XJAZZ premiered in 2014, when it became an instant hit and an additional excuse for people to travel to Berlin. The festival takes place at different venues that are all in walking distance to each other in Kreuzberg, the heart of the scene, from intimate clubs to a massive church that make for soaring acoustics. 2017 saw the festival come to life for a fourth time in early May, and was preceded by sister festivals with the same philosophy in Istanbul and Ankara.
The festival is not strictly jazz, rather bringing together artists for five days of cross-genre sonic explosions. This contemporary take on jazz music blends the traditional forms with the live electronica, neo-classical composition, ambient soundscapes, spoken word and singer/songwriter influences.
Celebrating local music, their bold programme brings the Berlin music scene into focus, with three quarters of the line-up consisting of local artists. This is something that is considered unique for German festivals, whose increasingly international line-ups make it more difficult for local talent to be exposed.
And that is one of the key successes of the festival – being able to bring together audiences of all ages and influence into a very accessible and appealing structure, while opening a genre to people who otherwise might not have come into contact with the world of jazz.
This year’s festival also focused on artists doing collaborative projects, from poetic raps and storytelling set to the Stargaze Orchestra, the electronic ballads of local singer-songwriter Dillion, and a closing party at the Funkhaus with Pantha du Prince (the only venue outside of Kreuzberg), the festival blends together the old and the new.
If you missed this year’s XJAZZ Festival, make sure to mark your calendar for the 2018 event. In the meantime, there are still a host of incredible concerts taking place this year, with highlights including Mocky at Prince Charles on August 11, José James at Lido on July 12, and the Sun Ra Arkestra playing on June 27 at Festsaal Kreuzberg.
Here is a preview of what to expect from the Sun Ra Arkestra.