What are the odds of jazz musicians talking about research in education and swimming pools the first thing they get to Cluj? But is not only a vague education term many times projected in the way we still learn today, making this clearer is about the education that amplifies people, that enables them and perhaps that education that make people get along and do more together. It's certainly amazing to speak about how trust gives better results, how fantastic things come after thousands of hours of dedication and work. Obviously is an exchange of two cultures with different backgrounds and stories meeting: the Nordic Europe with the Southern East, between an exercised freedom and a freedom that is experienced and learned.
Bugge Wesseltoft is a jazz musician who's already played quite a few times in Romania be it in Bucharest's Control, Gârâna in Semenic or Smida in the amazingly Carpathian Apuseni Mountains. Other than making a dull list of names of musicians with who he's collaborated with and correlate things unnecessary you should just listen to his music, which to our view here at Inertia Movement is a continuous research of dynamics, an equilibrium between sensibility and soundscapes, trust and improvisation with the people who's playing out there on stage. He has very friendly wiseness in approach in an enabling facet always looking for the challenge of improvisation. Bugge's concerts really take further the early spirit of jazz which more than technical and technology or versatility is about the connection with the people having as a background the music and rhythms of the world. Maybe a line that defines his music as we see it is a statement that he had for an earlier interview withe Electronic Beats:
"I’m reading this book about the downtown New York music scene in the early ’70s, where they threw everything together: minimal, free jazz, disco, rock—everything was allowed. That must’ve been so exciting. This time had such an enormous impact on popular Western music, and I love that open-mindedness. Once music becomes too intellectual and formulaic, you lose the possibilities within."
The "New Conception of Jazz" project has some amazing musicians in some with such a strong background skill and sensibility such as Sanskriti Shrestha tabla drums, which is connecting jazz with the very roots of polyrhythms driven by the language of tabla. Siv Øyunn Kjenstad adds with very dynamic and intelligent rhythms constructions and variations on drums and a really amazing voice. She's very present with an energy that reminds of the classical African drums combined with Tony Allen's westernised ethos. There's also the fantastic saxophone voice of Marthe Lea and the really melodic guitar of Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir.
"When it comes to improvisation, that’s special for me because improvisation, or jazz - I call it jazz - is unique because it’s one of the few artforms where the listener is exposed to something being created in front of them. With most other art, the artwork is finished : a painting, a movie or a book.."
IM: Again, welcome to Smida! So, what is music and how does improvisation make music special?
One of the things to mention, and I know it may sound sophistic “what is music?” - it being ubiquitous and so on – music is correlated with improvisation, and improvisation with freedom, at least this is one aspect that David Toop, who is a Wire magazine contributor, is highlighting in his latest book. And there are also many facets of music : communicational, recreational, there is exotic music and so on. What do you think music can be defined as ?
BW: For me personally, I think music is the oldest language on Earth, I think there was music before people could talk. People were singing lullabies and songs for sorrow or love. It’s the oldest language and I think it’s an universal language, everywhere people can communicate with the music, doesn’t matter if you understand the language or not, so for me it’s the most important language on Earth – it’s a language that brings people together. When it comes to improvisation, that’s special for me because improvisation, or jazz - I call it jazz - is unique because it’s one of the few artforms where the listener is exposed to something being created in front of them. With most other art, the artwork is finished : a painting, a movie or a book..
IM: It’s represented, it’s simulated.
BW: Yes, exactly, it’s represented. But, when people see jazz or improvised music they are exposed to something happening, they are part of the creating process and I love that. It’s a big challenge and it makes it unique, the whole thing about improvisation in jazz.
IM: There’s a few things in your music history and this is especially related to your collaborations. So you’ve got a few collaborations just exploring other musical genres and then one of the things that would come from here is : how important is rhythm in music, and then in jazz? So, if you ever think about music’s popularity, a lot of the cases were related to rhythm. For example, if you think about boogaloo in the 50s, then later in the 90s you have nu jazz and acid jazz, which were bringing more constant rhythms rather than polyrhythms as jazz was used to. How important is rhythm in making jazz popular?
