Jazzfest Berlin 2021 to be held in 4 cities

Jazzfest Berlin 2021: Scenes of Now


After a digital New York-Berlin edition in the first year of the pandemic, Jazzfest Berlin 2021 traces the paths of improvised music to three more cultural hubs: Cairo, São Paulo and Johannesburg. Together with local partners, the festival team has developed a diverse programme of partly pre-produced, partly live concert formats that showcase the musicality, innovative power and affinity with interdisciplinary experimentation of the respective creative music scenes as well as the specific places they occupy in between a global jazz canon and their own region’s rich musical heritage.

The four cities all share a strong urban presence, a pronounced cultural dynamism and, apart from Berlin, a strong link to decolonization and the struggle for their independence.

The festival is fortunate to be able to present live concerts by three renowned musicians from the featured regions who happen to be in Berlin for the festival period: Maurice Louca, Mariá Portugal and Nduduzo Makhathini. Due to the state of the pandemic varying from country to country, from a Berlin perspective most of the musical programme for these city partnerships can be experienced in the form of video works and live streams. A specially-created multiscreen environment in the Betonhalle at silent green will become the fulcrum of a hybrid, decentralised festival concept.

Four screens that can be used independently, surrounding the auditorium on all sides, will function as a creative playing field for audio-visual commissions from São Paulo – including contributions by Negro Leo and Quartabê – and as digital windows onto the live events at Sognage in Johannesburg, where a richly contrasting line-up of South African musicians, such as Sibusile Xaba and Siya Makuzeni, will play in front of a live audience on Friday and Saturday night.

Alternating with live performances at silent green in Berlin, the concerts from Johannesburg will be presented in the Betonhalle and vice versa through live multi-channel transmission. Contributions from Cairo include the premiere of a film project by multi-instrumentalist Nancy Mounir and a video work by Philip Rizk in co-operation with musicians from the Cairo experimental scene, including Nadah El Shazly.

Leading musical voices in the New York and Berlin avant-garde – such as Nate Wooley, Aki Takase, Susan Alcorn, Cymin Samawatie and Sylvie Courvoisier – return to the Berlin stage in a broad-ranging live programme. In addition to Sognage in Johannesburg and silent green in Berlin-Wedding, there will be live concerts with audiences at two more venues that occupy a special place in Berlin’s cultural landscape.

The imposing interior of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church will be brought to life with music with Nate Wooley’s “Seven Storey Mountain VI”, Maria Faust & Sacrum Facere’s “Organ” and an organ solo from Ståle Storløkken. In a first ever co-operation with the Pierre Boulez Saal, the focus on the opening night will be on the piano: American pianist Vijay Iyer will perform in a triple bill that also features Kaja Draksler from Slovenia and the Swedish Bobo Stenson.

Other pianists will perform in the following days of the festival: Pat Thomas from London, the South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, the New York-based Swiss Sylvie Courvoisier, the winner of the Jazzpreis Berlin 2021 Hannes Zerbe and the pianist Aki Takase, who is highly esteemed not only in Berlin and who will be awarded this year’s Albert-Mangelsdorff Prize for her life’s work during the festival.

In addition, the Jazzfest Berlin Radio Edition will continue a pattern of co-operation established last year dedicated to the impressive variety of jazz in Germany. In collaboration with ARD public radio and its radio concert halls and studios, this year the festival presents five exciting projects from the broadcasting areas of the respective regional institutions: four pre-recorded concerts, as well as a live concert in Berlin at rbb’s Kleiner Sendesaal.

Program: website
Dates: 4 – 7 Nov, 2021

Hotels nearby Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin