Arts & Entertainment

Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival – Mahalia Barnes

Photo: Pierre Baroni

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease and live music slowly comes back to life in Sydney and wonderful new event championing the fantastic female artists in our city is set to return in the coming weeks.

The Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival (SIWJF) is a yearly highlight on the live music calendar, but will be taking on a new look this year. Obviously with travel restrictions still in place the international contingent of the festival will be presented in a new way, with streamed rather than in person performances. Despite these changes though the festival is still going to deliver an incredible lineup.

This year SIWJF will be highlighting our incredible local talent much more prominently, with Mahalia Barnes standing out ass a great addition to the bill.

When most people see the Barnes name they think rock and roll but as Mahalia explained to City Hub ahead of the festival jazz has actually been a big influence on her music.

“I mostly sing soul and blues music but jazz, blues and soul are all sort of from the same place. It’s all about a heart and soul connection, its about emotions and feelings. Jazz music is sort of the beginning of most contemporary music that I love… There are some incredible jazz artists that have influenced what I do. One of my favourites would be Nina Simone.”

Bearing this in mind Mahalia was “thrilled” to be invited to take part in SIWJF for the very first time. 

“There’s a whole bunch of wonderful women on the bill and it felt like an honour to be asked to be honest,” said Mahalia.

With the way 2020 has panned out for music artists the return of live music, and such a prestigious festival, comes with a heightened sense of excitement and importance explained Mahalia

“In the current climate it’s just exciting to be able to do a show, but especially when that is part of such an amazing lineup and event. As artists we love what we do so much and we are grateful to be able to perform in front of an audience… we are also very aware that we need to keep people safe and still keep the music alive.”

To this end Mahalia says curated festivals like SIWJF play a crucial role in highlighting the women in music, “All around the world there’s all sorts of different struggles going on, but women have had to fight for a seat at the table. They absolutely deserve that seat and as many as they can have really.

“Some of the women such as Emma Pask and Alana Stone are amazing artists who have worked for many many years. So I’m just really glad that the Sydney audience will get to experience several days of their talents.”

Obviously with this festival being in the early waves of a return for live music Mahalia understands if audiences are hesitant or nervous, as she is feeling similar herself. However, she assured us that the festival are taking all of the necessary steps to ensure everybody is safe.

“I totally understand the nerves. I’ve been very cautious and isolating a lot during this period to keep everybody that I know, and don’t know, safe.

“We’re very fortunate to get to enjoy live music and I want everybody to do it safely. I’m grateful to be working with a festival who I know are putting in lots of measures to ensure that it’s safe for the performers and the audience.”

SIWJF runs from Oct 30-Nov 8 at various venues around Sydney

Mahalia will be performing two shows on Nov 6

Mary’s Underground, 29 Reiby Pl, Sydney. $45-$50+b.f. 

Tickets & Info: www.siwjf.org

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