BW: It can also be music without rhythm, but I think rhythm is one part of music which is good of course in all these concepts, boogaloo or acid jazz or new jazz or everything – it’s for dance music, it’s club music, meant for dancing – which is one aspect of music. But then you have other music for other purposes, lullabies or funeral songs that don’t necessarily have rhythms, so rhythmic music is one part of the whole picture of music. I think all of them are equally important. I kind of like rhythmic music because I was very drawn to that type of dance music in the 90s – club music, techno – I really found it very fascinating and it’s a fantastic way to communicate music with rhythms. And personally, I’ve always liked it when things are grooving, but I obviously love to hear non-rhythmic music when I am at home in my apartment I love hearing textural music and sounds. Rhythmics are one part of a big picture.
"I kind of like rhythmic music because I was very drawn to that type of dance music in the 90s – club music, techno – I really found it very fascinating and it’s a fantastic way to communicate music with rhythms."
IM: Can you talk about "The New Conception of Jazz"? And how "The New Conception of Jazz" relates maybe to the aspects of rhythm and improvisation? Rhythm is quite important component in your music, you have Sanskriti's tablas and normal drums but with a lot of personality.
BW: I’ve started this in 1994, 23 years ago. It started because I was really inspired by this whole club movement at that time. In the late 80s, early 90s me and some friends started going to clubs, listening to Djs, listening to electronic music, and we really liked it. It was such a different atmosphere than the jazz clubs. I really liked that, I was kind of fed up with the dad jazz thing, to me it was very conformed at that time, and now still with jazz sometimes you have to know the key, the code, to understand jazz and I was a little bit tired of that. So I wanted to explore and meet new audiences and I loved the energy in music clubs where people were dancing. Many aspects I really loved. For example, in the jazz I came from it was very much about technique and the soloist and the skills, and electronic music at that time it was only about the music and the listener. So you didn’t even see the DJ, he was in the dark, and I also love that very much. Now, of course, the DJ is a big pop star, but at that time, the DJ, you didn’t see him, it was all about me dancing and the music. And I think for me that is maybe the most important aspect of music, is this transcendence from the person who makes the music to the person who receives the music. This energy is fantastic and that’s why we do music, that’s what music is about.
IM: Would you call this a form of spirituality by chance ? Because there is this talk, again, that actually the church has moved into the clubs. That’s an interesting subject maybe, because the exercise of spirituality nowadays maybe happens mostly within this aspect of life which is music and is very present.
BW: Yes, spiritualism doesn’t necessary need to have music, but music can be spiritual too. Of course, to reach a different level or to reach a level a communication, so that is, so music has this possibility. Of course if music only becomes a very technical, it’s like running a 100 meters, I mean for me it loses its interest. The interesting music is the communication you will be able to create together with the, actually the receiver.
IM: So it’s what's live there, what exists, the presence.
IM: I’ve seen you in Venice, by the way, last year, I think you were at Palazzo Grazzi.
"For me that is maybe the most important aspect of music, is this transcendence from the person who makes the music to the person who receives the music. This energy is fantastic and that’s why we do music, that’s what music is about."
BW: With Christian Prommer. Yeah ?
IM: It was super cool and I think some of your performances like the one with Henrik Schwarz, where you used sampling, also very rhythmic and so on are so present. You guys also had a really good conference in Berlin at Ableton Loop, but the question is : how important is exploring new sounds for you? Because obviously you’re not doing only piano since yesterday we were speaking about Prophet 5, the Moog Voyager, and then that you also experimented with modular synthesis. How important is it to get new sounds and to just explore the vast timbral aspects of sound and what you can do with them, and also rhythms ?
