Behind the scenes of one of the most prestigious open-air jazz festivals in Eastern and Central Europe – Gărâna Jazz Festival
By Oana Vasiliu
There is a small village in Romania, hidden in the Carpathian Mountains, about which every jazz lover in the world knows: Gărâna. Why? Organisers say they have three ingredients that make up its uniqueness: the music, the place, the people. Up until now, over 50.000 music lovers and hundreds of internationally acclaimed artists have shared the experience of live music in the heart of our Carpathian Mountains. Eberhard Weber, Mike Stern, Jan Garbarek, Charles Lloyd, Jean-Luc Ponty, Stanley Jordan, John Abercrombie, Miroslav Vitous, Zakir Hussain, Magnus Ostrom, Bugge Wesseltoft, Lars Danielsson, Avishay Cohen, Nils Petter Molvaer and many others brought joy and energy to the crowds of jazz lovers.
Gărâna Jazz Festival has memorable performances featuring Nordic jazz, American jazz, Eastern European jazz and Oriental Jazz in three wonderful venues: Wolf’s Meadow – the main stage, in the courtyard of the La Răscruce Inn – during the day, and in the Catholic Church in Văliug village. How come? Marius Giura, the director of the festival which takes place July 12-15, explains for OZB readers.
The festival started in the backyard of a small inn, Hanul La Răscruce, and then you moved to a bigger space, the place you currently use. What was your initial model for this festival? How did you imagine it?
I did not have a model. I wanted three things: to be in an outdoor location in order to allow the listener to breathe and to move, to look at the sky from time to time, to smoke if he wants to, to get out when he or she feels the need for a break. The second thing was bringing great musicians and good music and, third, to show that something good could be done in Romania that would cause those from “outside” to talk about us in a positive light. And yes, maybe the nostalgia of youth and Woodstock…
Anca Parghel and Teodora Enache
When did you start to realise that it could be an international jazz festival?
Those who founded the festival baptised it as international. I pushed things further in the sense that I wanted to bring artists who are already known on the international jazz stage.
Who was the first international jazz person who came to Gărâna? How did you convince them?
What a memory… Eberhard Weber. I just wrote him an email. Without really believing he would answer me. When the answer came – that he agreed to participate to our festival, my hands were shaking. The great Weber at Gărâna! It sounded incredible. We talked about the money. For me it was a huge amount. An old friend told me he knew Mrs. Monica Tatoiu and called her. I will never forget: she was at the beach, somewhere by the sea, and she told him she would return his call in 10 minutes. That’s how it was. She gave us the phone number of the marketing director and in half an hour I had the fee for Weber confirmed. It was one of the happiest days in my life. Weber then told me that he did not even know where he was coming to, that he was on the serpentine, climbing to Gărâna, had doubts, but told Reto Weber: “Come on, nothing bad will happen to us”. And so, the international adventure began.
Among the connoisseurs it is known that at this festival, you will come to discover incredible Nordic jazz, among others. When and how did you discover Nordic jazz?
It’s Nordic jazz that I feel the closest to. I fell in love with Garbarek’s music many years ago. He was the first! I think I’m structured like this. For me jazz is not an intellectual activity but a visceral one. Nordic jazz fulfils me.
Which artists have not yet made it to Garana Jazz Festival?
First of all, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Santana, Marsalis and many others. Some I can’t afford financially, with others I can not match the dates. Gărâna Jazz Festival overlaps with several other major festivals in the world.
For the 22nd edition, you did a rebranding of the festival and most of the photos were black & white. Why did you choose this type of communication?
It was the 22nd anniversary, a balance edition, mentioning both good things and bad things. The black and white. My daughter, Simona Giura came up with the idea and we all embraced it.
The great Charles Lloyd composed Gărâna Woods at the festival. Are there any other artists who were inspired by your great festival?
Yes, Raul Kusak, Liviu Butoi and others. Some have remained to compose. Others have returned. Gărâna leaves a strong impression.
What is absolutely not to be missed this year?
I think all the bands are great. I’ve been trying to get the best of all three scenes. I really can not recommend one band instead of the other. Everything is wisely chosen: new names and old names with new projects.
What’s your advice for someone who is coming to the festival for the first time?
To come rested. 24 bands on the stage of Wolf’s Meadow, 6 bands on the stage of La Răscruce Inn and 3 at the Văliug Church. Plus vinyls, book launches, exhibitions, lakes where you can swim, woods where you can explore. At Gărâna, the day should have 36 hours.
“For four days each summer, a village in the Western Carpathians becomes the Mecca for the Romanian jazz fans, and an ever-growing number of Europeans” – All about jazz portal
“After celebrating two decades of live music, Gărâna will continue to nurture the passion for jazz and nature along with the freedom of bringing these two elements together in a unique festival experience” – Europe Jazz Network
Gărâna Jazz Festival 2018 must see
July 12-15, Gărâna, Semenic Mountains, Caraș Severin County
Stanley Clarke Band (USA)
With a career spanning 40 years, 4 Grammys, over 20 solo albums and tens of others as co-leader and sideman, Stanley Clarke is truly a living legend among jazz musicians. He returns to Gărâna Jazz Festival with a band of exceptional young musicians – Beka Gochiashvili on piano, Caleb Sean McCampbell on keyboards and voice and Shariq Tucker on drums.
Sly & Robbie with Nils Petter Molvær, Eivind Aarset, Vladislav Delay (Jamaica, Norway, Finland)
Two legendary stars of reggae music, Sly & Robbie, will be star guests of the festival. Their innovative project, Nordub, includes Norwegian musicians Nils Petter Molvær – on trumpet and Eivind Aarset – on electric guitar, as well as Vladislav Delay – a much appreciated Finnish electronic music artist.
Avishai Cohen’s Big Vicious (Israel)
Extravagant, lyrical, rebellious and contemplative, the versatile Israeli trumpet player Avishai Cohen is considered one of the best trumpet players of our time. At Garana Jazz Festival he will present a project that seems tailor-made for the audience of the festival: an exciting and harmonious combination of jazz, rock & roll, groove and psychedelica.
Indian violinist Abhijith PS Nair and the new star of India, young bass player Mohini Dey, will bring on stage the colours and stories of India. They will mix funk jazz, world music and classical Carnatic music from the south of India in an electrifying show, infused with oriental harmonies.
Pink Freud (Poland)
Pink Freud is considered one of the most original voices in contemporary jazz. Their music, mainly a fusion of jazz, punk and rock, has conquered audiences, especially the younger members.
Elena Mîndru Finnection & Adam Bałdych
Polish violinist Adam Bałdych is the special guest of Elenei Mîndru’s band that won over the Gărâna Jazz Festival audience in 2014 – Elena Mîndru Finnection. With this new project, the singer invites the listener on an exotic musical journey alongside an acoustic jazz quartet that also includes the violin, an instrument that brings a distinctive and special element to their music.
The Romanian pianist Mircea Tiberian will present the project La Classe operaia va in Paradiso alongside Claudio Puntin, Daniel Erdmann, Chris Dahlgren and Tilo Weber.
For more information see www.garana-jazz.ro