Art & Culture

An Interview with Martin Ruiz

One of the original founders of the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival tells us about how the festival was first put together 15 years ago.

The Playa Times: How did you come up with the idea of creating a jazz festival here?

Martin Ruiz: There was a moment when Playa was beginning to receive an increase in tourism, and there was a necessity to give some added value and identity to Playa. There were no famous festivals, unlike other places in Mexico. So we decided to create a music festival that was made specifically for the tourists.

What was it like planning the first festival? What kind of challenges did you encounter?

We first had to figure out what kind of music we would be playing. We considered blues music, Caribeño, rock, but we realized that tourists were attracted here by the sounds of Latin music, so we went with a fusion of Latin and jazz for the festival.

Our first performers were friends or recommendations. But by the third or fourth year Fernando Toussaint got involved and, as a musician who was well known in Mexico and internationally, he added another dimension and was able to use his contacts to bring other talent.

We never imagined that in 15 years we would be seeing a top-level festival like this. We began with minor expectations and now the expectations are much greater.”

Martin Ruiz
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival founder

What are some of your favourite moments of the festival?

I loved seeing Earth, Wind and Fire perform here. It was also amazing to see Sergio Mendez, who is a musical legend. I couldn’t believe they were performing at this festival.

What do you think that the RMJF has done for the region?

We felt that we made a very good decision that was more conceptually based around tourism, and that it ultimately brings many people here who are able to enjoy big performances from the very best international artists.

Are you surprised at how it has grown in popularity?

We never imagined that in 15 years we would be seeing a top-level festival like this. We began with minor expectations and now the expectations are much greater. So hopefully we are only halfway there. Perhaps in a few years it will bring greater numbers of people, not only jazz artists, but big name musicians.

What are your hopes for the future of the RMJF?

I would like to see more events and happenings based around the jazz festival throughout the downtown area. If you don’t go to Mamitas you may not know what is going on, so it would be nice to have several smaller locations with blues, bossa nova, jazz and Latin all at the same time.

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