I have been interested in the relationship of Jazz and World Music ever since I started seriously noticing the many fusions of the two, back around 1995. Not that they weren't around before, that's just when I actually started remarking on it.
It's been on my mind to explore this more fully, and when I got a notification about the Pangea Jazz Fest-the Festival of World Jazz, a twelve hour marathon at DROM in the East Village, I decided it was time to start purposefully shooting some video on the subject.
But first, I figured that instead of just shooting performances, I'd interview the entrepreneur behind it, who turned out to be a man named Misha Katsobashvili. Once I had experienced his bigger than life presence, I realized that there was also a story here about someone driven by his passion for music and connecting audiences to it.
Misha has had remarkable success with his New York Hot Jazz Festival, and it will be right in there, during this coming year's Winter Jazz Fest January 13-17. Much of that success was built on his ability to find excellent players of the older styles of jazz, and connect them with an enthusiastic, younger audience, for whom much of these sounds are revelatory fun. This year he also turned his sights on Jazz/World fusions, and judging by his tenacity, dedication, and the response to the event, this will not be the last Pangea Festival of World Jazz.
Although I could not catch the entire festival, I think you will get a taste for the variety of acts that participated, and the overall high quality of the musicianship. In particular I enjoyed seeing Michal Urbaniak leading the New York Gypsy Allstars into alien territory, and how they rose to the occasion, following him in and out of current improvisational approaches.
One thing that Misha said to me stays in my mind. "Jazz is more World Music than World Music." Although I have fought against this kind of thinking, being dedicated as I am to more culturally specific music, I have come to think that he is not far off, if one thinks of it in a certain way. One of the difficulties of getting a consistently large, loyal audience to support World Music is its natural ghetto-ization. People from one country tend to only listen to "world music" from their country. For me, that is a frustrating reality. In its ability to integrate into and be absorbed by other cultures, Jazz, and for that matter Rock and Rap, have become a kind of world music of their own. This takes nothing away from the roots music I generally prefer to listen to (and bring to you); and as long as my beloved "world music" is not subsumed, it is just another way of perceiving the big picture.
To find out more about the bands in the video: