Jazz Is Dangerous

Elena Wolay and the Jazz Är Farligt Festival

Elena Wolay and her project Jazz Är Farligt are major sources of motivation and inspiration, says Filip Lindström, Chief Ideologue for music magazine Profet. In this collaborative interview from Profet and The Forumist, 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.

Foto: Fredrik Skogkvist

Me and Elena Wolay got to know each other through such a wonderful thing as psychedelic rock from Turkey. Based on our mutual interest in the subject and a previous article about it on Profet, which Elena was featured in, we’ve stayed in contact since then. Elena 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 and I am honoured to have been one of many DJ:s playing at its latest anniversary. It was her passion for this cause that drove me to contact her approximately one year ago, and that is also the reason why I have thoroughly kept an eye on Jazz Är Farligt events ever since.

Elena Wolay. Photo: Peter Pousard

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, like me, are living for things like these and are working your way up the same way that Elena has done, she is an incomparable inspiration and motivation. Whenever I feel knocked down, wondering if my work is all in vain, I think of Elena Wolay and her struggle to inform the public about, and bring new life to, the music she values. Those thoughts always get me on my feet, back to doing everything in my power to get my message across. 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, when I heard of his involvement in the White Panther Party, I thought that it was a counter action against the Black Panthers, but I was wrong. 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. Thanks to my interview with Elena, which gave me a reason to investigate The White Panther Party, I have gotten slightly obsessed with The Black Panthers instead. For one, I have called them the world’s best dressed revolution before and I’m willing to stand for that, and the story of how they fought against oppression and was destroyed from the inside by the FBI is extraordinary. I deeply feel that 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.

John Sinclair

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.

Amon Düül II

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.
        Towards the end of our conversation - after me and Elena discussed things like having to work a »regular job« to finance booking uncommercial music, which we both have done – my thoughts go to why myself and many others are so eager to support her. We write in her fanzine, we play records at her parties and we help her spread her message. Why? Because only being a tiny part of the creative energy that surrounds Jazz Är Farligt and Elena Wolay is enough to last us half a life time.

2 August 2017