For the last ten years I attended the Moers New Jazz Festival on Whitsun. Besides being a lot of fun, this event always managed to puzzle me intellectually and provide a lot of inspirations for my work.The Moers New Jazz Festival was founded in 1972. Initially devoted to Free Jazz it opend up during the last thirty years and now covers a range from free improvised music and contemporary composing, over Funk, Hip Hop, Electronica to World Music. It is the biggest festival of this kind worlwide, spanning four days, hosting 400 musicians from all continents and attracting 50.000 people to visit the festival ground, with nearly 20.000 of them actually coming to the concerts. Musically Moers Festival is all about the idea of meeting and communicating, most vividly expressed by the "projects" conducted every moring. Here various musicians meet for two hours and improvise, usually without having played together before.
Of course Moers Festival has, and since being founded in the early seventies, when Free Jazz was the political music par excellence, always had, political undertones. Sometimes this leads to controversial moves by the organizers, like in 2002 when they didn´t invite any musicians from the US. This years program was almost the opposite, with among others Eric Friedlanders Topaz from New York and Mars Williams Liquid Soul from Chicago (who came and played, although he was severly injured in a car accident just days before). One of this years projects was lead by a band called Root 70, all of whoms members where born in the early seventies and lived at least most of their life in Germany. On Saturday morning they had invited Eric Friedlander and his Topaz band. While Friedlander is born in the sixties, the rest of his band is ten years younger and it was interesting to see how the German-American relationship among thirty year olds turned out.
During their enthralling performance, that simultaneously was angry and thoughtfully, it occured to me, that there might be a fundamental difference in the relationship of German and American thirtysomethings to 68 and its aftermath.
Americans born in the seventies still seem to put hope in their veterans of 68, whereas in Germany, like elsewhere in Europe we have them in power for at least half a decade. Dot.Crash occured during this time, 9.11 happend, and our one-time-activists and nowadays Chancellors, Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers don´t really make a difference. Sure at least some of them opposed the Iraq war - in Germany certainly not without populistic reasons - but they simply don´t stand for something better anymore.
I felt that there is a certain anger among my contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic, and the question is where this anger will lead to. More specifically the question is, if this anger is going to play a role in this years elections.
There where a lot more observations being made during this great festival, like the faszination with escapist psychedelic Jazz-Rock that improvising musicians from the US and Japan currently seem to share. Also more worrisome ones, like the antizionism and even antisemitism that was obvious with some parts of the audience during the performance of the Arab(-Israeli) Orchestra of Nazareth. But the Moers Festival remains a great place to see what Europe can achieve: providing a tought provoking meeting place for people from all over the world. If you are into ambitious music and happen to travel Europe during May, make sure that you stop in Moers, it´s worth it.