Welcome to our festival

Holiday in the city – every evening, all summer long: that’s the Kulturarena Jena! This open-air festival offers imaginative theatre productions, exciting films, a host of varied concerts and fun events for children. The Theatervorplatz in Jena transforms itself on this occasion into an idyllic oasis for all lovers of outstanding music and culture.

Musically, the Kulturarena spans a repertoire ranging from the finest world music, exhilarating jazz and eclectic pop sounds on the Theatervorplatz, through catchy acoustic events at the Volksbad right down to hot club concerts at Kassablanca. For these music events you can find the English texts below.

For all other informations please hop over to the German website.

Program

Candy Dulfer 12.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Nearly thirty years ago with her very first single Candy Dulfer staged the coup of the century. Just twenty years of age, the young Dutch saxophonist recorded the song “Lily was Here” with Dave Stewart in 1989. A purely instrumental piece, the song was originally composed for the little known movie De Kassière. “Lily Was Here” became one of the pervasive soundtracks of the late 1980s, a fading time during which, along with 80’s pop, the saxophone as an important aspect of wave rhythms also disappeared. Candy Dulfer has successfully resisted all of these changes, for the big world of pop music was never her goal. Her true milieu is very obviously funk—the quick, energetic jazz scene to which she contributes as both an extremely talented instrumentalist and songwriter. Prince once said, "When I need sax, I call Candy." The mildly bawdy, ironic phrasing is pure Prince, and in 1990 Candy Dulfer followed the same tune with her first, Grammy nominated album: “Saxuality” was an international success and Dulfer became one of the front women of energy-laden funk, comparable to the likes of Nils Landgren in her creative power for the genre of jazz. Like him, Dulfer has no fear of popular genres: she has collaborated not only with Prince, but also stars such as Maceo Parker, Dave Stewart, Marcus Miller, Van Morrison and Blondie, worked with Black-eyed Peas producer Printz Board, and formed Ladies of Soul with four other Dutch musicians. To date, she has ten studio albums and two live albums, and has moderated her own music television show and a variety of radio shows and lent her saxophone’s voice to numerous musicians in the recording studio. However, performing on stage has always been her calling, a place where she knows all there is to know about funk.

Elbow 13.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz The name, Gary Garvey once said in an interview, comes from a British TV series in which an actor claimed that “elbow” is the “loveliest word in the English language...in the sound it makes in the mouth.” At least that’s the story. Very possibly it was the actual elbow grease that the four men from rural England most certainly had to apply back at the beginning of the 1990s to escape to nearby Manchester from their small hometown, to quote the band, “shit hole.” Manchester undoubtably stands for the most creative and wildest side of English pop music with musicians from Morrisey to New Order and Oasis. Elbow saw itself and still sees itself as an authentic Manchester band with the characteristic raw, energetic, guitar-laden alternative sound that always seems a little melancholic, yet deeply honest. Outside England the band is perhaps not as well known as the other musicians listed above, but their importance to the music world is certainly just as big. They have never defined themselves as part of a scene or by the work of other musicians—Elbow has always followed its own instincts, preferring to stand on stage than in the recording studio, being outspoken even when it wasn’t exactly opportune, and as a result they have created a musical legacy that speaks for itself. The commensurate broad acclaim came late for the band, but today a Brit Award, multiple Mercurys and Ivors stand on the mantelpiece, and their sixth studio album (“The Take Off and Landing of Everything,” 2014) climbed to number one on the English charts, after almost 20 years of Elbow. Still, their domain is and remains the stage where they will be introducing their newest project, the newly released seventh album, “Little Fictions.”

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox 14.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz This year we are celebrating a minor and fully unknown anniversary: exactly 90 years ago in 1927 the National Automatic Music Co. in Michigan introduced their “selective phonograph,” a giant wooden cabinet which could play a selection of 10 gramophone records. The jukebox was born, even if it got its blinking plastic exterior later in the 1940s (and with it became the symbol of the swing and rock’n’roll era). When the American jazz pianist Scott Bradlee invokes these blinking good-mood dispensers with his project “The Postmodern Jukebox,” then an entire major epoch is at his fingertips. And Bradlee makes good use of it. In his jukebox he, himself a highly trained jazz pianist, brings together dozens of world-class musicians, all jazz musicians and instrumentalists like himself, as a band entirely in the style of the 1920s. With this group of friends and fellow musicians, he meanders through the garden of popular music, picking one ripe hit after the other and distilling them (not to mix metaphors) for connoisseurs into extremely exhilarating, swinging nectars. Hardly a song is safe from him; from Miley Cyrus to Macklemore, from Madonna to the Talking Heads, all of them have given up their treasures to Scott Bradlee’s unerring swing machine. In the USA the postmodern jukebox is not just a secret hit with its own video channel on the Internet and a list of over 2.5 million subscribers. But the true authentic experience is most certainly found in their live performances. Not only are some of the absolute best American jazz studio musicians on tour, but it also true that many of the popular musicians often derided as pop starlets are in their own right excellent songwriters. For once their songs have been given a work-over, they suddenly sound very much like the revered classics.

