Jazz'n Chişinău International Festival - EFFE Laureate

Simon Mundy - 24 Jun 2019

Get more insight on Jazz'n Chişinău International Festival. Read Simon Mundy's interview with Director Valeriu Culea.

Chisinau is one of Europe's least talked about capital cities, unless it is for political complexity, and Moldova's cultural life tends to be overshadowed by its neighbours, Romania (of which it was part until after World War II). One recent focus for international notice, though, has been the emergence of the Chisinau Jazz Festival, held during April since 2013.

Jazz Chisinau

It was the brainchild of the pianist Valeriu Culea, who is still its driving force and writes most of the ensemble arrangements. For this interview, fearing for the fluency of his English, he invited musician and volunteer of the festival Dan Bruma to speak on his behalf. There is anyway a co-operative feel to the way the festival is managed, perhaps reflecting the nature of jazz itself and Culea's own multifaceted interests.

'Chisinau really needs this festival because we really had nothing like it. We started by looking at the way jazz can work with other art forms – with a painter at work while the musicians played – and we aim to expand that.'

As its venue the festival uses the city's main Philharmonic Hall, rather than the smoky nightclubs the genre usually inhabits. It means the audience tends to come from the among intellectual enthusiasts but that, Bruma says, does not mean that concerts are very formal; merely that 'there is not really any underground jazz in our city. It is just not part of our cultural tradition. In the small clubs around town the scene is more likely to be folk music'.

According to the EFFE jury, the most encouraging aspect of the festival is its ability to bring musicians from around the world to a city that is largely devoid of international connections. This was greatly assisted by international missions and embassies, particularly the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the embassies of the USA, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, the German cultural center "Akzente", Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, Chisinau City Hall, the EU Delegation to Moldova and Adam Mickiewicz Institute from Poland.

Moldova continues to be isolated from its neighbours. Despite the close linguistic and cultural ties with Romania there is still an EU border in between. 'Our musicians perform there, but few Romanians come here and the border is not free in either direction,' says Buma. The problems are even greater with Ukraine, which surrounds it on three sides, because of the multiple tensions with Russia. However, jazz can make its point. ‘On the third day of the festival, a new project is usually presented, created on the basis of Valeriu Kul's music, with the participation of international and local musicians. In just three days of getting to know each other and their various styles - we have a team that inspires to experiment and combines jazz music with various musical genres.'

Note from the EFFE International Jury

This small but beautiful festival in Moldova features jazz from the region which still needs to be discovered. It offers an insight into the high quality this country can contribute to the international community. At the same time it brings international artists to a country that too rarely sees them.

Jazz'n Chişinău International Festival

16 Apr 2019 - 19 Apr 2019