Druga Godba apparently means ‘that other music’, and it is an excellent title for the festival that takes place in Slovenia at the end of May, mostly in Ljubljana, but also for one day in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city. The title reflects the diversity of the festival that has a focus on musics from Africa and different parts of Europe, but also takes in jazz and experimental improvised and electronic music. It’s an impressive mix that one does not often find in one festival.
AJ Dehany will, I believe, be writing a full review of the festival for London Jazz News and also a report on the Jazz Connective conference that ran in parallel with the festival. Here I want to share a few reflections on the range of music presented.
The electronic programme consisted of a fascinating solo set by Ar Ker (Seb Brun) that combined elements of noise with the electronics and then the more abstract but equally fascinating improvisations of the Irish sound scapist Shane Latimer. Interestingly, it seemed nicely apt that the former took place in the grungy but atmospheric setting of the Channel Zero Club, whereas the latter took place in the much more formal setting of the main Ljubljana concert hall, Cankarjev Dom. Also in Cankarjev Dom was the vocal improvisation by Irena Tomazin Zagoricnik with the title iT: Another Crying Game that featured Irena’s beautiful voice and her rather odd interactions with recordings on cassette tape. The three improvisers had participated in a residency linked to the festival and presented a short sharing on the penultimate day of the festival.
There was a link between this electronic programme and the contemporary jazz part of the programme through Jimi Tenor’s collaboration with the Finnish trio, Mopo, which also took place in the Channel Zero club. Jimi Tenor had spoken in a pre-concert talk of his involvement with Aphex Twin and the electro label Warp, and also of his creation of melodies on his various electronic devices. But his leaning towards punk jazz fitted well with the Mopo trio and there was some excellent interaction between Jimi Tenor on saxophone and Mopo’s saxophonist Linda Frederiksson. This was, however, the first time that the trio had collaborated live with their fellow Finn, and, despite some highly energetic passages, it felt as though they were all holding back somewhat, and paying just a little too much respect for each other.
The rest of the jazz programme was dominated by a strong British presence with three bands, Dinosaur, Ill Considered and Kokoroko, all representative of different aspects of the UK scene and all demonstrating the vibrancy of the overall scene. Kokoroko are clearly part of the new young London scene with key players such as trumpeter Sheila Maurice Grey and saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi whereas Dinosaur are a more established band that has been touring UK and Europe for some years, and was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2017. Ill Considered fit between the two with the relatively well known Idris Rahman leading with his ‘spiritual’ saxophone solos, but clearly aiming for the young jazz audience with its use of a strong groove base from the rhythm section.
The contemporary jazz programme also featured the top Polish group, Maciec Obara Quartet led by Obara on alto saxophone. They played a nicely balanced set with good solos with pianist Dominik Wania particularly impressive.
The programme of international music from South Africa, Brazil and various European scenes also presented a wide range of music that stimulated a number of reactions. DakhaBrakha, a quartet from The Ukraine, tended towards the exotic in appearance with their colourful outfits and Cossack hats and came across as a party band, but their musicality and willingness to experiment meant that their set avoided the dangers of excessive musical partying. The South African BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) on the final night in Maribor also created a party atmosphere, but their retention of a spontaneity arising from their jam session beginnings meant that their tunes often went off in interestingly different directions and lasted quite some time. The call and response between leading vocalist Jovi and backing vocalist Hloni worked well and added a distinctive element to their music. They received an amazing response from the audience with half the audience dancing immediately in front of the band. Also from South Africa were The Brother Moves On from the Soweto township. Their music captured the charm and energy of the best of township music but with added depth provided by Slovenian pianist Bowrain with whom they had also collaborated in last year’s festival.
Less interesting was the collaboration between guitarist Yonatan Gat and two native American percussionists, Strong Bear and Red Medicine whose playing on a large percussion instrument never seemed to vary.
I also enjoyed a beautiful ambient set by the Estonian duo Maarja Nuut & Ruum and the songs of the Polish folk trio Sutari.
Two aspects of the Druga Godba really impressed: the variety of the music and its range going from abstract electronic improvisations to bands that got the audience up on their feet and dancing. This variety is matched by the differences in the venues that ranged from grungy clubs to elegant concert halls.
I am grateful to Ollie Weindling of The Vortex for various conversations during the festival that informed these comments.