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17.07.2016 17:25

The Usadba Jazz Festival in Voronezh: the temperature record, Russian jazz, and the “mirror musicians”

The third Usadba Jazz Festival held in the park of the Oldenburg Palace in Ramon on 16 July broke a whole range of records, says the Festival President Maria Semushkina. This turned out to be the hottest event in the whole history of Usadba Jazz (which has been held in Moscow annually since 2004).

Indeed, the day of the festival saw the mercury rise up to +36 degrees Celsius, breaking the temperature record set 65 years ago. The participants, organizers, and audience did their best to deal with the heat, having picnics on the grass in the shade of the trees, drinking water and pouring it over their heads. It was not until the evening that the area in front of the main stage was filled with spectators.

In one day of the Festival, there were so many various events that they would have been enough for a whole week’s program. This year, nine bands performed on the two stages – the Aristocrat and the Jazz Club. This year, nine bands performed on the two stages – the Aristocrat and the Jazz Club. In addition, there was plenty to do apart from music, with the sponsors offering a wide variety of activities: the playground, the designers’ market, the workshops on plaiting and bag painting. This is not even a full list of all that was happening from 1pm until 11pm that day.

The organizers put in every effort to make the atmosphere of the festival as comfortable as possible for the guests. For instance, there were free buses running from the city, and parking spaces were provided for those who came by car. The whirl of activity started immediately at the entrance to the venue. Naturally, most visitors were drawn to the stages located in the shade. One of them was the poets’ corner set up by the Petrovskiy book club, where a number of the local poets (Lena Dudukina, Rodion Prilepin, Anton Kalashnikov, etc.) recited their works. Next to the stage, there was an objet d'art created by Alina Zakurdaeva and Marina Demchenko of the Dveneodna artistic group. Their painting in cold sea colours offered a welcome contrast to the heated day.

– It is our second time at Usadba Jazz. Last year, at Alexey Zagorodnykh’s artistic workshop, we painted abstract art to music. Now, we have decided to develop the topic and create a painting that anyone could become part of, because it was cut into stripes. We love this festival; every year, it varies by the music, and performances, and even the weather conditions, says Alina Zakurdaeva.

The young guests of the festival (the entrance was free for children under 10) also had plenty of opportunities for fun. For the kids, there was an inflatable pool, creative workshops, and activities organized by the animation team. Both children and adults took part in creating an art object proposed by an artist Lyudmila Dedova and her husband Vitaliy. They cut out four full-length plywood shapes of musicians and suggested that everyone stick pieces of mirror onto these shapes. By the end of the evening, this turned into a sparkling quartet. At the lampwork show, Lyudmila shared her secrets of creating beads and other shapes from glass in the flame of a special gas-burner.

– “Lampwork” is an English term for a glassblowing technique, says Lyudmila. – The process looks fantastic: the hot glass becomes viscous and changes colour. You need to wait carefully for the right moment to add the necessary colour and shape the item, making sure that the bead does not overcool, or else it might split. So, at the festival, we placed it inside a special ceramic blanket to avoid a thermal shock.

At the food-court, local cafés presented their most unusual dishes. The prices, by the way, were rather affordable. Apart from the traditional barbecues, hamburgers, and dishes from the Uzbek and Russian cuisine, the guests could try unexpected food and drinks. For instance, there was violet lemonade, black ice cream, and colourful meat dumplings. The black ice cream in a black wafer cup did not taste very sweet, but it was extremely popular with the visitors. In fact, it is the prunes that give the ice cream its colour.

Wandering around the food-court was a deer, or rather, a young man wearing a deer mask. He invited everyone to try the colourful meat dumplings. The “deer” never revealed his true identity, but the chef, Michael Sorokin, described the process of making the dumplings multi-coloured. Green dumplings are made with spinach, and pink ones – with beetroot.

The schedule of the concerts was organized in a way for the audience to move conveniently from one stage to another. This year, Voronezh was represented by the pianist Igor Faynboym with his studio, the singer Alexey Gerashchenko, and the Dreams Shadow cover band. On the Jazz Club stage, there were performances by the MOSBRASS wind band and a driving rock'n'roll band Betty Boop, both of them from Moscow.

The opening act on the Aristocrat stage was by a singer from Saint Petersburg – Zhenya Lyubich. She is known for her performances with the French band Nouvelle Vague and the Russian band BI-2. The closing ceremony of the Festival starred Mariam Merabova and the Mirife band. The uniquely talented singer became well-known after she took part in the third season of The Voice project. At the Usadba Festival, Mariam performed a song called Georgia On My Mind, which she had sung at the blind auditions, making all the four coaches turn around. Merabova chose Leonid Agutin and reached the semi-finals as part of his team. She has already performed as a backing vocal at the Eurovision song contest with Dima Bilan, Ani Lorak, and Dmitry Koldun. Mariam Merabova is also known as a “Russian jazz activist”. She says that jazz is essentially a state of mind, and it doesn’t matter what language it is sung in.

– I watch the faces of the people at our concerts. For some reason, there are lots of stereotypes about jazz sung in Russian, which are waiting to be broken, said Mariam from the stage. – In this country, jazz and blues have long been created and performed in the Russian language.

Mariam’s mellow voice, the soft light of the setting sun, and the blissfully cool air were a perfect end to the day of the third Usadba Jazz festival.

– I’ve got to give it to all those working on making this festival happen, as well as all the guests – the atmosphere was incredible, says the Festival President Maria Semushkina. – Lots of people came up to me to say how impressed they were. We have never heard so many words of gratitude anywhere in the country. Voronezh residents are amazingly open and kind, “hungry” for beauty, music, love, and creativity. I would love to come back to Voronezh again, with new projects and beautiful music.


The international Usadba Jazz Festival has been held in Moscow annually since 2004. Since its creation, over 500 bands have performed at the festival, representing a wide variety of different styles, from jazz to electronic music. Currently, the festival is held in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Kazan, and Voronezh.

Olga Gnezdilova  
Further details can be found at www.moe-online.ru/news/view/345917.html  

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