The Swedish View – Nils Landgren and JazzBaltica
What experiences do you bring with you from Berlin to the Baltic?
Like so many Scandinavians, I’m rather interested in consensus. In Berlin I always tried to work with others and produce an audience-friendly program, without compromising its quality. As a musician, I know how much work it takes to build a solid troupe. And therefore I prefer to present colleagues that develop something in common rather than musicians that have no idea what to do with each other.
Is that the same principle lying behind the formation of an orchestra such as the JazzBaltica Ensemble, which has brought together many important European musicians, ranging from the Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola to the Berlin saxophonist Charlotte Greve?
It would be foolish to follow only your own taste, but equally so to invite music that you don’t like at all. You have to know the artists in order to know who really fits together and who doesn’t. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s how to develop my own projects. I’ve been able to gain experience that is important in order to continue something such as the Berlin Jazzfest or JazzBaltica.
The Relaunch of JazzBaltica
Despite moving from Gut Salzau in the Evers boatyard in Niendorf, it seems to me that the idea of continuity in change is at the heart of the festival.
This year JazzBaltica will go back to its roots, back where it once began. It was the idea of the long-time director Rainer Haarmann to present music from all round the Baltic Sea. He already invited artists from all over Scandinavia and from Russia and Lithuania to Poland and Germany. I’ve done the same, and there really are enough excellent musicians in these regions. From this pool I’ve compiled a program, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to present this in Sweden.
Your years in Berlin were very successful. Is there a trick for making people come to concerts?
No. In the end, it’s probably the mixture of known and unknown artists. That’s a risk, but I’m hopeful the German audience has a certain curiosity. We’ve shown in Berlin that you can have a successful festival without any really big names.
What in your view is special about the German audience?
People in Germany evidently like music from Scandinavia. At any rate, the audience warmly welcomed me from the beginning. Many of my Swedish colleagues have had the same experience. Most would like to come back soon because the audience here is very open, positive, curious – more so than in Sweden. In Sweden it’s mainly: “Don’t know it, don’t want it!” Here it’s rather: “Don’t know it, but why not? Let’s give it a try!” That’s a big difference. And then, too, there are only nine million Swedes, six million Danes, six million Finns, four million Norwegians. Here there are 80 million people. There are so many places where you can perform.
German musicians for Swedish audiences
You first came to Germany as an adult and learned the language only rather late. How do you feel about German?
Oh, for me German is a very rich language, with so many levels. For me it’s interesting just to understand these nuances and then even more to speak the language. I’m pretty deeply rooted here. My record company is in Munich, I work for the NDR, my agency is in Hamburg and I also have a Professorship there. That’s my world, and I want to bring it even more to my homeland.
For example, for three years now I’ve organized, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, a series with concerts in Stockholm that presents young musicians from Germany who have never performed in Sweden. I want to open a door, because I’m convinced that there’s a tremendous potential for these musicians. I know how great they play, but I also know how hard it is for them to get a break in Sweden. People say: “Hey, Germany doesn’t have any good music”. Many Swedes know nothing at all about it and I want to change that. So we take the series to the Kulturhuset, a huge building in the center of Stockholm where lots of things are going on. If ten people come to a performance at a club, at the Kulturhuset it will be, with luck, 150 – and that’s a real opportunity. I also then usually conduct a round of interviews so that the audience can experience the musicians from another side, how they talk and what sort of people they are.
With the project “Funk for Life” you bring instruments to Africa and German musicians to Stockholm?
Right. And both cases show that you can make a difference. I see a responsibility from my, from our side, in Sweden. There are so many musicians from Sweden, from Scandinavia in Germany who are well-received and sometimes even get jobs, which German colleagues then don’t get. I think it’s important to show other ways and to open opportunities from our side.
works as a music journalist for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Bayerischer Rundfunk and many music magazines.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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