ago at the 9th KKJF.


But the showstopper had to be from…

Yes, KKJF saved one of the most highly respected jazz musicians for last! Everyone was up on their feet, performers and audience alike, dancing the night away when Sybil Thomas took to the stage.

This veteran musician from Tennessee, USA closed the show with a powerful and energetic set. Her 40 years of experience in the music industry really shone through; she totally owned the stage that night. I even found myself swinging to the beat while trying to take photographs for this article.

Dancing to the music, for a good cause

One of the amazing things about KKJF is that it is in actual fact a fundraising event in support of meaningful projects here! Ticket sales fund RCKK’s community projects, namely the Cure Cataract Campaign and Bird Guide Project. RCKK members travel into rural areas to identify patients needing cataract removal. Mountain guides are trained in knowledge of birds so they can service birdwatchers when it’s off-peak season.

Just as importantly, however, KKJF provides a platform for Sabahan and Malaysian bands and musicians to grow their talents, perform on an international stage and exchange knowledge with international artistes. Of course, the festival is also a great boost to our tourism industry.

The main sponsor for KKJF is Yayasan Sime Darby, while other sponsors include the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah, Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (DBKK) and Carlsberg.

Thank you, KKJF, for inviting Carrybeans this year!

As night fell and the show ended, it felt as if the magic of jazz had once again permeated the air of our city. Were you there, and did you feel it too? Let us know in the comments below.

Since we’re talking about music, did you know we are also organising the first prison orchestra in Malaysia?

Featured Image Credit: KK Jazz Festival

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