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Internship helped Armand to bring in Chaka

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TJ Armand, executive director of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An internship more than 25 years ago helped new Bermuda Festival director T.J. Armand sign up funk superstar Chaka Khan for next year’s event.

Mr Armand, a veteran of New York’s Broadway, worked for the late Arif Mardin of Atlantic Records when he produced part of Ms Khan’s 1992 album The Woman I Am.

Mr Armand was able to use contacts he made then to persuade Ms Khan to travel to Bermuda.

He said: “When I started interning for Arif, he was working on two tracks for the record.

“I started learning about vocal recording — we weren’t allowed in when she was in but we had to deal with the rest of the production.

“I was obsessed with Chaka’s vocals and that is where it began for me.”

Mr Armand added: “This is the full circle where I get to bring her in.

“I think it is incredibly important for the festival to have these kinds of acts.”

Mr Mardin, who died in 2006, recognised Mr Armand’s talent and recommended him for a scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, which helped launch his career.

Ms Khan, a ten-time Grammy Award winner with gold and platinum recordings to her credit, will join a star-studded line-up of international performers for the 44th annual festival, which starts in January.

Other world-famous acts will include jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer, who have won 12 Grammy awards.

Ms Khan, who shot to fame in the 1970s, is still active in the industry and performed at the late Aretha Franklin’s Detroit funeral service last month.

Mr Armand said that The Manhattan Transfer, presented with the American Eagle Award by the National Music Council, were also a coup for the festival.

He added: “We really need a connection with this calibre of artists and we are very proud to have hosted many of them over the years.”

And he promised: “There are many more surprises that we will be announcing in the run up to the festival.”

The theme of next year’s festival is “Empowerment of Women” and shows based on the work of three top woman singers will also be performed.

Nina Simone — Four Women is a play about the life of the jazz singer and songwriter and civil rights activist.

A tribute to rock singer Janis Joplin will be performed by Tony Award nominated Mary Bridget Davies.

And Master Class, Terrance McNally’s 1996 Tony Award winner about opera diva Maria Callas, will also be featured.

The Bermuda Festival for the Performing Arts will run from January 19 to March 9.

TJ Armand, executive director of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)