I was traveling the past two years when the BHJF, the Bonaire Heineken Jazz Festival, took place. But this time I was home and got to attend my annual music indulgence. For $75, you get three nights of jazz, blues, rock and poetry readings in Papiamentu. This year had less jazz than usual and more pop.
Lovely Maritza Haakmat was again this year’s MC and did her usual great job. She hails from Sint Maarten and lives on neighboring Curaçao. But with Maritza, you get a two-fer. She is a fantastic singer—great pipes and stage presence—and on the last day of the concert performed a couple of classic numbers from Sly and the Family Stone. Maritza has a real feel for American blues and funk, and that was immediately apparent when she performed.
The only pure major jazz act this year was the Nina Strnad Trio from Slovenia. Nina performed once before at the BHJF but this was the first time I got to see her. Her smooth voice blended well with the warm tropical night. When Strnad sang the classic Somewhere Over The Rainbow, local artist and jazz player Henk Roosendaal accompanied her with mellow harmonica harmony.
Andreina Maracaro Jazz Ensemble is our best local jazz band and they played on the festival’s opening night. Andreina and her congo-drummer husband bring American jazz classics and Brazilian riffs to the stage. The also perform the Latin jazz from Venezuela, their original home. Gaby, a local Bonaire drummer, sat in on the session.
Trijntje Oosterhuis was a big hit with the mostly Dutch audience on Saturday night. While Amsterdam-born Trijntje has several jazz albums to her credit, she and her band performed mostly pop rock numbers. Her group is large—two keyboard playes, a guitarist, a bass man, drummer and the Angles, a trio of tall, sexy backup singers. The band really delivers tight, accomplished music. I especially liked watching their 40-something drummer who was a real woodchopper. He always looked like he was a step behind, like he might not make the beat on time, but he never missed once. It was awesome to watch.
Miss Montreal, another pop band, played on the final day. The group is from the Dutch town of Enschede and features Sanne Hans, the lead singer. So as the stage smoke settles, I am getting back to my normal life. No more late nights for me for a while. I am used to getting up with the sun. But a couple of things stick out from my last three days that are unique to this festival. The main venue is at the Plaza Resort, in front of the Tipsy Seagull restaurant that fronts the sea. Halfway through the concert on Saturday night I watched a local boat with no running lights glide silently up to the cement pier. Three guys rolled out of the boat and into the concert. Pirates on a music raid. And second, I was able to stroll to the sides of the main stage and watch Trijntje Oosterhuis’s band do their thing 10 feet away. It was like having a backstage pass. There was no security there to hassle me. I just enjoyed the music and took some pictures. And that is what I like about living here. It is still a simple place and a friendly island. Ah, dushi Bonaire.