The Goethe-Institut recently arranged for the German “Modern Jazz-Rock” band Jin Jim to tour sub-Saharan Africa over 19 days. The tour stops, where the quartet held workshops and performed their original compositions, were Antananarivo (Madagascar), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Johannesburg (South Africa), Luanda (Angola) and Yaoundé (Cameroon) respectively.
Jin Jim is a quartet with Daniel Smith on flutes, Johan May on guitar, Nico Stallman on drums and Benjamin Tai Trawinski on bass. The band won the 2014 Future Sounds Jazz Competition at the Leverkusener Jazztage festival in Germany. This prize propelled them onto the festival circuit and also secured them a place in the German contemporary Jazz scene. They are by no means a traditional Jazz outfit, taking influences from Rock, hip hop and many other genres.
At their first stop in Antananarivo, the quartet held a workshop with local musicians and then performed to an audience of over 3000 people as part of the Madajazzcar festival. They were exceptionally well-received at both their workshop and at their performance. According to the head of the Goethe Centre Antananarivo, Eckehart Olszowski, the band got “massive expressions of indignation from the audience when they announced the last song of their set.” Olszowski also said that the exchange during the workshop they held left a lasting impression on the local musicians as well as on the Jin Jim band members.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In the DRC, Jin Jim had a jam session come workshop at the Guez Arena in Kinshasa. The workshop was attended by more than 15 musicians and included flautists, violinists, marimba players, percussionists and guitarists. Although their performance in Kinshasa was smaller than in Antananarivo with less than 200 people in attendance, the impression this performance left on the band was also indelible. Speaking about the differences in audience reactions in African countries and in Germany, Jin Jim drummer Nico Stallmann said “I think the difference to Germany is that the people from Africa express it differently than in Germany. I mean in Germany maybe they like it as much as here, they just don’t tell us so much. I have never heard so many compliments. During the concerts, when people like something they show it immediately”.
Daniel Smith in exchange with a workshop participant in Kinshasa © Goethe-Institut Kinshasa
In Luanda, the quartet appeared before an eager crowd of roughly 600 students of the Obra Bela music school where they first performed their compositions and then divided the audience into three groups for a workshop. Manuel Negwer, the Director of the Goethe-Institut in Luanda said that the concert prior to the workshop had the music students on the edges of their seats. This surely spurred on the young musicians for the workshop section of the day where three groups learnt to play different Jim Jim compositions. After this workshop rehearsal time, each group was given a chance to perform the piece that they had learnt.
To round off their sub-Saharan Africa tour, Jin Jim’s last stop was in Cameroon where they held a workshop with young musicians in Yaoundé and also performed at the Goethe-Instut there. The workshop which involved roughly 20 participants was a musical exchange between young local musicians and the more experienced Jin Jim. The band had a chance to explore polyrhythm and odd meter time signature- an interest that they have had since their days studying at some of the most highly regarded music conservatoires in Europe.
The Goethe-Institut-organised Jin Jim sub-Saharan Africa tour was an exchange which saw the German musicians bring what they had learnt and musicians from various African countries received these offerings in exchange for their musical pearls. Bassist Benjamin Tai Trawinski said that “Every town and country we went to, we saw very talented people playing and we are already learning a lot about how they play.” This exchange left a lasting impression on musicians and audiences alike.