When the elites don't control, there's joy for the whole.
(Jazz Street 2014. Roman Rhodes in Takatsuki, Photo:Jon Davis)
Held annually in the glorious Golden week in Japan, with May Sunshine, and holiday festiveness in the air, the Takatsuki Jazz Street has become the largest jazz festival in Japan. This year the 16th annual festival, reached new attendance heights with 754 bands performing on 54 stages over two days. There is such a demand that copy cat, add on and overflow festivals have been appended and follow in its week. Osaka Castle now has a regular festival, culminating on April 30th in celebration of international Jazz day, flying in major artists including Wayne Shorter, T.S. Monk, Diane Warkwick and Herbie Hancock among others. Kobe, Kadoma, Moriguchi cities have all tried to establish their own imitation festivals.
But none are as successful as Takatsuki. Ibaraki city, now has started one on the day following Takatsuki just to handle the overflow. The festival brings in millions of dollars to the city, and helps out hundreds of small business as hundreds of thousands of people flow in to listen to music in bars, cafes, parks, department stores, churches, halls and shrines. It is generally the first of the greatest t-shirt weather, (before it is too hot to wear one!) and there is a feelingof happiness in the air, that accompanies great festivals around the world: the magic of 1000s of people coming together peacefully to enjoy the arts and expressions of the human spirit.
1. The Commatments in the Park, (and yes that’s the way they spell it)/ 2. Too packed to enter, crowds watch a jazz trio from outside the famous JK Café/ 3. A Band at local Temple. (Photos: K. Adams)
What makes Takatsuki so special is that it is offers chances to the many, musician and merchant alike. Bands apply through a lottery process and with a decent demo almost any band can get in. Musicians play for free but can pass a hat. There are no charges except for a few of the biggest acts. And other bands unofficially set up on corners, leading to dancing in the streets. There's a sense of freedom here not usually experienced in Japan. In short, A few places do not control the venues. Any one with a bar or cafe or store can apply and participate in the festival. So most everyone benefits.
There is a feeling of great welcome in the city. And a very relaxed atmosphere. The whole city takes part, and all the shops gain from the huge variety of people pouring in, from young to old, musician to listener, foreigner to native. It's how life could be all the time if we rid of the control freaks and psychopaths from government and big business who always want to limit the flow of goods and ideas and wealth to a trickle that reaches only their pockets. This is one of the secrets to Takatsuki's magic and success. The many benefit, everyone prospers.
The quality of the bands varies greatly. There are amateur, professional, rough and sublime. There are the bands that play technically well but lack performance skills and passion. And then there are the performers like Crazy Six, The Commatments or Three Piece(sadly not seen this year) and Are You Sexperienced that bring the crowd alive with consumate skill, and wild dancing antics. This mix of high quality and the sense that young musicians are getting a chance to play live before large audiences add to the real feeling that Taktasuki is a wonderful, life giving plant that will continue to grow, and nurture new generations of both listeners and performers.
1. Crazy Six at JK Bird’s / 2. Are You Sexperienced at Route 171. / 3. Rhodes & The Born Again Pagans at Billie’s BouncePhotos: Honoka Nagamura K. Adams Jonathan Davis.
Another reason you can relax is the relative sanity and safety of Japan. Except for a few directing traffic, there are almost no police to be seen. The variety of restaurants is good, crafts stalls are in the parks, beer is consumed in the streets. People walk around with cups and cans and life is good in this civilized country where people, able to control themselves, do not need police. That actually is the definition of anarchy: no rule, because people rule themselves. The only presence of city officials is the fire engines to make sure we are all safe and do not burn down the house.
The Born Again Pagans and some fans after a show so hot they
called in the fire trucks! Don’t ask me what the bananas are about,
or what the hell the gesture I am doing.