Senior writer for Jamaicans.com, Cathy Kleinhans interviews well-known Jamaican entertainment promoter in Brooklyn, George Crooks. The inimitable George Crooks has once again added his heavy-weight Jammins Productions behind the Brooklyn Music Festival now in its third year.
Why did you choose the name Brooklyn Music Festival?
Brooklyn is our base. It has the largest Caribbean contingent and its the “melting pot borough” of New York City and Brooklynites do everything big.
George, please explain to our readers how long you have been in the business of promoting music festivals and some of the major artistes you broke ground with?
I’ve been in the business for over 25 years and I don’t think there’s an artiste around that I have not booked on an event…Steel Pulse, Toots, Beres Hammond, Ffreddie McGregor, Pattie Labelle, Regina Belle, Chuck Manigone, The Temptations and the list goes on and on.
It is now an extremely difficult time as we’re still in a recession to be putting on events of this kind, but you started the BMF in the midst of the recession, therefore, what is your winning formula?
Dedication and keeping your pulse on what your customers want….this recession is nothing new…to me I have always been operating in a recession by working within my budget and refusing to go beyond.
Some of our major Jamaican dancehall reggae artistes are either in jail or no longer possess a valid visa/permit to work in the US, how has that affected your plans to attract marquee performers for the BMF?
I won’t say that it did not make us re-think our original line up but we still have artistes who can deliver wonderful performances even with all that has happened. From this we have come up with a well-balanced line up for this year’s festival.
How would you describe the venue?
Aviator Sports Complex is the old air strip known as Floyd Bennett Field. The property is huge with lots of free parking . When it’s not hosting the festival it has a wonderful year round
indoor sporting facility for the young and old to enjoy.
How different are concerts being staged now with regards to security compared to those years ago where e.g. I had to run at a concert held at Steeplechase Park in Brooklyn some time in the late 1990’s because of a stampede?
At Aviator you don’t have to worry about a stampede. We have our security, Aviator secuity, the park security in addition to NYPD. We are well covered.
What experience do you wish patrons to walk away with?
I wish patrons to walk away with the full nostalgic feeling of attending great concerts of old….where the performances and the production were great. The only thing they should be debating the next day is which artiste “took theshow”!
Are you gearing the BMF specifically to the Caribbean/Jamaican audience?
No, it is being promoted as a music festival staged in Brooklyn and including all genres of music. That has also been my aim since I started festival promotions years ago. As a matter of fact come next year we’re planning to make the festival a 2-day event
Shabba Ranks will join hit machine B.O.B , multi platinum selling reggae artiste Shaggy, Gregory Issacs, King Yellowman, Marcia Griffiths, Barrington Levy, Lady Saw, Assassin, Tanya Stephens,Natural Black, D’Angel, Daville, Little Hero, Tony Matterhorn, Ding Dong, Ricky Blaze, Mikey Jarrett, Benny Bwoy, New Kingston, Courtney John, TOSH-1, Angels Caribbean Band, Zylan, Kayla Bliss, P.Zed, Nesbeth; ska bands The Rudie Crew and New York Ska Jazz Ensemble and several other acts at the Brooklyn Music Festival.
What time do you kick-off?
Gates open at 12 noon and show time is 1:00 PM with free parking available to all patrons.
I understand you will be making a donation to the UWI Scholarship Fund?
Part of the proceeds from this year’s festival will be donated to the American Foundation of the University of the West Indies (AFUWI) scholarship fund. Children under 12 are free. Tickets are now on sale at all leading ticket outlets throughout the New York tri-state region. For more info go to www.TIX4ME.com or www.brooklynmusicfestival.com. For futher Information contact 718.282.8041
What has the process been like in securing sponsors?
Well this year has been difficult in that sponsors have reduced the dollar ($)amount they allocate to events. However, we have made great partnerships over the years with our current sponsors so they have remained steadfast in their support of our events.
If there’s anything that I did not ask and you wish to share with our readers, please use this opportunity to answer?
I would like everyone to come out and show their support for their favorite artiste and embrace the fact that they are still promoters like myself that strive to put on a great production for everyone to enjoy. As our motto says …”we continue to celebrate life thru music”!