Bokanté 15.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz In Antillean Creole, the language of the island Guadeloupe, Bokanté means “exchange.” And that is also in essence what the band Bokanté celebrates on the musical stage: an exchange between the most diverse musical genres from blues to Caribean percussion. Whoever finds this not that special does not know the performing musicians. Even though Bokanté just presented its debut album “Strange Circles,” its eight members represent many decades of the most diverse music experience. Singer Malika Tirolien grew up on Guadeloupe and now very successfully leads her own jazz quintet in Montreal. Percussionist Jamey Haddad has jammed intensively with Paul Simon and Sting; instrumentalists André Ferrari and Keita Ogawa have played with the Swedish folk group Väsen and star cellist Yo-Yo Ma. And lap steel-guitarist Roosevelt Collier has played with Karl Denson, among many others. Group leader and songwriter is Michael League, founder of the legendary American jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy, who brought his colleagues Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti with him. A couple of decades ago such a collection of musical expertise would have been called a “mega group,” and that is precisely how Bokanté plays. League’s Snarky Puppy has been famous for years for inviting each and every interested friend and musical acquaintance to concerts (up to 40 musicians at a pop) and to explore fusion jazz to its remotest limits. With Bokanté, League and his group members are entering new terrain in particular Caribean persussion, but also blues rock reminiscent of Led Zeppelin and politically motivated folk. With their multilingual mix of styles based on countless personal experiences, the group gives its own unique answer to current global issues: the answer is Bokanté—exchange—and in the most compelling, rhythmical way.

Valerie June 19.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Memphis, the American blues singer Valerie June once claimed, gives everyone a special aura. Wherever one went, others would sense it. Valerie June is not a direct native of Memphis, Tennessee, but rather comes from the surrounding area, a small town called Humboldt. At 18 she moved to the legendary music metropolis and began singing her way through the rich musical legacy: blues, gospel, folk, rockabilly, country. Valerie June has given everything a try, absorbed it, and turned it into her own. She calls her style “organic moonshine roots music,” a remark that speaks not only for her sense of humor but also tradition. Truth is, when you hear June sing one of her own songs in her distinctive, high, slightly throaty voice while playing her somewhat battered acoustic guitar, it is impossible to say from which period of music history it stems. It could be a recording from the early days of radio, just as well as one from today. For this reason her own label “roots music” fits Valerie June so well because she celebrates a timeless, magical musical experience that moves between old and new, black and white, loud and muted. Despite this, Valerie June is absolutely contemporary as is shown by her own musical career. With great deliberation she developed her style and financed her first recordings and albums entirely through working side jobs and crowd funding. She was already a sought-after artist in 2013 when she finally gave in to a record label and (together with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys) released her first label album: “Pushin’ Against a Stone.” In March 2017 her next album “The Order of Time” came out, and on every second of it one can hear Memphis, Tennessee, flowing through, even though Valerie June now lives in Brooklyn. For once Memphis, always Memphis.

MEUTE 20.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Whoever attended the last KulturArena concert in 2016, where, after the Swiss singer Seven, Meute gave a short but earth-shakingly euphoric close to the summer music series, knows that this group just had to return. And now they are headliners for the arena stage. Meute is the perfect band for an open-air festival such as the KulturArena: a marching band, a moving, music-making monstrosity, and thanks to its sheer blowing force and volume it is not without reason THE symbol of all time for festivities of all sorts, by no means only military. The marching band tradition has appeared to have been forgotten recently, or at least relegated to hit parades or folk festivals. With Meute a group of Hamburg musicians—well acquainted with street events of all types in good keeping with the tradition of the Hamburg scene—have joined together to revive this Godzilla of music and to bring it into modern musical times. Accordingly, there are no hits or traditional American songs to be heard, just authentic, infectious club music. Meute has given itself the wonderfully marketing-suitable description of “techno marching band.” However, marketing efforts are hardly needed once the 11 musicians begin playing the tubas, trombones and trumpets. The sound goes right through you and sets your legs to dancing nonstop until the music ends. Meute embodies one of the most beautiful interpretations of the classic rave, the collective, oblivious feeling of happiness in the rhythm of the music, for all these powerful sounds come from a warm, acoustic group of instruments. And as such, Meute takes its place beside Lucky Chops and GoGo Penguin in this year’s program. An old tradition brought up to date, what could be better?

