Chris Eldredge
Third-year trumpet performance student Ryan Svendsen will be performing at the 2009 Jazz Reggae Festival. The theme for this year’s event is sustainability.

“Here. Now. UCLA,” has never been so true.

In addition to the talents of Erykah Badu and Mavado, this year’s JazzReggae Festival will showcase student musicians and coordinators who are speaking out for social and ecological transformation ““ and of course ““ having some fun while they’re at it.

Every year, the JazzReggae committee sets its sights on a specific goal and theme. From there, the committee chooses artists, bands and DJs who are capable of conveying that message through their music, while at the same time looking for other ways to express their vision for the festival.

Fourth-year philosophy student Bernice Shaw is the executive producer of this year’s event.

“”˜A Culture of Change,’ is (this year’s theme),” Shaw said. “It’s a new year, election year just passed, and we’re looking forward to new things for a new generation. We’ve gone “˜green’ for the last three years, and this year we wanted to take that a step further.”

Increased sustainability efforts are a big part in this year’s festival. Though recycling and other such options were emphasized in the past, the committee putting on Jazz Reggae is pushing these methods even further by building off the recent changes taking place at the university, such as material-differentiated recycling. Some of the other environmentally friendly adaptations include using on-campus electricity generation and cooled or heated water for air conditioning and heating.

According to Sustainability Director Adam Benson, sustainability has a surprising amount in common with the musical message.

“It’s not just about doing a little more recycling,” said Benson, a second-year environmental science student. “From the point of view of music and the cultures behind a lot of jazz and reggae music … it’s the idea of trying to create a society that can better sustain itself. … Sustainability strives for equity and for equal access to resources for all people. A lot of reggae music talks about some key social issues, and it’s very applicable to talk about some of the equity issues that go on. It applies to everyone.”

Another key to unlocking the “Culture of Change” lies in the artists performing.

“(We’re) also making sure that all of our artists are also very aware of the political climate of the country and that the artists themselves are really seeking to create some sort of change in the community they belong to as well,” Shaw said.

It’s not just the well-known musical greats that are speaking and rocking out, either. UCLA musicians are on stage right along with them.

“By putting on student musicians, it’s sort of a way for us to give back to UCLA in addition to providing this concert free of charge,” Shaw said. “It’s a way for us to give back to the students who support us.”

Ryan Svendsen, a third-year trumpet performance student, is part of the funk band Louder than Words performing Sunday.

“I feel we definitely fit the theme of “˜A Culture of Change.’ We are a diverse group, and we are just looking to make great music that all cultures and people can relate to,” he said.

Though this will be the debut performance of Louder than Words at JazzReggae, Svendsen was impressed last year by the ability of the festival to bring together people in a celebration of music.

“I thought it was awesome just how many people showed up and how into the music the people are. There aren’t too many festivals around right now like this one.”

The high range of multiplicity between the styles of jazz and reggae allows for much more freedom in creative articulation than those events that are limited to just one genre.

Marlon Fuentes will be DJing under the name Batucada Com Discos on Sunday.

“The diversity is a big thing for me,” said Fuentes, a fourth-year ethnomusicology student. “I’ll be able to play anything from Brazilian music to funky soul to hip hop and reggae, so it’s going to be a lot of fun for me.”

This same freedom is one of the pioneering factors of “A Culture of Change.”

“One of the things that our generation is going to have to champion is an openness and a celebration of diversity, and that’s one of the things the festival offers to all these different people getting to play their music,” Fuentes said. “That fits perfectly with my format because I play music from all over the world … so it all kind of ties in together.”

Music provides the perfect mechanism to create a family dedicated to a cause. The guests attending don’t try to speak with one voice; instead they let their many voices be heard in a salute to diversity.

“Even if I don’t know you, but you come with an open mind and an open heart, it’s kind of like we already know each other because we connect instantly,” Fuentes said. “When people are open and they’re cool, it’s like we’re all family, like we’re all rockin’ on the same drum.”