Take A Bow Mr Jordan

Adam Norris

It wouldn’t be a 10 year anniversary issue
without talking to one of the Bellingen Shire’s most ardent supporters and promoters of local live music and festivals, Mr Seth Jordan

Dip a toe in the Bellingen music scene, and you’ll likely trip over Seth Jordan. Across four decades he has been a prominent figure in festivals, live music, radio – indeed, rumour has it that he runs the most exclusive underground speakeasy this side of Kentucky. But the arts scene was somewhat different when he first arrived.

“Sparse,” Jordan laughs when he reflects on those early days. “But it’s grown considerably. I came here in the early Eighties, and even [while I was] away for a period of time I stayed in contact because I was working the Global Carnival in those years. But I was also involved in the Jazz Festival, and before that we were putting on gigs around, both at the Memorial Hall and the country halls, Thora Hall, Kalang Hall, they were all early in the piece with Diehappy Productions. We had some really nice music events we’re talking here. There was a foothold happening all around. Of course there were all sorts of local bands playing the pub and cafes and parties, so those were the venues for those early years as the festival scene started solidifying.”

While certain personalities and committees have been instrumental in steering the region towards the reputation it now holds, Jordan suspects it is the zeitgeist rather than the individual that keeps a scene evolving.

“I think it was very organic. There were a lot of smaller venues active, different cafes that have come and gone over the years [who] were especially supportive of the local musicians, and that’s an important part of the scene – the local as opposed to what’s travelling through the area nationally or internationally.”

Of course, with such a wealth of experience it’s difficult for Jordan to pull together a Greatest Hits reel. Twist his arm, however, and certain memories bubble to the surface.

“We’ve hosted so many wonderful people here over the years. Hugh Masekela, Baaba Maal from Senegal, we had New Orleans musicians. We put on people like Warumpi Band on their first tour on the country, Archie and Ruby when they were first starting out. We had the Bhundu Boys from Zimbabwe stopping through, and you just wouldn’t see that quality in a regional centre very often. We were trying to offer something new to town that people weren’t expecting. One of the main things is the quality of the audience. This is a wonderful, listening audience, this is an audience that pays attention and has some understanding of the background of the cultures these people are coming form. That’s not always the case, and the performers here love that.”