Panama Jazz Festival 2019

The closing event of one of the best music festivals in Panama and the region, now in its 16th year, drew an audience of thousands; attendees enjoyed good music in a fun family atmosphere.

By: Panorama de las Américas
Photos: Courtesy Panama Jazz Festival


The sixteenth Panama Jazz Festival was held January 14-19, 2019 on several stages in the City of Knowledge in the Panamanian capital. This year’s event included a daily program of afternoon and evening concerts, in addition to the talks and music clinics that make up the substantial educational component of the festival.

The Gala Night (January 16) was one of the most exciting events. A concert performance followed a red carpet parade featuring national and international artists. Swedish jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist Gunhild Carling, one of the most anticipated stars, was accompanied by the Panamanian All Star ensemble, consisting of teachers and advanced students from the Danilo Pérez Foundation.

Danilo Pérez, director and founder of the Panama Jazz Festival, performed with the group Global Messengers, a new project featuring talented musicians from the United States, Greece, Palestine, Jordan, and Panama. They rose to the occasion with the official premiere of “The Wall,” a musical composition commissioned by the Panama City government in honor of the 500th anniversary of Panama City and its designation as the Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2019.

Legendary Panamanian performer Alex Blake received the keys to the city from the capital’s mayor, José Blandón. As a further honor, this year’s festival was dedicated to Blake in recognition of his long career and valuable contributions to jazz in Panama.

Aknowledgeable international audience was treated to diverse projects on the Global Stage, the festival’s showcase stage located in the City of Knowledge Convention Center. This year’s individual performers and groups included Santos Diablos (Panama), Orion Lion (Chile), the Orquesta Juventud Esperanza (Costa Rica), Iván Barrios (Panama), Making Movies (Panama-Mexico), and Carrera Quinta (Colombia). Danilo’s Jazz Club, in Panama City’s Old Quarter, showcased incredible Panamanian talents like Dedé, Idania Dowman & The Emotions, and The Blues Dogs.

One of the highlights of this year’s educational program was the Film Scoring Workshop, led by renowned Argentinean composer and guitarist Claudio Ragazzi, who has created music for hundreds of cinema and television programs, many of which have received international awards. He has also played with top musicians like Gary Burton, Yo-Yo Ma, Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, and Danilo Pérez, to mention just a few.

The hugely successful Latin American Music Therapy Symposium took place alongside the 2019 festival. It attracted highly respected and acclaimed music therapists from Colombia, England, the United States, Chile, and Panama.

The event held on Friday, January 18 at the Atheneum Theater attracted a large audience. It opened with Panamanian group Afrodisíaco, winner of the Silver Seagull at the 2016 Viña del Mar International Song Festival and nominated for Best Folk Album at the 19th Latin Grammy Awards. This group of outstanding folk and contemporary musicians had the audience up and dancing to the beat of Afro-Panamanian drums.

The party continued with Canadian performer Jane Bunnett and the all-female Cuban group Maqueque. They have been working together for more than five years and are internationally lauded as one of the most interesting concepts on the contemporary jazz scene. Their Panamanian performance created a vibrant musical and cultural fusion that raised the evening’s energy level to the max.

The Panama Jazz Festival wrapped up with a grand closing ceremony on Saturday, January 19 at a mass concert held on the quad in the City of Knowledge. As in previous years, the outdoor concert was free of charge. Starting at three in the afternoon, many of the artists who had delighted audiences during the festival week took to the stage, including the New England Conservatory Jazz Ensemble, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Roberto Delgado and His Orchestra, Jane Bunnett with Maqueque, and Danilo Pérez & Global Messengers.

Thousands of Panamanians came together to enjoy good music in an fun family atmosphere. The 16th year of one of the most important music festivals in Panama and the region ended on a high note.