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MT 8 May 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 8 MAY 2016 31 This Week 'Decentralising' the Malta Jazz Festival Artistic Director Sandro Zerafa will be shaking things up with the Malta Jazz Festival this time around, as apart from its traditional venue at Ta' Liesse, Valletta Waterfront, the beloved celebration of local and international jazz will expand to other venues, he tells TEODOR RELJIC How has serving as the artistic director of the Malta Jazz Festival affected your career as a musician, if at all? Not really. They are two separate things. But being on both sides one learns more about the mechanisms in the music business and one also develops a better vision of the music market. This won't affect your output as a musician, un- less you want it to, but it gives you an idea what to expect from the music industry. How would you say that the festival has changed or evolved during the years since you took over as its artistic director, and what has led to and dictated any changes? I made it a point to maintain a healthy bal- ance between the popular and savant elements of jazz. Compared to its European counterparts, the festival has probably the most diverse and artistically coherent line-ups without succumb- ing to the watered-down 'jazzy'. I developed the Jazz on the Fringe in a bid to stimulate the local scene through masterclasses, competitions, ex- changes and collaborations with foreign musi- cians. I am also decentralizing the festival so that it does not remain confined to Ta' Liesse. The festival is growing, both in terms of audience at- tendance and also in terms of format. On that note, what can punters expect from this year's edition? We are moving Thursday night from Ta' Liesse to Valletta in an effort to create a jazz vibe in Valletta centre. I always felt uncomfort- able with the fact that nobody would notice there is a jazz festival going on when entering Valletta during the festival days. We are using two venues – City Gate, in front of the stair- way and opposite the law courts. The concerts will be free of charge and will feature some vi- brant sounds from the Cuban rising star Harold Lopez-Nussa, the Sicilian South Sound Experi- ence and the Oliver Degabriele quartet. We will also be having mid-day concerts throughout the whole week in Valletta, showcasing mostly young talent in Malta. The Ta' Liesse concerts will feature some heavyweights such as Marcus Roberts. The big crowd pullers this year are fu- sion/groove/soul outfit Snarky Puppy, who just won their second Grammy and are immensely popular with the younger audience. Mike Stern will be returning to the Maltese islands with an exciting band featuring Rolling Stones bass player Darryl Jones. Omer Avital will definitely appeal to lovers of world music, with his joyful Oriental sounds. How would you say the jazz festival influ- ences the local musical scene? I am a professional musician today thanks to the Jazz Festival. One of my greatest satisfac- tions is observing how the festival inspires and influences the younger generation. I don't ex- pect it to have the same impact it had 25 years ago. At that time, it was the event of summer. Nowadays the whole year is saturated with events and our senses are saturated too. How- ever, the audience is younger now and there is a very dynamic scene emerging. Master classes are very well attended, and there is an increas- ing interest in improvised music in general. I am sure the jazz festival contributed to all this. And on that note, what do you make of the Maltese musical scene in general? What would you change about it? There is great talent. There is also a signifi- cant amount of brain drain, which is inevitable. Many young musicians go and study abroad. Is there enough incentive for repatriation? I think real venues are lacking in general. And I also think we need to further develop the export of Maltese talent and create more schemes for collaborations/exchanges with international scenes. Insularity is not necessarily a good thing for a musician. What's next for you? I am preparing the recording of my fourth al- bum as a leader which will be released in Janu- ary 2017 on the French Jazz & People label. I will be entering the studio with my new quartet featuring Yonathan Avishai, Yoni Zelnik and Lukmil Perez. This recording will be made with the generous support of the Malta Arts Fund. In the coming months I also have an exciting concert schedule in Italy, France and Malta amongst which a concert in Strada Stretta on May 13 with Oliver Degabriele and the French drummer Fred Pasqua. We will be paying hom- age to the great composers of Brazilian popular music. mystic of Distance. This essay will be available at the exhibition. Be- ing a bit of a solitary person in my art I have always done eve- rything myself so I was curious when I involved other people and I must say it really does help…as long as they are not around when I'm working. Night and day In a way I have a strange ap- proach to what I do. I am in the studio almost daily. Things have changed a bit; a few years ago I was more of a night owl, working through the night and resting during the day. Now it's the opposite. I prefer starting early in the morning especially since I now have a very well-lit studio. At night I might tackle detail or prepare canvases or colours for the morning, but the initial start of a painting usually happens in daylight. I never really know what I will be painting when I start, it's a kind of emotion, I get the feel for a certain col- our and approach and build from that. Instinctively I know when the painting starts taking shape and it sort of takes over for a while, then I bring it into what I feel it needs to be. I have tried reasoning how and why I have done the work that I've done but I cannot find a logi- cal explanation. It's a strange feeling when a painting starts coming together; time does not exist and nothing is re- ally important at that moment, except the work. Naturally there are as many times when the painting just doesn't 'hap- pen'. When this is the case I just have to stop at it and let it go because it has shown me that it will never be. Do I get upset when this happens? Not really, I usually learn from it; the paintings always teach me something, usually about my- self… The future is different and strange At the moment I am already thinking of things to do and paint in the near future. One mini-project I have in mind is a collection of pen and ink draw- ings which I intend to present next November. I might also add two or three small canvas- es with an approach I haven't tried before. This will act as, what I call, a disciplinary ex- ercise, where I detach myself from my larger abstract work and attempt something differ- ent. I had done a similar ex- ercise in the summer of 2014 with a collection of 15 small landscape type works. I find it 'healthy' for my overall artistic output. But my main project for the future is something really different and… strange. But first the exercise! The Seven Mansions will re- main on display until May 28. Opening hours at Il-Hagar: Heart of Gozo are 09:00 – 17:00 Crowd-pullers: Snarky Puppy "Compared to its European counterparts, the Malta Jazz Festival has probably the most diverse and artistically coherent line-ups" Sandro Zerafa: "I think real venues are lacking"

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