John Scofield Überjam Band 21.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz The German word über, complete with umlaut, has long found its way into the English language as a casual approximation of the just as casual term “mega” in German. John Scofield’s mega jam sessions are legendary, and with Überjam he pays a worthy tribute to this special, ecstatic form of making music. John Scofield himself doesn’t really need introducing anymore. He was recently hailed in one of Germany’s major newspapers as an “Olympian of jazz”, a demi-god at the least if not more; in any case, a musician with golden fingers who turns everything he touches into gold. Despite the fact it wasn’t the Olympians, but the rather pitiful, old Midas, it is clear what is meant: John Scofield has belonged to the jazz world for nearly half a century and has shaped it like virtually no other with his characteristic and expertly masterful guitar playing. His discography is long; his collaborations with other musicians of all kinds nearly endless, from Miles Davis to Bugge Wesseltoft, from Chet Baker to Terri Lyne Carrington. One special project that has gone on for over 15 years connects him with the American guitarist Avi Bortnick, with whom he and other musicians recorded the album “Überjam” in 2002, an improvisation covering all possible styles from fusion, funk, drum and bass and acid jazz. This project was so successful and left such a deep impression on Scofield that he followed-up with two more albums: “Up All Night” in 2003 and “Überjam Deux” in 2013. Together with Bortnick, he is now continuing this perennial jam session on stage, joined by his long-time drummer Dennis Chambers and the New Yorker bassist Andy Hess (who has also played in the rock bands Black Crowes and Gov’t Mule).

kulturarena club im kassablanca
Tape Five
21.07.2017 · 11:00 pm · Kassablanca Gleis 1 When some hip hop artists in the 1990s began integrating crackling old swing records in their DJ sets, no one guessed that this was the forerunner of a major wave waiting to wash over the music world around the turn of the millennium. The idea of vintage was born, and musicians such as Parov Stelar, Caravan Palace and even Martin Strathausen with his Combo Tape Five created with great alacrity musical cocktails which swept victoriously through the world’s clubs under the name electro-swing. Strathausen can without a doubt be considered one of the founding fathers, whereby, as is frequently the case with stylistic developments, the reactivation of swing and its tangential forms, like bossa nova or Charleston, was simply in the air and propelling many musicians to create. Tape Five, in any event, now travels the world with their high-energy version of electro-swing and delves repeatedly into new areas ranging from their 2007 album “Bossa for a cup” to their tribute to Josephine Baker with “Tonight Josephine!” in 2010 and their varieté approximation “Circus Maximus” in 2015. The band’s curiosity appears to be limitless. Strathausen and his band members are always slipping on new costumes, searching for authentic sounds, and major, though sometimes tiny details, and not just musically. Tape Five performances are always a total work of art, musical drama and theater at its best, with an unerring sense of atmosphere and rhythm. This is not surprising since Martin Strathausen, a native of Essen, Germany, invites not only many international guest musicians, but also countless artists from Essen’s renowned Folkwang University of the Arts into the studio (and onto the stage). Jazz singers, musical artists and first-rate instrumentalists come together for a real happening in the realm of swing, and naturally that also means: dance, dance, dance. But, please, not on the stage!

The Slow Show 22.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz On July 13, 2017 (take your time, we’ll wait while you thumb through the pages), one of the most legendary bands associated with the music of Manchester performed with the band Elbow in the Arena: raw, melancholy melodies and sarcastic texts, shaped by industrial cities and an intense underground culture. For many, this is the epitome of British alternative rock. While The Slow Show has its origins in Manchester, they don’t make a big deal out of their city’s musical heritage. Instead, they have delved deeply into the dark side of pop, into the musical worlds of Sigur Rós, Lambchop, and The National. The Slow Show’s music is by no means a lively evening of dancing, but an epic, glittering excursion into unknown musical expanses. Powerful symphonic panoramas develop out of minimalistic arrangements to be repeatedly interrupted by moments of silence. With Slow Show this silence becomes almost physical and offers the perfect context for another of its hallmarks: the warm, omnipresent baritone of singer Rob Goodwin. Despite all of the electronic amplification, Goodwin’s voice is heard so up close and personal by each listener that even the largest concerts shrink to intimate affairs. In recent years The Slow Show has appeared in many major concert halls, despite their band’s relatively young history. Formed in 2010 in Manchester, they started as a supporting act—and here is where they come full circle—for Elbow. With only one small EP they soon traveled around the European clubs and festivals, including the Haldern Pop Festival in 2014 where the people there saw to it that the first Slow Show LP (“White Water”) appeared under the festival’s own label in 2015, and it was celebrated everywhere as THE pop discovery of the year. Now the newly released second album (“Dream Darling”) is available and delves even further into the unending musical expanse.

ArenAkustik im Volksbad
Mohammad Reza Mortazavi
23.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Volksbad Jena When Mohammad Reza Mortazavi takes the stage in front of an unsuspecting audience, the listeners are usually somewhat loud. After all, it’s just one drummer is playing, one from Iran to boot, and there is just so much to talk about, politics, life, etc. But all the chattering and giggling stops as soon as Mortazavi begins to beat his fingers on the simple hand drums. It is as if a full orchestra is now on the stage, a magical fan of sounds, rhythms and voices, silver rainfall of unendingly tender sounds cascading out in all directions. Look again at the stage, and only Mohammad Reza Mortazavi is sitting there and, no, he does not have six hands, just the normal two. Yet he is considered one of the most virtuoso percussionists in the world, specializing in Persian-Iranian Daf and Tombak drums from which lay musicians can, at best, coax moderately loud rhythms. Mortazavi, however, employs a largely self-developed technique, thanks to thirty years of experience (he began playing in competitions as a 10-year-old in Teheran), with which he transforms the basic drum into a source of melodic, unendingly varied sounds by snapping his fingers, flicking; stroking, tapping, etc. The Tombak hand drum is particularly widespread in Iranian music and has been viewed as a creative solo instrument ever since the feats of great musicians such as Hossein Tehrani in the 1950s. Mohammad Reza Mortazavi continues this tradition and has brought it to a unique apex: his melodies and trace-like worlds of sound routinely transport audiences all over the world (and the player himself) into magical acoustic spaces. And in such places as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Roskilde festival, and other special places like the Volksbad in Jena and the MoMoLo Circus tent (where Mortazavi was already a guest performer in 2015).

The Divine Comedy 26.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Take a large portion of Irish musicality, combine it with British humor, spike it with some excentric wackiness, and you get Mr. Neil Hannon, singer, songwriter and founder of The Divine Comedy. In Great Britain and Ireland, Hannon is an institution. The forty-something native of Northern Ireland formed The Divine Comedy in 1989 and is its sole constant member. Back then, with its orchestral, excentric pop it stood radically apart from the ascendant, guitar-laden Brit pop à la Oasis or Blur. The Divine Comedy were considered to be the dandies of the British music world and looked toward role models from Americal alternative scene such as R.E.M. As a result they created their own large niche and had released a total of ten succesful albums by 2010. The Divine Comedy was never a true chart-topper. They are simply too special and possibly too clever for that. Neil Hannon was simultaneously active in numerous other areas (even though according to his own remark, he has enough money and would prefer to spend the rest of his life lying on the sofa binge watching House of Cards). He has written tunes for the movie “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and the British cult series “Dr. Who” and “The IT-Crowd,” collaborated with many artists such as Ute Lemper, Thomas Walsh and Air, and composed a musical that is an absurd satire on commercial shows. Of course, the musical, “Swallows and Amazons,” was a success. Hannon’s quirky, clever humor is omnipresent on the British Isles today, not just in the form of the recently released new Divine Comedy album, “Foreverland.” Here is a contemporary point of interest: Hannon bears an uncanny resemblance to the German satirist Jan Böhmermann, not only in his work but also appearance. If that’s not a coincidence?  

Lucky Chops 27.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz That good old brass music has what it takes to be great pop music is not something we only discovered when brilliant brass combos such as La Brass Banda played the clubs here in Germany. The legendary horn sections of the 1960s and 70s had already proven exactly that and helped legends like James Brown and George Clinton achieve such explosive power. As a classic, six-man brass ensemble, Lucky Chops now cultivates the image of a great funk star’s runaway horn section that now wants to pursue its own insane projects. This picture is not entirely true in that the members are all young, talented graduates of New York’s LaGuardia High School of Music and Art who intended from the start to be an independent brass band. And as modern, indepedent musicians of the 21st century, they did not choose to send the usual demo tape to the major music labels. Instead, they turned to the New York subway where they rapidly developed an absolutely captivating and danceable repertoire of new interpretations of current pop songs, complete with choreography that would have made James Brown, the king of hip swinging, green with envy. Many New Yorkers were late for work because the magnetic pull of the musicians was (and is) enormous. That this music is now being played on the international concert stage is, naturally, the result of the Internet. A South African tourist filmed one of the subway performances, uploaded the video and within only a few days millions around the world were fans. That was in the spring of 2015, and just a few months later Lucky Chops found itself on a European tour. The sound of the New York boys has not suffered as a result, quite the contrary: they see the international exposure as an opportunity to infect the entire world with the blessed, world-uniting brass band sound and bring every last pair of feet to break out dancing.  

Max Mutzke 28.07.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz There is hardly another German musician who has moved across the landscape of the music world so steadily, naturally and with ease than Max Mutzke. He is now, it can be said, one of the most diverse and well known German musicians; however, one for whom the overdue title “superstar” would hang uselessly around his neck like a meaningless prop. Instead, he would rather put on his cap and vanish on the various stages of this country. There he produces his uniquely exciting, relaxed soul-funk jewels of songs, very much like pop but without the one-dimensional effects, with lots of emotion but without hollow pathos. Ever since 2004 when he was clearly surprised to be selected as the candidate for the Song Contest, an alternative search initiated by Stefan Raab, Mutzke’s music was and still is everyday music in the best sense. He sings about the normal things in life, of relationships and love, aging, seeking, finding, all with a warm, slightly fragile soul voice, seemingly casual and offhand, yet all of these songs constantly carry timeless reminders of classic singers from James Brown to Tower of Power. This link with the origins of soul and funk also makes Mutzke’s music itself so refreshing, timeless and multifaceted, and opens no end of new doors. He can be found jamming with Stefanie Heinzmann or Luxuslärm or the Fantastischen Vier; he sings songs for numerous films and television programs and has appeared with Klaus Doldinger and the WDR Big Band. These forays into the world of jazz led to an entire jazz album in 2012, chock full of guest performances ranging from Götz Alsmann to Nils Landgren. Another high point followed in 2016 with a performance with the NDR Radiosinfonie that was later recorded and recently released on album number eight (“Experience”). Meanwhile, Mutzke is back in the realm of classic soul-pop, backed by his long-time band, monoPunk. We’re so excited!

