Maijazz: Swing your way through spring!
By Celina Tran | Photos: Maijazz
MaiJazz is one of most important and oldest cultural events of southern Norway, attracting passionate artists and music lovers from all over. With acts like Brad Mehldau and Mulatu Astatke, they’re one step closer to putting Stavanger on the cultural capital map. This year, they are celebrating 34 years of talent, fun, and most importantly, jazz.
In the south of Norway, where the vast, glittering ocean stretches to meet a colourful port town filled with classic, wooden homes and friendly people, lies the city of Stavanger. Stavanger is home to many things, from the historic Stavanger Cathedral to some of the best restaurants in Norway, but it also holds glory as the birthplace of the annual festival, MaiJazz. “MaiJazz is a jazz festival that takes place in May every year,” the festival director, Per Hasse Andersen says. “This is our 34th festival, which is very exciting.”
Following a pandemic that caged people inside, with nothing but screens for entertainment and communication, the MaiJazz crew is excited to reintroduce local and international audiences to the power of jazz again. Despite still putting on shows in 2020 and 2021, they were nowhere near as large as what they have got planned for this year’s festival.
“We didn’t have international acts during the pandemic, which is something we’re looking forward to welcoming back,” Andersen says. “We have really invested in this year’s festival in order to guide people back into the cultural life. It’s important not only to us and them, but also to the artists and musicians on stage.”
Jazz for all ages
Andersen’s love for the jazz genre stems from its timelessness and status within the art of music. Through the festival, he wishes to share this with people, in particular the youth. “All good music comes from jazz. Without it, there would be no rock and roll,” Andersen says. “Jazz has already got a strong foundation in Norway. We have so many talented artists, such as Jan Garbarek.”
It may come as a surprise to some, but jazz runs through the veins of Norway, stretching from coastal towns down south to the white mountains under the northern lights. This is partly due to the jazz education, which Andersen describes as legendary. Universities across the country, including the great NTNU in Trondheim and the University of Stavanger, offer outstanding courses in the genre.
MaiJazz has long cooperated with the local ‘kulturskole’ (municipal schools teaching cultural knowledge, including instruments and art) and the University of Stavanger’s Faculty of Performing Arts. They wish to recruit, encourage, and boost the musical careers of young, local artists. “We’re investing in the future,” says Andersen. “Though jazz is timeless, we need to invest time and money into young, local musicians, as well as recruit new audiences to ensure its survival.”
This year, MaiJazz is especially excited to show off the new talent. Along with Bjergsted’s Youth Talents and the Oslo-based Kids in Jazz, they’re working towards finding and introducing more young people to the art of jazz, with a focus on young girls. Anderson notes the importance of giving girls the platform and representation they deserve.
A future cultural jazz capital
MaiJazz is one of the biggest and oldest festivals in the region, and they place great importance both on showing off Stavanger as an international city of jazz through their artists from all over the world, and on nurturing and cultivating the local area and talent. “We hope the festival and its big jazz legends can show our young ones what they can achieve one day,” Andersen says. “It’s also fun for both our local and international audiences to discover the local talent.”
Some of the big names on this year’s running order include Brad Mehldau, Kyle Eastwood, Mulatu Astatke and the incredible guitarist Bill Frisell, the latter of whom Andersen mentions with an excited grin. “It’ll be nice to invite the international community back to Stavanger and show them our amazing region. We want to show the world how Stavanger can be a cultural capital,” he says.
Maijazz also prides itself on collaboration with other local and national organisations and businesses, such as the Stavanger Symfoniorkester and Nordic Edge. “We wish to contribute to enrichening our region, especially within the cultural sector. We know it’ll take some time and effort to get people back out, but we’re willing to invest into it as it’s incredibly important to us.”
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