This year marks the 27th edition of the Malta Jazz Festival, happening between the 20th and the 22nd July – an annual event that has successfully become a traditional appointment in our cultural calendar.  This eagerly awaited event will see musical collaborations between local and foreign renowned artists.  Just a few days ahead of the festival we managed to borrow some minutes from Sandro Zerafa to get to know more about him, his role as artistic director, and the festival itself.

Sandro Zerafa, Jazz musician, guitar
Photo Credit: Oliver Degabriele

What excites you the most about a career as an artistic director?

As I often said, the Malta Jazz Festival sparked my interest in jazz at a time when I was completely oblivious to that genre of music. I became a professional musician because of this, so my relationship with this event runs deep.

What are your main roles/responsibilities as Artistic Director in the coming Malta Jazz Festival?

I tend to intervene in all levels of the festival – the logistics, the marketing, the technical side, the whole thing. My main roles though are to present an artistic vision and to implement it, and to present an event of high artistic quality. I also make it a point to create opportunities for the local jazz scene – free masterclasses, collaborations with international musicians, exchanges with international jazz schools/institutions…

What would you identify as the primary challenges of a position like this?

The main challenge is to find the right balance between the popular and erudite forms of jazz whilst remaining true to this art form. Jazz festivals nowadays tend to succumb to a watered down populist notion of what jazz actually is. Jazz today is not easy to define, as the boundaries between different styles tend to become very blurred. However, there are essential elements of jazz which need to be preserved. In fact, this music will live on as long as there is one foot in the past and another one in the future.

Describe your experience working with diverse populations and flexibility in working with a diverse group of volunteers and personalities.

When it comes to organising, I am a bit of a control freak which sometimes can be annoying to the people working with me. Luckily enough at the Festival, I work with an excellent team, highly efficient and hard working. I think they do an excellent job.

How influenced are you by the current trends in the industry?

I am very passionate about jazz history and all the ramifications of this art form. I am quite on track with current trends, though as in most trends they are quite short-lived. Through the jazz festival lineup, I try to include a wide panorama of what represents the jazz scene today. However, I try not to get too overwhelmed by the so-called current trends. Trends are fine as long as the music is great; but adhering to a trend just because it is hip is not really my thing.

Everyone needs a time out. What creative work do you do in your own time?

I do mostly creative work as a musician and composer. Otherwise, I enjoy cooking, eating great food, drinking good wine, drinking huge amounts of coffee and staring at landscapes.

What sort of audiences are you expecting to attend the Malta Jazz Festival Attract?

All kinds of audiences. In recent years we have observed that the audience is growing and getting younger. We attract quite a lot of foreigners. The Malta Jazz Festival has generated a lot of enthusiasm about this art form amongst the younger generation, and the fact that there is a great generation of young dynamic jazz musicians in Malta makes it more encouraging for the local Jazz scene.

What should we expect from this year’s Jazz Festival?

Great music, an eclectic line-up and a celebration of the greatest art form of the past century.

What do you see in the future of Malta’s Jazz scene?

The young jazz scene is thriving, however, we lack a real club scene. Jazz music here is often relegated to the status of background music in wine bars/restaurants. This does not set the ideal scene for musicians to grow and improve. Insularity does not really help either. However, things are slowly improving. Several real jazz venues are scheduled to open in the coming months, and this will hopefully change the whole dynamic of the local scene.

Main Image Photo Credit: Elisa Von Brockdorrf 

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Clara Marie Campbell