Open Papyrus Jazz Festival 2020: an espresso with Massimo Barbiero

Image Credits: Open Papyrus Jazz Festival © Open Papyrus Jazz Festival

September 10, 2019

The sense of belonging

Born in 1980 as Ivrea Euro Jazz Festival, in 2020 the Open Papyrus Jazz Festival will celebrate its fortieth birthday. We interviewed Massimo Barbiero, the percussionist founder of the Enten Eller and Odwalla projects, and artistic director of the festival.

> Ivano Rossato

What surprises will the Open Papyrus Jazz Festival 2020 hold for us?

Being surprises, it’s not too good to reveal them! Anyway we are thinking of Chris Potter with Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Markus Stockhausen…

It’s not enough to put important names on the bill. There must be a vision.

The Ivrea Jazz Festival turns 40: what are the main differences in organizing such an event today compared to the past?
When Sergio Ramella invented it in 1978 and we enjoyed it as kids, there were less than 10 festivals in Italy, much more money and still all the great historical names of jazz in circulation. This allowed us in Ivrea to see the best of jazz. Today there are fewer resources (except for a few festivals) and everything costs more, even things that are not always of high quality.
What characteristics must a festival have to be fully considered an event linked to the host community?
Essentially two: integrating with the territory and having an identity. It’s not enough to put important names on the bill (that’s just a question of the budget available). There must be a vision, places, a rituality in everything that happens, book presentations, after festivals, exhibitions, concerts in schools or, for example,  dancing flash mobs… The festival must be the city and the city the festival. The risk is an operation for experts (often unfortunately characterized by a somewhat snobbish approach) and that takes people away from jazz. We need to change, to evolve into what society is without kitschy demonstrations. We must try to be popular but not populist. As a musician I play in many festivals many of those could be examples to follow, others are simply not festivals but only a series of concerts. The budget available is important but not everything.
How has the sense of “artistic community” of Italian and international musicians evolved over time?
Unfortunately it has not evolved, especially in Italy. Everyone takes care of their own interests, simulates the goal of creating a system but does not belong to our culture here as in politics first and foremost, work, sport… they don’t support each other … For me the model has always been the Art Ensemble of Chicago, both in music and in organizing. In Italy it is the same way they did in Turin with the CMC. Or in the Clusone festivals, the very first Roccella. I don’t mean that it’s all terrible. In Emilia or Tuscany this idea of ​​system is real, elsewhere it is a matter of “distribute”. Musicians too often, even for reasons of survival, adapt to these logics. International musicians have understood how it works with us and take advantage of both fiscal and “cultural” situations.
…And how has the public’s way of enjoying such an event changed (if it has changed)?
Unfortunately it has changed a lot. With the exception of theater, it is increasingly difficult to obtain the respect and attention of the public. Many events end up putting the music on the sidelines as if it were a background for those who taste wines and cheese. But the culture of disengagement that leads people to go out to distract themselves and no longer to understand, engage and return home with something more, has arrived everywhere. The TV and the school have done hardly recoverable damages. By teaching one can perceive this distance from culture, from the desire to learn about fatigue and daily work. But then a person who thanks you for what you do is enough, both to play and to organize, and all this changes your perspective, the meaning of your work, and optimism returns.
On what aspects do you think we need to work today in Italy so that the organization of an event like the Open Papyrus Jazz Festival is more sustainable, repeatable and successful?
This festival is held in Ivrea, the city of Olivetti, a company on which sociologists have written rivers of words, but which has not prevented both industrial and cultural decline. However a few days ago the New York Times talked about it. I see festivals with important budgets but they are giants with clay legs. The sense of belonging of a community makes the difference. The boys who came to class with us at the age of 9, today go to pick up Ralph Towner at the airport. Years ago I talked to Paolo Fresu late at night and we agreed that an artistic director must be an expression of the territory in which he was born, in a sense giving back what he received and, therefore, not being paid for that work. If you play is different, it’s your job and you have to be paid. But I think that there are too many artistic directors paid from 30000 euros to go up only to choose names. This will never allow anything to be built. We need a sense of responsibility in politics, what I called a vision, otherwise it will only contribute to destroying and not building.
If you were to indicate a single goal to pursue for the festival, which would you choose?
Working on young people, on the sense of belonging, on the need to grow to be an active part and not just spectators. As Giorgio Gaber said “freedom is not standing on a tree”.

Open Papyrus Jazz Festival 2020: an espresso with Massimo Barbiero copyright Jazzespresso 2019.
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