Germany trumpets unity via jazz
The country showcases a range of activities and support measures, while networks link audiences across Europe
Germany’s Visitors Programme invites 400 people annually from all over the world to see what the country has to offer. During international jazz month in April, the "German jazz music scene" tour gathered 18 participants from across the world including festival directors from South Korea, Argentina, Haiti, Belgrade, Romania and Montenegro and cultural journalists from Mexico, Greece, Canada, Namibia and SA.
The tour exposed us to an impressive network of institutions, activities and support for jazz, which underscores the important role the music plays in unity and democracy.
It was put together by Germany’s music and export office, Initiative Musik, which is supported by the German Music Authors’ Society and government funding agency Deutscher Musikrat. Jazz clubs receive financial support for administration, upgrading technical infrastructure and live music programmes.
The Berlin A-Trane jazz club in Charlottenburg was founded in 1992 and has hosted some of the greatest acts in the world, transforming the neighbourhood in the process. The jazz theme has been picked up by establishments in the area such as the Grolman Jazz Café.
The award-winning Zig Zag Jazz Club in Schöneberg welcomed us with a performance by trumpeter Sebastian Studnitzky and a six-piece band of international players including a drummer from New York, saxophonist from Australia and bass player and pianist from Israel.
Support for the arts in Germany is incredible: 18 state universities offer jazz studies at no cost. Opportunities include degrees and exchange programmes. The new European Jazz Master, or EUjam, is a network of five schools in Paris, Amsterdam, Trondheim, Copenhagen and Berlin.
There is growing emphasis on learning music as young as possible, with improvisation and jazz lessons for children at kindergarten becoming a focus. Norway took the lead in this a decade ago.
Festivals are a cornerstone of the jazz music industry. In 2011, music festivals accounted for 12% of the turnover of the industry, with €341m. The sector is tipped to grow as jazz begins to have a bigger impact.
X Jazz festival, started by Studnitzky, is the newest jazz festival and has quickly become one of the largest, attracting 14,000 visitors to 86 concerts.
X Jazz focuses on dance, collaboration and innovation and the festival is at the forefront of a cross between jazz and Berlin’s famous electronica and techno scene. The festival plans to expand worldwide through satellite festivals, one of which has been established in Turkey.
Jazzfest Berlin, established in 1964, is Germany’s oldest jazz festival and operates out of the historic Festspiele building.
Germany’s most extensive jazz festival is Enjoy Jazz. Founded in 1999 and funded by the EU, the seven-week event takes place in Heidelberg, Mannheim and Ludwigshafen. It attracts 20,000 people, is 75% self-financed and has a business volume of €1.3m.
Elbjazz in Hamburg is arguably the fastest-growing jazz festival in the country, with 13,000 tickets sold to date for the June event. It was founded by legendary music promoter Karsten Jahnke and supported by Folkert Koopmans of Scorpio productions.
Although the event lost €1m in its first six years, it’s now well-positioned to make ends meet as it has secured the Elbphilharmonie concert hall as a primary venue.
Elbphilharmonie, completed in January, is an extraordinary piece of glass architecture rising out of an old warehouse on the western tip of Hamburg’s harbour. The venue is 110m high and houses two concert halls, apartments, a public plaza and a hotel. It has already received 1.7-million visitors and concerts are booked out four months in advance. The main concert venue is futuristic with its circular roof lighting and 2,000-plus multi-level seats. Although acoustically designed for orchestras, it has hosted performances in multiple genres.
Well-funded networks are linking festivals and audiences across Europe. The European Jazz Network was co-founded by the EU’s Creative Europe Programme and has 106 members from 31 countries.
Germany is an important market with a big demand for jazz. Munich is the centre of the recording industry, with seven independent record labels.
ECM was founded in 1969 by 26-year-old Manfred Eicher. With the support of Deutsche Gramaphone to press and record its jazz records, ECM developed an international repertoire of outstanding quality. Enja was founded in 1971. Subsidiary label Yellowbird releases innovative jazz such as that of pianist Johanna Borchert.
Jazz month in Germany reaches its climax in Bremen for the annual Jazzahead music trade fair. In 2017, the 12th edition of the fair attracted 17,600 exhibitors and participants from 60 countries to the main conference centre. Numbers were 16% up year on year.
Finland, in the 100th anniversary of its independence, was selected as the partner country. Eight Finnish bands and exhibitions of visual arts, film and literature were presented under the slogan "Together".
The Bremen orchestra is one of the best in Germany. It has been invited by the German foreign office to set up an orchestra
in Tunisia in recognition of the pro-democracy movement.
In 2018, Poland will be the partner country at Jazzahead, a first for Eastern Europe and a sign of the role jazz is playing to build unity across Europe.
• Douglas was hosted in Germany by the German foreign office and Musik Initiative.