BW: I like sounds in general. I’m fascinated by sound, by sound possibilities, and ultimately I’m very fascinated by the sound of acoustic instruments and the sound of electronic instruments, and that merge is to me interesting. But that’s just from a personal view, I just find it fascinating.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very industrial, dirty, noisy area, where half and hour away was the beautiful seaside with the very beautiful… peace and beauty. So I kind of see the acoustic instruments as organic, beautiful, pure sounds, everything from the voice to the piano, the violin. And then I see the possibilities with electronic sounds for effects, for soundscapes, also very fascinating. And this combination to me is very interesting and I don’t know, It’s probably something I grew up with.
IM: Do you think there is also a special kind of aspect of the music ? I mean, does the music relate to space, really ? And is there the possibility of creation of music with space, maybe in terms of envelopes or something like that? I don’t know.
BW: I don’t know either, but I mean music is waves and spaces. Everything is in space is waves also. And frequencies You know. So it’s the same. There is a sound in the universe but that is pure major chords, so there is definite sound in space.
IM: Yesterday we were speaking about about Soul Jazz collection of punk and I was promising you that there was going to be a question about punk music: You changed from punk to jazz; like how was the transition ?
BW: I didn’t really change. I was always into jazz, but for a year some people who played in a punk group, they asked me to join them. And I liked that, actually I think I loved some kind of that raw energy of punk music. Again, it was not about the skills and the technique, it was more like the energy thing and expression, which I think is beautiful.
Music is an expression, it has to be an expression. It can not only be a technical issue.
IM: This is about the music in Romania. Yesterday we were speaking about gypsy music and about how all this music may have impacted jazz. Could you develop on this? I mean, if I think this particular example the gypsy music is quite present in terms of liveliness and just presence in those special moments that you were speaking of : weddings, funerals, and so on.
"we learned from each other, and that’s, I think, the unique ability for humans.
..for the last 70-80 thousand years we have changed, like, enormously. And all that started when humans started to travel. They faced new challenges, they met new ideas and they learned and they grew. So this is part of human, I mean, you can’t stop it.
BW: Well, I realise when I do a lot of my travels how important the Romani people, the gypsy people are in music. I think it’s much more important than anyone ever knows and it’s because… I feel so sorry for them because they seem to never be able to settle down, without the gypsies and their suffering and their traveling, I think the music would be different in the world.
For me, I can notice they came from Rajasthan, India. Then, they started traveling towards Pakistan, so the Sufi music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - those people, they were gypsies. I didn’t know that before last year. I realised they also have Rajasthan as their source and then you have the Turkish music and the whole african darbuka oriental groove music, it’s gypsies. It’s the poor peoples music. It’s the party music, the wedding music. Then there’s the Morrocan music, and you have also the European gypsy music when they moved, because when they came to Turkey they split– some gypsies went up to Cairo, and then Morroco up to Spain, while the others went through Bulgaria, Romania. And, of course, flamenco is gypsy music.
BW: You have gypsy jazz, which is very interesting because it was very present in France, a certain thing called gypsy jazz which really affected and changed the whole American jazz, which is really a fascinating thing to realise.
IM: Is it fair to say that without immigration we wouldn’t have the music we have today?
BW: Of course, but not only music – every new invention, every new expression, every new… uhmm, I mean everything is based on where two ideas meet and they merge into another idea, and sometimes it doesn’t work but mostly it creates something new, and the world moves on. And it’s in the human genes. So this migration and mix and merge of people, ideas and cultures, it’s been part of humanity for as long as there’s been humans.
So that’s how we grew : we learned from each other, and that’s, I think, the unique ability for humans if you compare it to other animals that basically lived the same lives for millions of years; they do the same exact thing, they never change. Or, they change extremely slowly. But, if you look at humans, for the last 70-80 thousand years we have changed, like, enormously. And all that started when humans started to travel. They faced new challenges, they met new ideas and they learned and they grew. So this is part of human, I mean, you can’t stop it.
