Author: Ajla Omerhodzic
The 23rd edition of the international jazz music festival ‘Jazz Fest Sarajevo’ is set to take place on November 7-10. This is the most significant jazz event and the oldest music festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as, according to general assessment, one of the most important cultural events in the country.
This year’s festival program includes a total of 16 concerts, with the performance of Belgrade-based jazz band ‘Fish in Oil’ at ‘Klub 1’, 25 Branilaca Sarajeva Street, starting at 20:00 hours on Wednesday, as a pre-event to the main part of the festival program.
The festival’s official program will kick off on Thursday, November 7, with concerts of DrummingCellist and Adam Ben Ezra, starting at 20:00 hours, and concerts at the Sarajevo War Theater (SARTR) - MOPO feat. Jimi Tenor commencing at 22:15 and THE EX at 23:15 hours.
After previous announcements that last year’s festival could actually be the last edition of ‘Jazz Fest Sarajevo’ due to lack of institutional support and financial assistance, the festival did not shut down after all as the organizers decided to continue fighting to preserve what is left of the art of music in the B&H society.
The organizers thus started a crowdfunding campaign at the end of 2018, to raise the funds for this year’s edition of ‘Jazz Fest Sarajevo’. The campaign was launched with the aim to keep the program of the festival and production free from compromises and to preserve its independence, since December 2015 marked the beginning of the most difficult years for the event.
In the crowdfunding campaign, organizers warned that December 2015 was when festival started experiencing issues “as a result of politically motivated decisions and retroactive termination of funds”. They urged the audience, musicians, and all those who believe that the power of good music can prevail over bad politics to provide their support.
Ahead of the festival opening, Art Director of ‘Jazz Fest Sarajevo’ Edin Zubcevic explained that issues of the jazz festival, which he referred to as the issues of the overall music scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mostly referred to issues with infrastructure and premises in which the concerts could have been organized.
“The festival is complex, and contains multiple performance stages, so organizing it has remained a challenge. We were hoping that something would change throughout the years. Nevertheless, it stayed the same. Still, we changed in a sense of going through different phases and different challenges, and we no longer have any dilemma as to whether it is worth fighting for this, despite the circumstances. We have shown that anything is possible, including the negative things. I think we should carry on with the same amount of enthusiasm”, said Zubcevic. He noted that the program of the festival is a result of careful selection, done with the effort to avoid stylistic repetitions and to provide a variety of sound and music orientation.
The first edition of ‘Jazz Fest Sarajevo’ took place in the summer of 1997, few months after the end of the siege of Sarajevo. It was a part of a post-war initiative to promote diverse music, regardless of its genre, origin or social background. Twenty-three years later, the festival grew into being an integral part of the music scene of this country and the region, with the organizers’ hope that music can improve the currently complex society.
‘Jazz Festival Sarajevo’ won the eighth Europe Jazz Network (EJN) Award for Adventurous Programming. The 2019 EJN Award Jury praised the festival for being an icon of creativity with an adventurous, open-minded approach, producing a full-hearted event which stays in the memory of each musician or visitor forever. In its statement, the Jury described the festival in the following manner: “It seems very fitting this year to give the EJN Award for Adventurous Programming to a festival that brilliantly managed to combine inspiring music and the creation of a strong community around it. It is a unique experience born from a simple idea during the war and is now getting well-deserved international recognition in times of peace. We commend the festival for keeping courage in extremely hard conditions in order to fulfill the core idea behind it - better life for all”.
Jazz is creative, often improvisational musical form developed by African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century, and it is influenced by European harmonic structure as well as African rhythms. It was partly developed from ragtime and blues, and has grown to be the type of musical expression with undeniable influence even on nowadays popular genres of music. In addition, modern studies of effects of jazz music on human brain and health have found that listening to it reduces stress, and stimulates creativity through removing impediments in the thinking process. ‘Jazz Fest Sarajevo’ is therefore a perfect place to alleviate stress, improve focus, or simply sit back and enjoy a night of quality live music.