Panama City’s Jazz Fest Shines for Another Year

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Arts and culture in Panama are immensely popular for both veteran expats, newcomers, and locals. Panama has a rich history of performing arts, specifically its music. As the crossroads of two oceans, and two continents, much of what makes up Panama’s music culture is a mix of many different sounds and traditions from all across the world. There’s a Spanish tradition, an indigenous tradition, a Caribbean tradition, and a North American tradition that all pour into the musical fabric of the country. Because of this, and because Panama is actively trying to draw more big events to the city, the Panama Jazz Festival is an important cultural marker.

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Panama celebrated its 15th Jazz Festival in 2018

By Panama terms, this festival is far from new. In fact, it’s one of the longest-running international music festivals in all of Central America. Each year, the festival grows to bring in top acts from around the world, as well as showcasing local talent (both known and unknown). This year was no different, with Wayne Shorter, Chucho Valdez, Luciana Souza, and Samy y Sandra Sandoval headlining the event. All in all, 24 artists performed at this year’s festival, which went from the 15th to the 19th of January, spread throughout a number of venues in Panama City. The majority of musical performances were held in Ciudad de Saber in Clayton, and Atlapa in San Francisco.

More than just music

The main focus for Panama’s Jazz Festival is, of course, Jazz music, but the week-long event is made up of so much more than just live music. Each day is packed with special clinics, symposiums, speakers, artist Q&A, and even jam sessions. The idea is to share the love for Jazz through many different angles, and to give festival goers lots to do as they immerse themselves in the international Jazz scene here in Panama City. Making the Jazz Festival a multi-functional event is also great for the venues, which get to host much more than they have in years past, where the central focus was just on performances at one venue, spread throughout the week.

Why this festival can be a blueprint for future Panama cultural events

The Panama Jazz Festival has grown into its success each year, and expanded immensely since its beginnings 15 years ago. The reason why, however, has a lot to do with how Panama has poised itself for the future. As a country that saw hyper-growth in the mid-2000s, followed by a sustained growth since then, Panama is learning as it goes when it comes to filling the demand for world-class cultural events and venues. The ultimate goal, whether you’re asking the federal government, local businesses, or Panamanian cultural aficionados, is to make Panama a destination for these types of music and arts festivals.

Panama sees itself not only as an emerging economic power, but also an untapped resource for world-class arts. The problem is, however, that this doesn’t happen overnight. This is why music festivals, like the Panama Jazz Festival, are so crucial in helping to build a foundation for others to follow. You can also see this with Panama’s International Film Festival, Boquete’s Blues Festival, and the growing number of food and wine festivals spread throughout the country.

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