If you look at, for example, in my country, Norway, there is a discussion about preserving Norwegian culture, because now there is a lot of immigration and everyone is afraid the Norwegian culture will disappear. But the truth is that Norwegian culture is not Norwegian culture, it came from the Black Sea so it’s always been changing. It’s nothing you can say that is… If you take any aspect of Norwegian culture, it comes from somewhere else, so you can’t say that. It’s wrong. So, culture is something that will always change with the meetings of people. If you look at the success of the USA, it’s based on immigration. It’s, of course, awful for the native Indians but it’s been the most important place on earth for the last 100-150 years, America. Because of people migrating and moving to America. And being welcomed and given a chance, which is also very important.
IM: That thing about chance and entrepreneurship, actually one of the next question is about independent labels. So you have started, for quite Jazzland Recordings, which is your label. There’s a few other to which you were related in a way or another, like in this nu jazz area and acid jazz: Compost records, Sonar Kollektiv, Jazzanova guys and so on. There’s a few Romanian independent ones such as Fiver House Records, actually Iordache, the founder of the Romanian label, he’s going to play today.
How important is independent music today, and to what extent do we need independent music, independent labels in today’s musical landscape ?
BW: Hmm.. that’s a big question. In the music industry, with the record industry, the recording industry there has always been a business aspect. They were music lovers but they also thought they were gonna make money on music, that’s why they took in artists. They took them in, they built studios, they made singles and, you know… But then of course, at some stage, the music industry became extremely commercial. I think that was somewhere in the 80s when the CD came.
BW: It was cheap to make.
IM: It was always kind of commercial, because at the very beginning you had the things that people were selling, were the… those papers with some musical notes. Then they were selling the piano rolls those things that were operating the piano automatically, and then it got to the proto-vinyl components, then you got vinyls, tapes, CDs and so on. Actually vinyl, CDs and tapes.
BW: But there wouldn’t be any recording I think if someone didn’t think he could make some money out of it. Music though would exists of course. Music is always there, always with someone playing. But to take that playing, record it, and make it out to people – that’s the commercial industry. Still is important, especially now, for example with the globalization, with people being able to watch Youtube all over the world it’s an incredible change. You can be inspired, you can see it anywhere and be inspired from something anyway. And that, to me, is very fantastic.
I’ve been recently in Pakistan, and there’s a fantastic electronic movement there called the Forever South, in Karachi. They’re getting huge, and they are a bunch of 20 people, sitting there in their bedrooms, making electronic music, uploading to Soundcloud. Suddenly there were 150.000 people listening to them, which is incredible because Pakistan is a really weird country, with no places to play, no clubs, no nothing.
IM: You’re obviously surrounded by these beautiful talents and really young people when you’re touring. What would be your advice to this young generation and new musicians which are entering...just dreaming to be artists, and just dreaming to, I don’t know, somehow get to be as popular as you guys are ?
"When you make a CD, or listen to the radio, it’s also a connection, but it’s on a different level. But, this direct connection you have with the audience, it’s always been and will always be the most important thing you can do as a musician. I think that’s where music has its relevance in society."
BW: I think personally, music should not be about being popular. It should be about that you try to express something and then you try to do that as good as you can. I think for me it’s always been the same : music is a one to one experience, it’s an experience between the person who makes the music and the person who receives the music. And to play a concert for someone, that’s the most important thing you can do – that’s where you can feel the energy.
IM: The connection…
BW: The connection, so you connect. So when you make a CD, or listen to the radio, it’s also a connection, but it’s on a different level. But, this direct connection you have with the audience, it’s always been and will always be the most important thing you can do as a musician. I think that’s where music has its relevance in society.
IM: As communication as you said.
BW: Yeah, music is supposed to give something to someone. Energy, or love, or sorrow, anything, but it’s supposed to…
It’s a fantastic thing to give to people: music.
IM: Nicely closed. Thank you so very much.