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The traditional genre of jazz music can sometimes be quite elitist and produce music, which is often very difficult to tonally understand or appreciated. Besides, it is a niche audience and people sometimes don’t really know what to make of jazz music and feel it’s really inaccessible to them. But for jazz devotees, this genre of music remains topnotch and evergreen.
Though many are of the opinion that jazz is gradually taking backseat in Nigeria, especially with the ever-growing influence of hip-hop and Afropop, the reality is that the spirit of jazz eclecticism is moving in different directions, but obviously not dead. No matter how far the hip-hop fever spreads, there will still be dedicated spaces for jazz and jazz relegated sound in Nigeria.
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Meanwhile, if there’s one man, who has greatly promoted jazz in Nigeria, sponsorship or no sponsorship, then it must be the CEO of Inspiro Production Ayoola Sadare. From his premier jazz festival, The Lagos International Jazz Festival to the Nigeria International Jazz Festival and a couple of other jazz related gigs that he curates across the country, Sadare is indeed the livewire of jazz in Nigeria.
Just recently, he was among 16 participants nominated worldwide by the German Federal Foreign Service, on recommendation by His Excellency Ingo Herbert, Consul General Germany To Nigeria, to be part of the six day Jazz From Germany – Passion, Variety And Quality tour. The music project, which kicked off on July16, 2018, was put together for the Federal Republic of Germany’s Visitor’s Programme by the Ina Kebler led Initiative Musik, a German agency that supports rock, pop and jazz music.Now back from the tour, Sadare shares his experiences with Guardian Music, including plans to use the exposure to export Nigerian music abroad.
Receiving The Invitation
When I received notice that I had been nominated as one of the 16 participants from around the world for the Jazz From Germany Visitors Programme, I had a fair idea I was going to a well developed and culturally rich and diverse arts country. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the German jazz scene since I hadn’t encountered this genre much on the world jazz scene. However, this perception was soon to be changed as soon as preparations for the trip and other arrangements ere made. Leading to the 6-day visit, which covered three cities of Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart, the legendary efficiency of my hosts was seen in the way my travel plans were handled. From the consulate here in Lagos Mr. Omotunde Kasali (programme manager), under supervision by the Deputy Consul General Alexandra Herr was on hand and very helpful to ensure everything was done properly, with adequate information provided to prepare me for the trip ahead; a detailed itinerary of the programme was also sent by the Initiative Musik coordinators handling the trip from Germany. This showed six eventful days of work and fun.
Touch Down In Berlin
I arrived Berlin via Casablanca, Morocco on the evening of Sunday July 15, 2018. Instructions on how to reach my accommodation – Motel One Alexanersplatz – had already been given, so, it wasn’t a problem getting there. After checking In, I had almost an entire day of rest before meeting up the next day with our gracious hosts from Initiative Musik. They include Michael Wallies (Project Manager), Christiane Bohnke-Geisse (Programme Curator) and Zedrah Behmanesh (Project Assistant), who all together coordinated the eventful itinerary.
Day One Of The Music Tour
Before the welcome dinner at Schnitzelei Restaurant, the participants assembled at the Motel One reception to be briefed, before we proceeded to the restaurant, which was about 3-4 tram stops away. The participants, which were later fondly christened ‘The United Nations of Jazz’, included Irena Aravina (Head of International Festival Silk Music Fest Almaty, Kazakhstan); Brenda Besada Rodriguez (Chief coordinator of Festival International De Jazz’ Havana, Cuba); Derya Bigali (Director of Akbank Art Centre and Akbank Jazz Festival Istanbul, Turkey); Tamas Bognar (Label Manager BMC Records & concert promoter for Opus Jazz Club, Budapest, Hungary); David Brent Johnson (Jazz Director Wfiu Public Radio, Bloomington, Chicago, USA and Christine Kamau (Trumpeter & founder Women in Music Concert Series and Jazz In Africa, Nairobi, Kenya).
