By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Last Saturday, 7 September, Serendib Leisure Hotels hosted a jazz music festival featuring the famous blues singer and guitarist Jerome Speldewinde with the Barefoot Quartet and the fantastic dance band Rock This Country, best known for their country rock and soul sounds.
The event was held at Avani Bentota Resort and Spa from 5 p.m. onwards and tickets were priced at Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 6,500 for an additional beverage deal.
However, the most attractive feature surrounding the entire festival proved to be the almost too good to be true bed and breakfast offer for Rs. 20,000 which was inclusive of the festival ticket, beverage deal, and an early bird offer throwing in a free lunch.
We spoke to Avani Bentota Resort and Spa General Manager Chaminda Samaranayake about the thinking behind the organisation of such a festival, particularly involving jazz which is terribly niche and thereby limits their target demographic.
“Music is one of the oldest languages that connects people, and it is true that jazz is niche, but it doesn’t happen everywhere and so the fans are wonderfully connected; there is a community where they look forward to enjoying the music that they love together,” he said, adding: “We were not even sure if we’ll make that much of a profit, but we felt we had to do our part in showing the world that Sri Lanka is still thriving.”
Chaminda, having joined the Avani team in May just after the Easter Sunday attacks, spoke of how the recovery process has been since then. He said: “True, we are recovering, but the concern is the rhythm – will we pick it up? We are now a very sick person out of danger, but wh has not yet recovered 100%.”
About the jazz festival itself, he said that they wish to make it an annual event, to be hosted around the same time every year. He also added that since their goal is to attract travellers, they also hope to do something with the Southern Food Festival by bringing in some entertainment acts including “pahatha rata” dancers, and do a tribute to Southwest Sri Lanka.
He also added that while the hotel industry is doing its best, compared to other South Asian countries, Sri Lanka still remains one of the more expensive destinations to travel to, and this is largely owed to the fact that most items are heavily taxed – in particular, the unclear income tax that requires 1% of total sale – and so with that kind of taxation, it makes it difficult to run a profitable business.
Regardless, Chaminda was most eager to showcase their event, and to be perfectly honest, it was rather entraining. Even if you are not a huge jazz music fan yourself, the ambiance more than made up for it. The beverage deal was certainly worth it with four fun new cocktails being served and the event featured a number of food stalls from different countries – America, Italy, Mexico, and Sri Lanka – and everything was rather reasonably priced and the portions were quite sizeable.
As the sun came down and the ocean breeze picked up, the soothing sounds of Jerome Speldewinde were just absolutely gorgeous, and come next year, it’s certainly an event you wouldn’t want to miss out.
Photos Pradeep Dambarage