Migration Blues
Blick Bassy, Leyla McCalla & Delgres
29.07.2017 · 7:30 pm · Theatervorplatz From a musical perspective, most currently popular styles have their origins in the immigrant experience and cultural clashes. One of the best examples is most certainly the blues that came from West Africa via the slave trade to the Caribbean and the southern United States and from there to the bars of Chicago and Harlem in the 1930s. This music has radiated out across the world as the basis of rock’n’roll, soul, and rap, and continues today in the endless interpretations. During a long evening of blues, we will attempt to trace this tragic yet awesome history of displacement and migration, of hope and the search for identity. Taking the Arena stage will be a completely unique constellation of three trios. The evening opens with Blick Bassy, a highly successful musician from Cameroon who, like many of his countrymen, knows what exile means. And his style is accordingly mixed to reflect this knowledge ranging from West African roots to bossa, from jazz to classic blues. Bassy uses all registers to broach the most current issues: the dream of a better life, falsehoods, false hopes and uplifting moments of happiness. Leyla McCalla, in contrast, is a New Yorker with Haitian roots who now lives in New Orleans and represents the American genesis of the blues. Since her debut in 2013 with a musical tribute to the poet and civil rights activist Langston Hughes, she has collected songs and traditional folk songs from the American South and, with cello and an arresting voice, created a new, blues-saturated acoustic folk music. While the band Delgres carries the name of a Caribbean fighter against slavery (Louis Delgrès who lived in Haiti during the 19th century), standing behind it are three experienced French musicians: Pascal Danaë, Baptiste Brondy and Rafgee. When these three take up their guitar, drums and sousaphone to make music together, a veritable storm sweeps over the stage. Their music is a high-energy version of blues with French-Creole accents.

The Notwist 02.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Whenever exciting music from Germany is discussed anywhere in the world sooner or later the name The Notwist comes up. Ever since the release of their album "Neon Golden" in 2002, this band has meant something all over the globe to fans of discerning, alternative pop music, even if many of them aren’t sure where this strange, multi-faceted sound alternating between Electronica, indie rock and hypnotic sub-pop sounds comes from. The answer is simple: from Bavaria, more specifically from Weilheim, a town which, thanks to The Notwist and their numerous projects, is now known as a hidden indie music metropolis. But, to understand the fascination with The Notwist, there is no need to look at their side projects, such as Lali Puna. The band The Notwist is by itself too complex and has too wild a history behind it. Founded in 1989 as a grunge metal band, the members soon went on tour with other bands such as Jesus Lizard and Bad Religion. Instead of remaining in that scene, they happily worked their way through the most diverse genres from indie rock to electro-jazz sounds and acquired for themselves a very special reputation as unceasingly curious musical inventors, whose fans will follow them into the remotest musical territory. At present, yet another metamorphosis is underway: long-time band member Martin Gretschmann alias Console, one of the main drivers behind The Notwist’s electronic atmosphere, left the band in 2014 to pursue his own projects. But The Notwist is always good for a surprise. Like a chameleon, they simply changed their colors and then onstage showed why they have such dedicated fans worldwide: because The Notwist is and remains one of the very best live bands. Entirely without exalted stage-hogging performances, they instead produce a sound that captures each individual listener and never lets go. We are looking forward to the next new Notwist albums!

Andreas Schaerer’s THE BIG WIG 03.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Who is Hildegard? And where did she learn to fly? These questions are frequently asked of band leader Andreas Schaerer at the beginning of every question and answer session, and they are easy to answer: Hildegard doesn’t exist. But there is a Swiss jazz ensemble that regularly sends the audience flying, metaphorically speaking, and a musical mind with a gift for wicked humor. In Switzerland, Andreas Schaerer’s homeland, he is rarely asked about Hildegard since everyone there knows that Schaerer is a) a brilliant entertainer and b) one of the most prominent vocal artists in Europe who can work the entire spectrum from Gassenhauer to experimental sound constellations. And Hildegard is his no less brilliant jazz combo. The sextet romps through all possible musical fields, from ska to funk, swing, Balkan brass, to absolutely unique creations, always driven by immense enjoyment of playing together (the audience included). And this is undoubtably the best embodiment of the great genre of jazz. Accordingly, Schaerer and Hildegard have won numerous jazz awards, of which the ECHO 2015 was only the most well known, flanked by countless collaborations with renowned musicians (including the greatest vocalist of all, Bobby McFerrin). In 2015 Schaerer offered up the most extraordinary jam session to date: at the famous Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, Hildegard performed together with the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy. They named this event “The Big Wig,” and it most certainly is. So fabulous and so special, that Schaerer and Hildegard will be repeating it this year with selected orchestras. The Jena Philharmonic–distinguished for its unusual musical projects and frequently a guest on the Theaterhaus stage–is one of these select ensembles, and we are certainly excited about this really big number in Jena’s Arenarund.

