Saturday, 19 May 2012

Encore at the Takatsuki Jazz Festival

One of the things I really like about living in Japan is their love of jazz. In shops, restaurants and cafes you can hear it being played and there are numerous clubs where it can be heard live. However, what Jules and I really look forward to are the jazz festivals and in Osaka it just doesn’t get any better than the Takatsuki Jazz Festival, which is simply known here as ‘Jazz Street’ and is billed as the largest musical event of its kind in Japan.

Established in 1999, it has now developed into a major event on the jazz music calendar attracting visitors and musicians from all over the world. Amazingly, it remains totally free of charge, as it is run by a well organized group of t-shirt clad volunteers who ensure that you are aware of all the venues, which can vary from large open air spaces, cosy intimate bars or even a Buddhist shrine. Held during the warming days of spring (May), it coincides with ‘Golden Week’, (a series of national holidays), which ensures a happy and care free crowd. Over the two days of the festival, thousands invade Takatsuki, ready to indulge in good jazz and of course being true Osakans, also the wide range of food and drink on offer.

Once again Jules and I joined the legion of jazz fans enjoying the festivities, however as with our visit last year, we found the hardest task of the day was choosing which acts to see. With over 600 performances this year, it became a daunting task just deciding on how best to utilise our limited time. As with the nature of jazz itself, the style of the music on offer was so varied that finding our particular genre remained a major challenge. Needless to say, we found several terrific acts and thoroughly enjoyed their 45 minute bracket (the usual performance time), before quickly scurrying off to the next venue and the next act.

What struck us in particular this year was the number of young performers who were there entertaining the crowds. There were just so many accomplished musicians, who were clearly passionate about jazz and enjoying the opportunity to perform it. Certainly, the future of jazz music in Japan is in good hands with festivals such as this providing a much needed forum for a new generation of musicians to be recognized. The Takatsuki Jazz Festival continues to grow and in doing so it celebrates one of the wonderful qualities of the Japanese people … their love of all forms of jazz music and the people who perform it.

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