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LITHUANIAN JAZZ PLAYED AT THE MOST FAMOUS MUNICH JAZZ CLUB

Lithuanian Culture Institute
Jazz club Unterfahrt

Entrance of the Unterfahrt. Photo by Kata Sopcic

The Lithuanian cultural season in Bavaria Without Distance continues the series of events: this time, world-famous Lithuanian jazz was played at the legendary Munich jazz club Unterfahrt. For three evenings, the audience that grew and developed its refined taste over the four decades of the club’s existence enjoyed listening to some of the most outstanding representatives of the rich Lithuanian jazz culture: the wild energy compositions by Brave Noises, the subtle professionalism of Victoria Gečytė and The Vibe Tribe, and the warm piano tales of Dmitrijus Golovanovas.

The weekend of Lithuanian jazz concerts on 24-26 September followed the first presentation of Lithuanian writers at the Munich House of Literature that took place on 23 September, the debut of performance artists at the Haus der Kunst museum of modern and contemporary art, which received excellent reviews in the German media, and other events of the Lithuanian cultural season taking place since March this year.

Three evenings of Lithuanian jazz

The popular German daily Tages Zeitung recommended the concert by Brave Noises that took place on 24 September as the best out of hundreds of cultural events that took place in Munich that evening! All three performances of the Lithuanian jazz weekend Listen! Lithuanian Jazz Nights successfully competed not only with the unofficial Octoberfest that engulfed the city (although the famous autumn festival was cancelled due to the pandemic, groups of celebrants dressed in mandatory national costumes still trail the pubs of the Bavarian capital) but also with Sunday’s elections.

Performing at the club Unterfahrt, Brave Noises (Mantvydas Leonas Pranulis, Karolis Šarkus, Dominykas Žernys, Dominykas Snarskis, Mindaugas Stumbras) played not only tracks from their first albums but also their latest composition. “We were writing it while holed up in a remote homestead, surrounded by forests. Actually, we don’t have a name for it yet. Has anybody got any ideas?” Mindaugas Stumbras asked the audience. “Call it Unterfahrt!” somebody suggested, and the band found this idea not bad at all.

Jazz vocalist Viktorija Gečytė, who came from Paris where she has been residing for a decade, and the members of her band The Vibe Tribe Nicholas Thomas, Damien Varaillon and Mourad Benhammou, also created a friendly, warm and light musical conversation with the audience. Gečytė began and finished her performance with pieces written by her and her interpretations of Lithuanian folklore. She also performed jazz standards, classical and contemporary compositions.

Dmitrijus Golovanovas presented to the audience of the club Unterfahrt his solo programme titled Heritage, which subtly established the open and informal relationship with the audience, indeed “ohne distanz” – without distance, that Lithuanian jazz performers had been weaving together over the three evenings. Each of Golovanovas’ compositions was accompanied by some important memories for the musician: about his childhood, parents, teachers, the birth of his sons, life lessons, love, infinity and home.

The recording of Dmitrijus Golovanovas’ concert can be watched here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAxNjdIQ65Q 

The rich history of the club was not interrupted by lockdowns

Munich’s jazz club Unterfahrt was founded in 1978 in front of an underground railway crossing (“unterfahrt” in German means underground entrance, tunnel). In 1998, the club moved to the basement premises of a former brewery. Over the four decades of its history, Unterfahrt has earned a reputation as one of the best jazz venues in the world, with many jazz celebrities including it in their touring schedules, including the largest German jazz stars.

To listen to its daily (!) programme Unterfahrt gathers an audience of sophisticated taste and excellent jazz “education”, who did not terminate their membership during the pandemic and was paying for performances streamed online. For more than three decades, Michael Stücklis, the manager of the club, combined his duties at Unterfahrt with the daily life of a cardiologist (Michael no longer performs heart surgeries, as he has moved to an administrative position). Showing portraits of the musicians decorating the walls of the club, Stücklis told us that this year, they all played without an audience: “We had no idea whether we’ll be able to survive or will be forced to close after so many years… We had to sacrifice the club atmosphere, the connection between the musicians and the audience, but the money we earned from online streaming allowed us to pay the musicians even higher fees than usual!”, the club manager shared his surprise.

The Lithuanian jazz presentation at this Munich club had its beginnings two years ago, when Anna-Marie Schluifelder, the programme manager at Unterfahrt, participated in a visit to Lithuania organised by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and got acquainted with the Lithuanian jazz scene. Finalising the three-day programme was helped by the virtual showcase of Lithuanian jazz organised by LKI and the Lithuanian Jazz Federation last year, which featured all the invited performers: Brave Noises with Mantvydas Leonas Pranulis, Dmitrijus Golovanovas and Viktorija Gečytė.

Lithuanian cultural events in Bavaria will continue throughout autumn

An exhibition of the painter Patricija Jurkšaitytė will be opened at the Neue Galerie im Höhmannhaus in Augsburg in October, and an evening of contemporary Lithuanian poetry with Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, Giedrė Kazlauskaitė, Marius Burokas and Tomas Venclova will take place at the Munich poetry library Lyrik Kabinett. Arturas Bumšteinas will present his new piece at the media art festival LAB30 in Augsburg. The Nuremberg Pop Festival will feature live streams of performances by the Lithuanian bands shishi, Afrodelic, Timid Kooky and Junior A. The programme of the Lithuanian cultural season in Bavaria also includes the residence of playwright Birutė Kapustinskaitė at the Residenz Theatre in Munich.

In November, the final events of the Lithuanian cultural season will take place for three days at the Blaibach Concert Hall. The contemporary music ensemble Synaesthesis, which has won the prestigious Bavarian Prize, the special Ernst von Siemens ensemble prize, will perform the Lithuanian composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė’s piece The Hadal Zone, which the composer was writing while residing in Blaibach this summer.

In the lobby of the Blaibach Concert Hall, the exhibition Ancient Woods by G. Česonis will be opened. For this show, the photographer captured the oldest trees in the forests of Kaunas vicinity and during his summer residence in Blaibach, following his vision of the impenetrable forests that once connected Lithuania and Bavaria. The Lithuanian chamber choir Aidija will compare Lithuanian and German choral culture, and in another event, accordionist Martynas Levickis will perform a programme of a wide stylistic range.

The project Without Distance: Lithuanian Cultural Season in Bavaria 2021 (Ohne Distanz – Litauische Kultur in Bayern 2021) initiated by the Lithuanian Cultural Attaché in Germany is organised by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and funded by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. Partners: the Lithuanian Embassy in Germany and Bavarian cultural organisations.

For more information on the cultural season, click here.