Maxim 04.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Maxim once alledgedly stated that reggae and majoring in business administration were two of his stupidest ideas. Regardless whether Maxim ever actually said this or not, the truth is that he did indeed try both out and quit them again after differing success. His business studies at the University of Cologne left little impact on the native of Siegburg, Germany, while his time as a reggae musician still reverberates to this day. For a long time after the release of his debut album “Maxim” in 2005, he was treated as one of the major figures in the German roots music scene. However, as a German-speaking reggae singer alongside predominantly English-speaking musicians, such as Gentleman or Culcha Candela, he was always an exotic figure, an oddball, obviously more of a poet convinced of his divine mission than a purely off-beat apostle. At some point, the words that had built up inside Maxim broke out of the very limited framework of reggae and became a unique musical license that took its cue from the text. This could be heard already on his second album (“Rückwärts Fallen”) and was very clearly evident on the third, “Asphalt,” in 2011. Ever since, Maxim has meandered through the wide landscape of pop, and his melodies, his sometimes tender, sometimes epic arrangements revolve around the voice and, above all, the text. As a storyteller, Maxim has clearly found his true calling; practically no other musician singing in German has been so successful in thinking so deeply while remaining clear and instinctively easy to understand. His texts often seem to be accidentally recorded soliloquies in all of their vulnerable intimacy, yet always reveal themselves to be lyrical pieces of art perfectly embedded in the music. Appropos, another quote attributed to Maxim: “I don’t write songs about trivial things anymore; I only write about things I really care about.”

Maghreb-Klänge
Emel Mathlouthi & Tinariwen
05.08.2017 · 7:30 pm · Theatervorplatz Following our migration blues series in July, two truly legendary musicians have agreed to perform on our second thematic evening dedicated to the sounds of Northern Africa. Both guest artists hail from the Maghreb, a region which currently has only negative associations in western and central Europe. But in truth North Africa is not only home to extremely hospitable peoples but also to a very diverse cultural landscape, particularly when it comes to music. Emel Mathlouthi, the “voice of the Arab Spring,” grew up as a rebellious youth in the authoritative Tunisia of the 1990s, where she revived the well-known genre of the protest song focusing not only on icons like Joan Baez, but also politically active Arab musicians, such as Marcel Khalife and Sheikh Imam. During the Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, her song “Kelmti Horra” went viral to become a hit. Now, after the collapse of the Arab Spring, she is living in Paris again. With her 2017 album “Ensen” she has easily shaken off all these complex involvements and combined Arab rhythms with electronic trip hop effects, and her political message with an entirely new sound. Tinariwen, the “guitar king of the desert,” belongs without a doubt among the greatest artists of African music. During the 1980s and 90s, she developed an austere, powerful, politically very confident and decidedly blues rock that–as with Emel–looks to Western rock guitar players while at the same time including the completely unique rawness and spirituality of the desert that is so hard for outsiders to grasp and understand. Her resulting style, in turn, inspires numerous Western musicians, first and foremost Santana (himself a veritable guitar king) who invited the band in 2005 to perform with him in Montreux. In 2017 Tinariwen released her seventh album that features major guest performers, such as Mark Lanegan.

ArenAkustik im Volksbad
Charlie Cunningham
08.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Volksbad Jena With Charlie Cunningham one of the most interesting and surprising singers of recent years will be coming to the Volksbad acoustic arena. It is surprising because Cunningham has chosen a rather unusual professional path without a label or even an LP. Less than five years ago, the young Brit from Bedfordshire broke in to the music world with his intense online sessions accessible to everyone via the Internet. He has since been recommended by the BBC and profiled in magazines such as Stereogum. And all the while he is just a guy with a guitar, or so he claims, who plays his own little songs. But this is precisely what sets him apart. Out of these few simple ingredients, Cunningham creates music that is as hypnotic as Bon Iver’s and as impressively minimalistic as James Blake’s. The most crucial ingredient is his voice—soft, slightly throaty—that even in a large concert always gives the impression that a highly intimate private concert is being given turning microphones and loudspeakers into a strange memory. All the same, he does make use of some equipment: resonance and electrical amplification accompany not only his voice but also his acoustic guitar playing, which is at times astonishingly percussive and rhythmic, even substituting sometimes for a drum. It does not escape notice that Charlie Cunningham has spent several years in Seville and adopted Andalusian guitar playing techniques. As a result of this mix, Cunningham’s musical style is entirely unique, shaped by the British singer/songwriter tradition and enriched by Mediterranean esprit and lots of atmosphere. Certainly Cunningham’s sense of space plays a role here, too, since he by no means plays in just any concert venue. It was only in the spring of 2017 that Cunningham first toured various church interiors in Germany—including the Volksbad in Jena. Whoever wishes to conjure up magic needs a magical space.

