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When singer-songwriter Paul Ubana Jones is in his element, he can feel when a crowd is with him.
That was certainly the case at the Brydone Hotel in Oamaru on Sunday afternoon, where he performed an intimate, 75-minute set in front of about 50 people as part of the town’s annual Harbour St Jazz and Blues Festival.
Jones captivated his audience as he plucked his guitar strings flawlessly and sang in his distinctive, husky voice. He wove in anecdotes about his younger days as a budding musician and had their full attention.
He said he his love for music came from his Nigerian-born father and Yorkshire mother, who would often return to the family home with LPs by the likes of Ray Charles and Jimmie Rodgers ‘‘when they had a few spare pennies’’.
‘‘They loved music . . . so I guess that kicked things off.
‘‘When I started earning pocket money, pulling barrows through the fruit and vege markets, I’d buy singles. Dusty Springfield, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin — that kind of stuff.’’
Jones took inspiration from the American jazz and blues scene, and also the British acoustic sound.
He fondly recalled seeing acts such as The Yardbirds play in London and in his mid-teens decided to embark on what would become a successful music career.
‘‘It was passionate, that’s what turned me on and when I was 15 or 16, I knew this is what I wanted to do.’’
Jones opened this year’s festival alongside the Steve Rice Band on Friday.
Bands from Oamaru and beyond entertained at indoor and outdoor venues around the town throughout Saturday and into Sunday, before the festival wrapped up with the grand finale last night, again featuring Jones, with Tina Cross, Jackie Clarke and Annie Crummer, collectively known as The Lady Killers.
Jones, who has performed in Oamaru regularly since 1987, always enjoyed the trip across the Waitaki River from his home in Southbridge, south of Christchurch, and said the festival was a highlight every time.
‘‘For me it’s been great . . . it’s been nice. I hope they have me back. I could feel the audience with me. That’s why I do it.’’