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Cross-cultural journeys: The Euro-Pinoy jazz concerts

Krista Garcia
The European Union National Institute for Culture, together with the EU Delegation to the Philippines, presents the Euro-Pinoy Jazz Concerts for National Arts Month

MANILA, Philippines — “Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.”

The trombonist J.J. Johnson made this remark in a 1988 interview for DownBeat magazine. More than 25 years later, his observation still holds true.

Jazz is all about improvisation and collaboration. It’s about surprise discoveries and long-lost memories. That’s why it appeals to music fans of all kinds and ages. (READ: Balete at Kamias: All that jazz and more).

This eclectic genre was introduced to the Philippines by American soldiers in the 1900s. Decades later, it was traveling Filipino musicians who popularized the genre in other Asian countries. This author has a friend who stayed in Akita, Japan last summer. His host, a musician who owns a jazz bar in the area, said that it was Filipino entertainers who popularized jazz music in bars and clubs around their country.

Today, jazz continues to be loved and enjoyed here and all over the world. We still use it as a bridge to reach out and connect with other nations.

ALL THAT JAZZ. Enjoy a night of music and culture. Photo from the Euro-Pinoy Jazz Concerts Facebook page

This month, the European Union National Institute for Culture (EUNIC), together with the EU Delegation to the Philippines, presents the Euro-Pinoy Jazz Concerts as part of the National Arts Month celebration.

The event is a joint effort between the EU Delegation and EUNIC’s member organizations, which are the Alliance Francaise de Manille, Goethe-Institut Philippen, Instituto Cervantes, and the Philippine-Italian Association.

In this cultural crossover, renowned jazz artists from around the world will perform in Manila for the very first time.

The roster includes the Philippines’ very own Tots Tolentino, the premier saxophonist who tours with the Asian Jazz All-stars. European artists joining him on stage are French-Vietnamese guitarist Nguyên Lê, German jazz singer Michael Schiefel, Italian double bass player Furio de Castri, and Spanish percussionist Tino di Geraldo.

WORLD'S GREATEST. Jazz legends from all over the world, including the Philippines, will come together for the first time. Photo courtesy of EUNIC Philippines and the EU Delegation to the Philippines

These 5 will embark on a four-day workshop from February 17-20, where they will harmonize, collaborate, and combine their distinct musical styles to create a brand-new repertoire. Then, the public will be treated to two nights of never-before-heard jazz numbers, in two different venues: on February 21, 8pm, it will be at Arts in the City in Bonifacio Global City. On February 22, 8pm, the reprise will take place at the historic Maestranza Plaza in Intramuros.

‘A jazz blind date’

Julian Vasallo, Political Counsellor of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, likens the upcoming performances to a “jazz blind date.”

During a speech delivered at the concert’s press con, he said, “Often, it is cultural and people ties that are really the ties that bind. It’s these events, and those relationships, that last and upon which new relationships and new enterprises are built.”

A JOINING FORCE. Julian Vasello of the EU Delegation discusses the importance of bridging EU and Philippine cultures. Photo by Krista Garcia/Rappler

“It’s not just bringing European music on stage, it’s bringing to the platform an exchange,” explained Petra Raymond, director of the Goethe-Institut.  By making this project the first of many other possible performances, EUNIC Philippines and the EU Delegation aim to foster stronger cultural exchanges between European and Filipino artists.

In the long run, they also see it as a stepping-stone towards stronger political and economical ties between our country and the EU.

MUSICAL UNION. Members of EUNIC Philippines with the NCCA’s Adelina Suemith. Photo by Krista Garcia/Rappler

“Europe is not just a business,” Patrick Deyvant, President of EUNIC Philippines and director of Alliance Francaise, said jokingly.

For Adelina Suemith, Executive Director of the National Commission of Culture and Arts, the event as a viable avenue for bringing recognition to more local talent. “There are many Filipino Jazz artists, and this kind of collaboration with the Filipino Jazz musicians is a good step towards more collaborations in the future, not just in music as a genre, but also in other art forms,” she told Rappler.

“We hope to create long-lasting links between Europeans and Filipinos,” Julian Vasello concluded.

So, is it time to start jazzing up your musical taste? We think these concerts can be a good start.

Admission to the Euro-Pinoy jazz concerts is free on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the Euro-Pinoy Jazz Concerts Facebook page for more information. —


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