Gregory Porter 09.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz In many news reports Gregory Porter is known simply as “the man with the hat” due to the gigantic head covering he wears for all of his performances. The hat is just a thing made of cloth, and Porter is really THE MAN WITH THE VOICE! Porter’s deep, warm and swingingly light baritone is virtually unique today, oscillating somewhere between Otis Redding and Nat King Cole, between soul and jazz, between gentle melody and tremendous power. Since Porter released his celebrated debut album “Water” in 2010, he has toured the globe as a charismatic preacher of traditional soul, the revival of which he led with others, such as the recently deceased Sharon Jones. In his work, he does not just make the most of dusty classic R&B hits. Porter writes his own songs and is not scared to take on controversial topics, like in the fairly devastating song “1960 what?” that tells of the 1967 racial unrest in Detroit in Porter’s thick, mellow voice. Porter is a soul and blues poet who sings because he has something to say, and whose voice stirs listeners because it conveys authentic emotions. Porter’s own intricate history also has an impact: he was raised in predominantly white Bakersfield, California, and first pursued a career in professional rugby. After suffering a sports injury, Porter’s attention turned to music and the saxophonist Kamau Kenyatta who introduced him to the world of jazz and soul. At the end of the 90s, Porter played the leading role in the Broadway musical “It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues.” Despite this, it was still almost another 10 years before he released his debut album at age 38 to a storm of enthusiasm from an enraptured public. This reaction has not abated. Porter’s fourth and most recent album “Take Me to the Alley” was released in 2016.

La Caravane Passe 10.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz Dancing fiends take note: the crazy caravan is coming back! Whoever attended the 2014 concert given by Toma Feterman and his troupe at the Kulturarena knows that there will be laughing and dancing without end. With their French mix of masterful instrumental artistry, street music and insanity, these five Parisians have in recent years stormed and conquered the clubs and summer festivals. Gypsy roots à la Django Reinhardt combined with French suburban rap, ska-kissed chanson, with a little “punk attitude” thrown in, seasoned with road movie guitars and electro-disco rock, and voilà – there you have the imaginary community of Plèchti, the band’s own model neighborhood of the future. This community is very clearly situated in Ironistan where bearded pseudo-Russians meet low-life mafia bosses, where the rap is in French and people dressed up as German, where fake snow falls and every now and then a fake TV moderator tunes in. But behind the scenes of this brightly colorful stage show is very serious, for here La Caravane Passe celebrates its immigrant roots as the source of energy for all the music. Accordingly, on their new album “Canis Carmina” (the Dog Songs) they have again included prominent musicians who themselves have experience as nomads. Among these artists are Rachid Taha, Sanseverino, R. Wan, Marko Markovic and Stochelo Rosenberg. Together they explore the detached dimensions of wandering cultures and drifting people, moving from fantastic Plèchti out in the sticks to the empty promises of the suburbs and on into the European metropolises. Tracks without trains, wandering people everywhere, fences, and spooky fun fairs full of erratic promises: La Caravane Passe delivers the sounds needed to arrive in the present, in the fog of luminous dreams. And they provide the right answer, too, by celebrating it with utmost irony and tons of energy. Music is the answer, and shared experience even more.

Salif Keita 11.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz When Salif Keita performs today, then it is as one of the undisputed kings of afro pop. For almost 50 years the 68 year-old has been celebrating his very own Keita sound: a wild mix of jazz, pop, funk and afro beat, produced from a mix of keyboard, guitar, saxophone, traditional West African percussion and stringed instruments. And above it all is Keita’s distinct voice with which in a heartbeat he combines ancient West African songs with modern pop. This is world-class afro pop, and with this sound Keita is a star guest not only on international stages, but also in Africa and his native country Mali. This was not always the case, since just as it is with many other musicians, Keita also has a difficult journey behind him. In the political chaos of the 1960s in West Africa he transgressed one boundary after the other: as an albino who appears in public, as a nobleman who insists on performing the songs meant for him to hear, as a refugee from the political unrest in Mali. Keita left the uncertainties of his country in 1984 and spent more than 10 years in France. It was here with some distance that he developed his own style with songs in his native tongue Maninka, with the typical, old and new instruments and profound, often critical texts. In 1987 “Soro” became his first masterpiece, and more than a dozen other albums have followed since then. With his music Keita creates a truly brilliant work of art: he spreads hard, merciless, but also important messages embedded in a light, happy music that is deeply infused with the belief in goodness and joy—not to weaken or ignore these messages, but quite the contrary, to impart the strength necessary to solve problems. This is also part of afro pop: a unique combination of zest for life and tragedy, and as such it is very likely one of the most modern musical styles to date.

