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Ethno-Jazz Movement Spreads all over the World

In the Republic of Moldova the folk-jazz movement that is becoming very popular in today's Europe is represented by the Trigon trio: manager Anatol Stefanet (violin), Oleg Baltaga (drums) and Alexander Murzac (bass guitar).

Trigon was born in 1992, out of the desire to play music for the soul. Quite unexpectedly for the musicians, already in 1994 their music brought them the first European award, the "Grand Prix" of the French Academy of Arts "Charles Cros" for their first CD - "The Moldovan Wedding in Jazz". The variety of their music is unique, the group succeeding in achieving a monumental synthesis of Balkan melodies and free cosmopolitan jazz. They won their own place on the world jazz stage, touring the world for 11 years, from Canary Islands to Japan and from Yakutia to New Zealand.

Anatol Stefanet, the group leader and a virtuoso instrumentalist, was the special guest of International Viola Congress 2001 in Wellington, New Zealand. One of his solo CDs, recorded in France - "Anatol Stefanet - bratsch solo" - was awarded the CHOC premium of the magazine "Musique du Monde" in 1999 and 2002. Since 1996 he is the member of Okay Temiz "Black Sea Orchestra", named by the press "the all star band".

Sergei Testemitanu, the author of arrangements and bass guitarist, is a brilliant musician, having an intricate feeling of musical texture. Once he was in love with Pastorius and "Weather Report" and, just as his colleagues, took part in many fusion music projects in Moldova.

Oleg Baltaga, an outstanding musician, started his musical career as a traditional jazzman and rock musician. He worked with a number of pop groups in Moldova and also taught at the Conservatory.

Anatol Stefanet, the leader of Trigon, kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.

Welcome: Anatol, you have been the leader of Trigon for many years. Is it possible to say that you were also the band's founder?

Answer: In the 1990s, a good chance helped me meet a talented pianist, Mikhail Alperin (Russia). Professor of piano at the Music Academy in Oslo, Mikhail Alperin can be named the founder of the ethno-jazz style. Alperin's contribution to contemporary music is an unbiased integration of the most diverse peoples' musical traditions and the crossing of stylistic boundaries. He also freely and easily fuses music of the past with contemporary elements. By that time we had already played jazz and as many in those years had been keen on American arrangements by Frank Mitchell, William Handy, Ben Golson, Bobby Plater and some others. That was the so-called classical jazz, which was played all over the world. Mikhail Alperin was the first to advise us to play ethno-jazz based on Moldovan national folklore. We followed his advice. By the way, it was interesting to me since before I had played the violin in the folk music orchestra "Lautarii". My friends supported my aspirations to improvisation and soon we started playing ethno-jazz.

What does improvisation in jazz mean?

Improvisation has always existed in jazz. Improvisation is a symbol of freedom and self-expression of each musician. If we turn to the history of jazz, we will see that it was much popularized in the songs of American Negroes who were slaves and had a strong desire for liberation. In my opinion, it was them who filled jazz with improvisation.

Jazz interpreters are loved all over the world. For example, Theodosy Spassov from Bulgaria is regarded as a national hero in his mother country. What is the attitude of the Moldovan audience to the music of Trigon?

Theodosy Spassov is a remarkable Bulgarian musician and extraordinary personality. He has developed his own style of playing the kaval and realized several recordings and projects in his unique way of playing fusion. In 1994-1999, Theodosy Spassov was the Artistic Director of the world-renowned "Philip Koutev" ensemble of music and dance and a soloist of Radio Sofia Orchestra. In 1998-2001, he was member of the company of Irish music and dance "Riverdance". In 1994, he was honored with the Special Prize of Detroit Flute Festival. In April 1995, "Newsweek" magazine recognized Spassov as one of the most talented East European musicians in its "best of the East". In 1996, he received a special award of the International Academy of Arts in Paris; in 1997, he became "Music Artist of the Year", and got a number of National Music Awards. Different projects by Theodosy won international acclaim with the Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu's band, as well as with Albert Mangeldorff, with the Radio Hessen Jazz Ensemble and with Sofia Women's Radio Choir, which was awarded with a Grammy award for "Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares". He plays with folklore musicians and with jazz musicians as Yanka Rupkina, Simeon Shterev, Anatoly Vapirov, Rabih-Abou Khalil, Enver Izmailov, Harry Tavitian, Dave Liebmann, Dimitrios Vassilakis, Yldiz Ibrahimova, Albert Mangelsdorf, Ivo Papazov and many others. Theodosy has recorded 15 CDs, four of his own, which have been realized worldwide. He composed the music for 4 films and performed film music by Italian composers Carlo Siliotto and of Ennio Morricone.

