Elena Wolay and her project Jazz Är Farligt are major sources of motivation and inspiration, says Filip Lindström, The Forumist’s Music Editor. In this interview Elena describes the ambition and impossible mission of her annual experimental music festival at an amusement park in Gothenburg, where legendary acts will come together this year.
Elena Wolay is a person who is good to keep close to you, especially if you are into music that can be seen as experimental or not at all streamlined. Her project Jazz Är Farligt (directly translated to Jazz Is Dangerous) celebrates and supports music and culture that usually doesn’t have a platform, often kraut rock, free jazz and poetry, since six years back. Included in the venture is a fanzine, an annual one-day festival at the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg and numerous cultural happenings arranged during the rest of the year, things that share time in Elena’s busy schedule with her touring as a DJ and working as a freelance journalist. If you live for things like these and are working your way up the same way that Elena has done, she is an incomparable inspiration and motivation.
Elena’s Liseberg festival is going on its fourth year in 2017 and there is a thought behind which acts are being booked.
– One act from every genre, so there are all the branches that Jazz Är Farligt represents in one package, says Elena, counting the different genres: One local act, one kraut rock act, one poet, one act from the experimental rock scene but maybe with a horn section of jazz musicians, one definite jazz act and one noise act.
A regular Jazz Är Farligt night, whether it is one of Elena’s DJ sets or a concert that she has put together, dives into one or several of these genres at a time. The annual festival is the time of year to bring them all together, to display Jazz Är Farligt in its entirety.
This year’s poetry act is a man that has stood up for resistance, equal rights and music that otherwise was pushed aside, none other than Jon Sinclair. Being the manager for Detroit cult band MC5, one of the activists behind the White Panther Party and a spokesperson for legislation of marijuana, among many things, Sinclair has played an important part in cultural history. At first, one might think his involvement in the White Panther Party, many might think that it was a counter action against the Black Panthers, but it was not. Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton was once asked what white people could do to support his party, and he answered that they could form White Panthers with equality as a goal. Sinclair and his panthers were far more left wing and free spirited than Huey P. Newton and his strict vendetta against injustice, The White Panther Party demanded free dope, fucking in the streets, freeing all imprisoned comrades and total downsizing of all corporate power hold in society. The Black Panthers were a fascinating organization. First of all, they were the world’s best dressed revolution, and the story of how they fought against oppression and was destroyed from the inside by the FBI is extraordinary. There is room and need for a movement like the Panthers, both Black and White, today as well. What Newton and Sinclair tried to stop is still going on.
Liseberg gives Elena the chance to book legends that she says »has inspired the younger generation«, so she can give thanks to the ones that built the experimental and underground music scene. The before listed genres represented and celebrated during the festival makes for a definite culture clash when staged in an amusement park, where children and their tired parents interact with green, fuzzy rabbits – Liseberg’s mascot. There is something spectacular and beautiful in having happy-go-lucky family entertainment right next to experimental and heavily political bands like Amon Düül II, one of the acts lined up for this year’s edition. Bringing all of these legendary acts together demands a large amount of work, described by Elena in one sentence.
– That is the impossible mission that I have to make possible.
At least some parts of that impossible mission must have been accomplished, because the Jazz Är Farligt festival has grown bigger and bigger since it started four years ago. More important than the number of visitors is that it brings people together.
– Last year I noticed that many people from an older generation, who had heard of Jazz Är Farligt, stayed throughout the night and saw Arthur Brown. What was fun was that they felt like equals and understood that our generation likes both Arthur Brown and [Swedish Jazz saxophonist] Gilbert Holmström.
Understanding each other – across the barriers of generation, through the power of music – is rewarding for everyone involved. A person that grew up with the sounds of Brown and Holmström might not expect that an individual Elena’s age would appreciate such music. The downfall of predetermination often leads to exciting new connections being made between people.
Elena Wolay’s influence on her surrounding is undeniable. People write in her fanzine, they DJ at her events and they participate in her festivals. Why? Because being just a tiny part of her creative universe lasts half a lifetime for any artistic person.
Words by Filip Lindström in collaboration with Profet Musik