Others are Suanshu Khurana (Music correspondent, Indian Express, New Delhi, India); Amikam Kimelman (Saxophonist, founder International Jaffa Jazz Festival, Director Tel Aviv Jazz Orchestra, Tel Aviv, Israel); Paul Laflamme (Publisher online magazine ‘La Metropole, Montreal, Canada); Gordon Matic (General Manager Jazz Festival Kragujevac, Belgrade, Serbia); Victor Sebastian Gonzales (Art director Asujazz Festival, Asuncion, Paraguay); David Sanchez Garcia (Producer & Professor University Anahuac, Mexico City, Mexico); Lily Schwartz (Director Programming Sfjazz, San Francisco, USA) and Natalia Shmelkova (Vice Director Lad & Coordinator of the Music Association Ural, Yekaterinburg, Russia). There was also Nappadol Tirataradol (Vice President Dept. Student Affairs and Bass Professor Music Faculty Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand) and my very self.The dinner was an array of delightful German cuisine and it is interesting to note that, though we went to the restaurant by tram, we all unanimously decided to walk back to the hotel after such a hearty dinner.
Second day In Berlin
After a sumptuous breakfast at Motel One, we were picked up by the coordinators and headed for formal introduction workshop with the Initiative Musik coordinators. In all, the facilitators together gave us a rounded overview of the jazz music music scene in Germany, its history, structure, development and more. After lunch, an interesting guided tour of Berlin was embarked upon, as we went sightseeing through some of the city’s important scenery and tourist sites. From the Brandenburg Gate to memorial to murdered Jews of Europe Site, Berlin Wall Memorial and finally the famous Alexanderplatz – Fernsehturm (television tower) from where the entire landscape of the city could be seen.
At each stop, several solo artistes were on hand to thrill us to several musical showcases. Much later in the evening, a networking and dinner session was held with a number of musicians and music union industry executives at the legendary Quasimodo Jazz Club at Berlin’s western neighborhood of Charlottenburg. The session was followed by a brilliant performance by the Yellow Bird Jazz Band at the revitalized cellar of the club.
After checking out of Motel One before setting out for the second leg of our trip to Munich, we visited the Berlin offices of one of Germany’s preeminent independent jazz music labels act. Founded in 1992 by Siegfried ‘Siggi’ Loch and located near the popular A-Trane Jazz club in Pestalozzistrasse, though ‘Siggi’ himself was unavoidably absent, we were graciously hosted by Act Communications Manager Michael Gottfried and his colleague Tambour Music Management Executive Jolanda Vujasinovic. Our group was treated to a listening session of some of the latest artistes the label had signed up and we also were gifted with some of their artistes’ works.
From Act, we headed for the German Federal Foreign Office where Director for Education Science and Academic Relations Policy, Foreign Cultural Relations, ably represented by the Dirk Schulz, the deputy head of division, where he led us on an exclusive expert discussion and hosted us to sumptuous lunch at the prestigious International Club above the rooftops of Berlin.
Touch Down In Munich
Munich is one of the most prosperous and fastest growing cities in Germany. The city is a major centre of art, technology, finance, publishing, culture, innovation, education, business, and tourism and enjoys a very high standard and quality of living. Unlike many other German cities, which were heavily bombed during the World War, Munich restored most of its traditional cityscape and hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics.On arrival, we were taken to the Bavarian Broadcasting Centre, where we attended a special concert by Munich-based trumpet player Mathias Lindermayr and his Quintet@funkhaus Studio 2. We later retired to our hotel, The Design Hotel Stadt Rosenheim at Orleansplatz.