In comparison with Theodosy Spassov our achievements are modest. Trigon released only three CDs. We successfully participated in a number of international festivals. But there is one thing that upsets us very much. Moldovan journalists do not show much interest in the music we play. So we are rarely interviewed. However, jazz amateurs know us and express all their love and admiration for our work.

For the second time Ethno-Jazz International Festival was recently held in Chisinau. The festival attracted jazz interpreters and amateurs from different countries of the world. Your popularity in Moldova and around the world has increased much. Trigon is one of the main organizers of this big cultural event. Why did you decide to hold the festival?

The main goal of the festival is to popularize the folklore of different countries in a more contemporary fashion. The festival contributes to elevating the general state of mind and serves as an excellent means of national and international cultural development. The festival will certainly become a good tradition.

Did the festival discover any new interesting names?

K-Space trio is considered to be one of the most interesting participants of the festival. The audience could enjoy a charming performance of Gendos Tshamzyryn - voice (Tuva), Tim Hodgkinson - guitar, clarinet, electronics, alto saxophone (England), and Ken Hyder - drums, voice, sampling (Scotland).

Tim Hodgkinson and Ken Hyder have been performing together since 1978, they are best known for being in the heart of the avant-garde for the last 30 years.

Tim Hodgkinson has got a rich professional expertise of the jazz musician, he worked with the radical Romanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu, Italian Electro-acoustic group Ossatura, and with the Konk Pack trio. Ken has never forgotten the land of his birth - Scotland, he explores his Scottish roots in his numerous ethno-jazz projects and CDs. After years of combining Scottish traditional folk music with jazz on a batch of albums, the musicians turned their attention eastwards in 1990, when they teamed up with Gendos on one of their Radical Transcultural Initiatives programs in Southern Siberia, presenting experimental art. Gendos, a musician from Tuva, is a recognized master of shamanisms, the top throat-singing innovator in Siberia and an expert in the deep-vocal Kargiraa style of overtone singing. He plays on a variety of traditional Tuvan instruments including the dungur shaman drum.

The performers are widely experienced in holding workshops on improvisation and fusions of ethnic music and jazz, as they have studied Celtic music in Scotland and in Ireland; shamanic drumming and overtone throat-singing in Tuva; the ritual music of Inuit natives in Canada; the music of southern ethnic groups in Siberia. They did records with a lot of jazz and ethnic musicians including Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist monks, traditional Japanese and Gypsy musicians and Siberian shamans.

Another participant in the ethno-jazz festival worth mentioning is Yat-Kha, which consists of Albert Kuvezin voice, guitar, yat-kha (long zither), Radik Tiouliouch bass and Zhenya Tkachev - kit, kengyrgy (Tuvan bodhran).
Albert Kuvezin, guitarist and vocalist, founded the Yat-Kha group in 1995. Their repertoire is based on improvisations, organically mixing elements of jazz, rock and Tuvan folk music. The overtone throat singing, brilliant use of traditional stringed instruments like the igil and the morinhuur (the Mongolian cello) and inspired improvisation are the basic elements of the highly original style of this group. Their CDs reached the European World Music Chart and won the Grand Jury Prize of Radio France International, as well as the "Award for World Music" of BBC Radio in London in 2002.

Trigon plays ethno-jazz in 30 countries of the world. Do you usually play the same music or it all depends on what country you perform in?

Trigon usually plays different music in different countries. It all depends on the country we perform in. For example, ethno-jazz in Japan differs from that in Germany. So it is important that we should take into consideration the national peculiarities of a certain country.

The Welcome magazine and its readers wish you success in your work.

Interviewed by Ludmila Mamaliga
Translated by Vlada Popushoi

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