So it’s been about one month since XJAZZ! kicked off with a jam-packed lineup, where some remarkable musicians from all different parts of the world came through to share their unique renditions of this practice of reincarnation known as jazz. This week was by far one of the most memorable weeks of my music career, and my 3rd XJAZZ! experience with this amazing team. A huge thank you to Natalie Greffel for the spectacular curation, Anastasiia Pokaz for the resonance and support, and to Sebastian Hecht for the all-around good vibes and communication. This team is going places, and I feel honoured to be a part of it.
I played five shows back to back for the first time in my life too, and it was really exhilarating. I thought I’d be knackered afterwards. Instead, there’s this incredible sense of feeling embodied and connected via this music-making and sharing process, it’s just so regenerative. I’ve been motivated and energised in so many new ways. The festival has also been timed beautifully just in time for spring. This expansive, buoyant energy has been with me ever since. My Jazz diary was packed. I shared a song with Berlin Expressions Ensemble led by dear friend Àbáse, who played with me at my final concert as well. The ensemble features an array of leading musicians from the emerging Jazz scene of Berlin. On the night the ensemble was joined by Fanni Zahar (Flute), Lisa Buchholz (Trumpet), Ori Jacobson (Saxophone), Szabolcs Bognar (Keys), Eric Owusu Sunday (Percussion + Vocals), Yannick Nolting (Bass), Ziggy Zeitgeist (Drums), as well as performances by Allysha Joy and Wayne Snow. This stage in the centre of the church was unbelievable, and blissful energy filled the room. This was marvellously sustained and held by A Song For You choir. This ceremony laid the ground for what would be an inspiring and transformative week.
Play Like a Child
The next day, I played with the incredible Lukas Akintaya, in his transient Berlin-London ensemble was driven by deep rhythmic offerings contrasted with airy harmonics and abstract spaces. Lukas’ generous space holding in improvisational spaces continues to inspire me. It really was a practice of deep listening and allowing. The quartet is made up of Bex Burch (Flock, Vula Viel), Tagara Mhizha (Wu-Lu, Greentea Peng), Keisuke Matsuno (John Zorn Bagatelles, Killing Popes) and Lukas Akintaya.
Friday the 12th was a special one. Earlier that week Anastasiia had informed me that she’d done a little musical matchmaking and suggested I work with Alabaster de Plume for his upcoming show. I was and am still a fan of his work, but wondered how our sonic sensibilities would align in yet another improvised process. I reached out to him asking what to prepare, and he sent me this:
“Remember – I’ve not just invited somebody – I’ve invited you
Play like a child plays with a toy
My show is a toy
If in doubt, YES
You can play with the words you hear me speak
Make them fly like a dragonfly or a space shuttle
Or throw them into the sea
Turn them into a drumbeat
Turn them into a melody
Wear them like a crown
Use them to blow your nose”
This was as perplexing as it was riveting, and the landscapes we traversed were harmonious, familiar, and even a little absurd. There’s a childlike wonder to Alabaster’s approach that gives us a lot of room to play. The ensemble also included Rozi Plain on bass and vocals and Karen Willem on voice and kit. Both really inspiring listeners and composers.
Saturday the 13th was pure fire. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. The Sonic Interventions band is a project that has been very near and dear to my heart since 2020. This group formed in response to the lack of live music that took the city by storm. We came together out of a sheer need to play music with others. We’d do this every week out on Tempelhof – speakers, kits, pedals – the works. It was absolutely incredible. Eventually, after the summer, we moved the improvs to Kilohertz studios where we just kept jamming without the need to compose or anything. It was really an act of comment-making through music. The spirit of that intention has stayed alive and is quite palpable. On this day at Aeden, Exocé, one of the members of Sonic Interventions wore a t-shirt, commemorating the 13th of May, 1888. On May 13th 1888, Brazil became the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to formally abolish slavery, in a formal sense, I guess. Exocé set this t-shirt alight in a spiritual impulse and our set was pure fire and a transformative prayer. It’s been an honour to create with this group, and our years of jamming are finally manifesting as an album, which we’re currently mixing and mastering.
The final day of the festival had its own precious energy. I had been touched by the energy of so many incredible artists all week, and I could feel that energy bubbling within me. But I was a supporting act on all those days. My voice felt quite raw and I started asking myself the question: what is the difference between having a voice and being a voice, a vehicle to transmit the magic accumulated over the week? With every concert, we had an intention – but Sunday’s intention was very clear to me. It was this intention to honour the gift of channeling, and connecting with this life force that is music.
I’m so thankful for this XJAZZ! Dumama band, made up of Lukas Akintaya on drums, Àbáse on keys, Sofia Efticidou on double bass and El-Congo on percussion and trumpet. We’re also in the process of recording our album, but for now, here is a link to watch the show. Enjoy!
Video by berta.berlin.
Dumama is currently recording their record and the Sonic Interventions Band‘s debut release. You can catch the artist live at Canada’s Calgary Folk Festival with dumama + kechou on the 29th of July, supporting Alabaster DePlume at North Sea Jazz Festival on the 7th of July, playing at the Performing Exiles Festival, 21 June in Berlin at Pinguin Bar as well as on July 17th at Cretan World Music Festival.