Famous jazz festival launches China’s first stanza
The prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival launched its first Chinese edition last week, featuring a group of high-quality musical performances near Hangzhou West Lake.
The world-famous jazz festival is held every summer in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva. Since its inception in 1967, the festival has included countless great musicians and bands, including Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Muse, Radiohead, Adele and Lady Gaga.
“Preparation for the Chinese edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival started in 2019,” said Qi Pengpeng, Managing Director of Montreux Jazz Festival China. “Despite the interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am so happy that the event was able to fully deliver on its ‘Mother’s Day’ promise in Switzerland.”
The concerts were presented by eight groups of musicians over two days, covering various genres including jazz, rock, pop, folk and classical. Luo Ning, China’s greatest Latin jazz pianist, opened the festival with his band, followed by Brazilian duo Ricardo Vogt and Grammy-winning Veronica Nunes.
Other performers include internationally renowned jazz guitarist Lawrence Ku, Inner Mongolian rock band Hanggai, Etienne Jeanne Quartet, a cappella group Pinocchio and independent ballad musician Wan Xiaoli.
The stage was set on the roof terrace of the Sofitel by the lake, with around 100 people observing the artists up close while taking in the view of West Lake.
According to Qi, adjustments were made to the scale and programming of the first Montreux Jazz Festival China due to anti-pandemic requirements and travel restrictions.
“Initially, we established a four- to five-day performance schedule for the festival, with more international musicians and artists invited,” Qi said. “The stage was originally intended to be set up on a lawn that could accommodate up to 1,000 people. However, for safety reasons, we switched to Plan B and presented a rooftop festival.”
The tweaks received surprisingly good feedback. People were able to feel all the charm of live music, and interact with the musicians thanks to the intimacy created by the organizers.
“The Montreux Jazz Festival has its well-recognized international status. I was curious about its Chinese edition, so here I am,” said veteran DJ Zhang Youdai.
Zhang has worked for Chinese National Radio since the early 1990s. In charge of several music programs, he is considered one of the pioneers in introducing jazz and other Western music to national audiences through emissions.
Zhang said there was a misunderstanding about the “jazz festival” among music fans across the country.
“Despite its name, the jazz festival is never limited to jazz music. In fact, it is the most complete type of music festival, because jazz itself is an inclusive and open musical genre,” did he declare.
The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland is a good example, where several thematic stages take place at the same time. In its recent editions, only about 20 percent of performers were jazz musicians. The rest of the stages are open to all musical genres, from rock to folk, electronic and classical.
At the inaugural Chinese edition of the festival, around half of the performers were jazz musicians, a proportion that is expected to be adjusted in the future.
“We want to present more quality jazz music to people in the inaugural year of the festival in China,” Qi said. “Once music fans get to know us, we will introduce them to more inspiring music and interesting musicians in future editions. “
Jazz remains a niche musical genre in China. Most of the artists and fans can be found in prominent cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Jazz clubs were popular entertainment venues in Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, jazz has become a symbol of the leisure and lifestyle of the modern generation.
“In Western countries, participants in jazz concerts are usually older people,” Zhang said. “But in China, the market is much younger. Visiting jazz clubs is often seen as a social activity and a way of life.”
From Zhang’s point of view, jazz encourages integration, innovation and free creation. Jazz performers are generally highly skilled, which allows them to fully play the charm of each instrument.
“Unlike some rock or pop groups where the lead singer or guitarist takes center stage, each member of a jazz group is a soloist, and each of them is able to conduct a certain chapter of their group. show, ”Zhang said.
He still remembers his first experiences at a jazz festival in Copenhagen some thirty years ago.
“I felt like a fish in the sea,” Zhang said. “I could choose to follow an instrument, understand its role and swim in its currents. Then I focused on another instrument and let myself be carried away by its waves. I realized how intriguing it would be if you could understand and appreciate this type of music. “
He said it’s important to keep an open mind when approaching jazz.
“Audiences who are more familiar with pop and rock music often try to find meaning in the songs and music they hear,” Zhang said.
“But music doesn’t always have to have meaning. The value and charm lies in the creative process and in the way the performers communicate and express themselves. Don’t make assumptions and let the music free your mind and body. . “