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Ethno-Jazz Festival

Ethno-Jazz Festival was a big musical event in the cultural life of Moldova. It took place in Mihai Eminescu Theater and attracted jazz amateurs of different ages and preferences. For the first time the festival was organized last year on the occasion of folk-jazz band Trigon’s 10th anniversary in cooperation with the Coliseum Center of Arts. And then it was decided that the holding of the festival should become a good tradition. This year the four days of the festival were filled with famous jazz interpreters’ stage performances and round-table to master-class exchange of experience discussions.

Based on national folklore, folk-jazz and ethno-jazz are becoming very popular in Europe today. Critics affirm that the future of music is precisely with folk-jazz. Names like John Maclohlin (England), Okay Teliz (Turkey), Mikhail Alperin (Russia), that turned into symbols of world folk-jazz endorsement are well known to many people. In Moldova the movement is represented by Trigon with manager Anatol Stefanet (violin), Oleg Baltaga (drums), Alexander Murzac (bass guitar). According to them a trio is the best alternative for playing and conveying the inimitable expression and originality of folk-jazz. Obviously each artist must possess talent and unique skill. The main goal of the Festival was to popularize the folklore of different countries in a more contemporary fashion. On the whole the world jazz would be enriched if it embraced the national music of various people that has been an endless source of inspiration for musicians across the globe.

If we turn back, before the 1990s Moldova played host to numerous international folklore festivals that gathered enormous numbers of admirers. It has always been a multinational country with a blend of over 100 different nationalities that individually contributed their characteristic trends to Moldovan culture. In the ‘80s ethno-jazz quartet Kvarta was established. Later on due to not being fully accepted at home it moved to Ukraine and through tours became famous in many European countries. It was a historical band the name of which German journalist Kristoff Wernitzki included in his book the History of Jazz in Russia.

The International Festival featured seven trios and duos from ten countries with Trigon taking the lead in a program comprising the best pieces of over ten years of the band’s existence. The Moldovan audience met them with a big round of applause and during the two and a half hour performance relished the music.

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, leader of the group 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 intimate feeling of the 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.

Theodosy Spassov trio played in Eminescu Theater on the second day of the Festival. The trio of Spassov on kaval, Roumen Toskov on piano and keyboards and Hristo Yotzov on drums and percussion offers a masterful look into a complex fusion of Balkan roots and inspired jazz “like a jam session between Ian Anderson and Thelonious Monk", Chicago Tribune says.

"The playing of the trio is a delight, with Toskov and Yotsov both supplying extraordinary sensitivity and chops. Spassov's kaval is blown, sung through, processed, overblown, and played every which way but upside-down. His interest in sound as music is apparent from his solos, but also from the tracks of urban and rural soundscapes which intersperse the CD, from the bustle of a Sofia train station to evening rain falling on a small village." – Michal Shapiro, Roots World.

The composer and leader of trio Theodosii Spassov has developed his own style of playing the kaval and realized several recordings and projects in his unique way of playing fusion. His biography is the biography of a national hero. In 1994-1999, he 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 the 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 Theodosii have 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. Theodosii 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.

Rikki`s duo performed on the third day of the festival. This trio was composed of Rikki Nakano – vocal and Hiroaki Sugawara – guitar, drums. Rikki Nakano was born on Amami Island in the south of Japan in 1975. Situated at a crossroads, half way between mainland Japan and Okinawa, the traditional music of Amami has received a unique set of influences from its larger neighbours. Music was in her blood, and she started singing shima uta from the age of 4. She appeared at the Japan minyo (folk) award show in Kagoshima being just 5 years old. The following year she won the same award, and was a consecutive winner for the following six years until 1988 She captured the All Japan Minyo award at the unprecedented age of 15 in 1990. She was the focus of several TV documentaries throughout that and the following years her solo albums released in Japan were an enormous success in 1993 and in 1994. In addition to her native Amami Island music, her improvising music included Indonesian and Asian influences. Her last album received rave reviews upon release, and firmly established her rising reputation as a singer of the finest quality and a star of the Asian music scene. She performed at various concerts in Japan and France Rikki is considered to be one of Japan's finest young singers with her root firmly entrenched within a strong tradition, a unique background in the world of Japanese culture. Her prestigious talent is unquestionable and she is one of a very few young artists with the ability to bring the unique and colourful culture of her birthplace to a worldwide audience.

K-Space trio was another participant of the Etho-Jazz 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). "Quite possible that being in trance people can be carried away even in the past, predict the future and cure. It is unknown whether it is good or bad, but it is impossible to reproduce their concert once more, as we cannot eat the cake and have it. You can be close to the bygone state only after having listened to this music. K-space concert is more than a concert - a total ritual gesture of extraordinary intensity.” (The La Vanguaria paper, Spain).

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 and 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 Gipsy musicians and Siberian shamans.

Ethno-Jazz International Festival turned out an extraordinary event. The Festival contributed to elevating the general state of mind and served as an excellent means of national and international cultural development.

By Vlada Popushoi

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