After breakfast the following day, we headed out for a guided tour through Munich conducted by our guide Erika Fischer-Laughlin, an actress and director in film and theatre. This tour took us through the centre of Munich with its rich monarchial history, the famous Oktoberfest Halls, the most expensive shopping street in Germany and the famous cathedral with rotating statutes Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
We stopped next at the cultural department of the city of Munich where Dr. Hans-Gerge Kuppers, who is the cultural officer of the city of Munich and chairman of the culture committee of the German Association of Cities at Burgestarbe was expecting us. He welcomed us warmly and intimated us about the activities of his department. Next stop was an exciting mid-day musical showcase at the popular Harryklein Techno Club in Sonnesstrabe, Munich by the Jazzrausch big band-the only resident big band of a techno club in the world. At 12 noon this club was busy with an almost two hours special showcase presentation for us!
The evening part of our Munich tour was an engaging panel, networking and showcase at the Einstein Kultur, Which houses the 40 years old famous jazz club Unterfahrt, where we met its president, the cheerful Michael Stuckl, Chairman Forderkreis Jazz. A panel was conducted by Jürgen Enninger, head team of Excellence for the Cultural and Creative Industries of the city of Munich to meet the executives of legendary music labels from Munich.
The networking/match making session with members of the Munich jazz scene, where various musicians and numerous representatives were present, was conducted with side showcases by Leo Betzi Trio, winners of the BMW World Jazz Awards and Fazer Band. The evening ended with a jazz in concert and dinner, at the world acclaimed jazz club Unterfahrt. The award winning Omer Avital Quantar Quintet was on set to perform to the delight of a sold out show at the jazz club.
Off To Stuggart
We arrived at Stuttgart, the famous home of the Mercedes Benz Museum, safely. Being an avid Benz lover, I got to feast my eyes on a lot of different models, but was unable to visit the Mercedes Benz Museum for a tour due to time constraints; I would have spent the entire day there. In Stuttgart, we were lodged at the Delightsome Jaz In The City Hotel from where we were taken to meet Debonair Jürgen Schlensog, festival director of the 25 years old Jazzopen Festival and also the amiable Arnem Braun, Deputy Speaker of the Stuttgart State Government. After a welcome champagne reception, we were given a back stage tour of the Jazzopen Main Venue. Mr. Schlensog educated us on the festival and it history, operations and 25th anniversary activities, while Mr. Braun later took us on an exclusive tour of the venue hosting the largest shows of the Jazzopen Festival, a place with a very rich history of occupancy by the famous French General Napoleon Bonaparte.
We later attended as part of the Jazzopen in Concert, a showcase by Wolfgang Dauner, a legendary 82 year-old pianist with an eventful life at the Domkirche St. Eberhard. Later at the Schlossplatz, an electric ultra realistic concert was held with the Jazzopen concert featuring Atna and friends at the Stadtpalais.
The last day of the final leg of our trip was a visit to the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, which is one of the largest performing arts institutions in Germany, housing about 220 Steinway Grand Pianos and a wing with 12 or more church organs amongst others. The tour of this university was by the hospitable and dynamic Prof. Mini Schulz of the Institute for Jazz, who is also the Artistic Director of the Bix Jazz Club Stuttgart and a Managing Partner of Jazzopen. He gave us a comprehensive oversight of the possibilities of jazz, the club and scene in the Baden-Wattergen State.
Time To Say Goodbye
After breakfast, each participant departed to catch his/her transportation to final destinations. However, this was not without final goodbyes and promises to stay in touch after such an engaging and bonding time together.
Overall, my impression of Germany as a country and their jazz music scene changed considerably. I was deeply impressed by the level of development and opportunities in place to do a lot of projects even outside what I was invited for. After this program, the probability of more German bands being booked internationally is very high; at least I have seen a few I would like to book for some of my events and recommend to other promoters and producers here. Artiste collaboration and touring opportunities are also possible. The jazz in Germany Programme is a good initiative that will yield positive results as the participants, who are already influencers in their various countries, got to see first hand the caliber of musicians Germany has and how they can be engaged in other countries. This is ingenious. The underlying message is German jazz and music is very ready for export and the avenues to make this happen are already in place. So, let’s do it.