Käptn Peng & die Tentakel von Delphi 12.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz It was four years ago, loyal Arena fans will remember, that following a memorable Max Herre concert in the Kassablanca Club an even more memorable concert took place with the old salt Robert Gwisdek, alias Captn Peng, and his “Tentacles of Delphi.” What initially sounded like a schoolboy joke about Classical Greece revealed itself to be a fresh, quirkily euphoric construct that almost took on the dimensions of a total work of art combining trash funk, videos, costumes and the proverbial Käptn Peng wordplay. The German rap and hip hop communities had a new favorite who did not indulge in rapper attitudes, but rather told stories, semi-philosophical, incredible pieces about enlightenment, socks, monsters, swallowing bullets and all manner of entertaining nonsense, surrounded by an extraordinary band that cheerfully alternates between Latin-western-disco-country and indie-dubstep-punk, between fragile ballads and acustic hip hop. If Käptn Peng & die Tentakel von Delphi have made themselve a little rare since then, it is not because they have run out of ideas, but rather they have too many. For one, Robert Gwisdek also works as an actor filming one movie after the other in recent years. And the Tentacles are also busy: bassist Boris Nielsen played bass until recently for the legendary Feindrehstars, guitarist Moritz Bossmann plays in the truly crass noise-punk band, Vögel die Erde essen, drummer Hannes Gwisdek works under the name Shaban crafting beats and as a producer, and percussionist Peter Bartz—primarily responsible for the unique sound using everyday objects—writes songs for the theater. Now they are all back with nine songs and suspiciously large energy reserves. The question arises if a slew of new albums will follow? Reason enough to clear the stage. Welcome into the tender clutches of the Tentacles!  

kulturarena club im kassablanca
Die Höchste Eisenbahn
12.08.2017 · 11:00 pm · Kassablanca Gleis 1 Sometimes it is impossible to ignore an obvious play on words (the name of the band means “high time” in German), meaning that if you have not yet heard this band, then it is REALLY HIGH TIME you did! Listen and be amazed! Because Höchste Eisenbahn is not just an accurate play on words, but above all designates the makers of the finest German pop music. What sounds so easy, light and carefree is in reality just as urgent as the band’s name indicates. The four band members don’t just produce a quick, big, varied sound between crisp guitar work and warm funk deepness; the quality of the text for each song is reminiscent of Tocotronic or Element of Crime, and for good reason. Far from simply copying, Höchste Eisenbahn invents its own style that has clear roots in the German indie scene, but that also shows a great sympathy for music history legends: the laidbackness of Fleetwood Mac, the child-like craziness of Talking Heads and the scruffy folk funk of the Allman Brothers – all that is present in the Höchsten Eisenbahn. Whoever is familiar with the four band members knows where all these comparisons come from because they are by no means unknown entities: for over 15 years singer Francesco Wilking played intelligent pop with his brilliant band Tele; the number two singer Moritz Krämer is active as singer/songwriter, theater musician and film director; drummer Max Schröder has been a member of Tomte since 2005 and active under the pseudonym the Hund Marie of the band Ollie Schutz; and bassist Felix Weigt has played for a long time, including with Gisbert zu Knyphausen and Nils Koppruch who died far too young. Sometimes Wilking sings, sometimes Krämer, Schröder and Weigt create sounds that are often snappy, sometimes melancholic and reflective, and the result is so wonderfully captivating and varied that it truly is high time to attend the concert in Kassa.

ArenAkustik im Volksbad
Maarja Nuut feat. Hendrik Kaljujärv
15.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Volksbad Jena Following a concert, several listeners once told Maarja Nuut that her music reminded them of the background to mysterious fairy tales. Even though they did not understand a word of the lyrics, a profound, perhaps untranslatable feeling of oneness crept over them. This is perhaps one of the best compliments for Maarja Nuut’s music, and it cuts straight to the heart: Maarja Nuut obviously writes more than just songs, she creates entire worlds of sound. When she takes up her violin, turns on her electronic equipment, and begins to sing, the question always arises: Are those ancient, mythical folk tunes? Or are they spherical sounds from a distant future? The attraction of Maarja Nuut’s music lies primarily in its mystery, or rather in all the stories that she doesn’t come out and tell. Stories that instead take shape, involuntarily, in the mind of each individual listener. Maarja Nuut’s musical roots are certainly found, in part, in her Estonian homeland. Almost thirty years ago people there sang forbidden traditional folk tunes in protest against the Soviet occupation setting off a “singing revolution.” And this is where Nuut, who was a child as all this was happening, has found the numerous stories, melodies and folk tunes which she uses in her songs. It is the same reservoir that feeds the spiritual works of the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. With her music, Maarja Nuut radically brings this historical legacy into contemporary times; she uses all the technology available and creates her own, very subjective style. It is certainly no coincidence that her highly intimate, sparingly orchestrated songs are a little reminiscent of Mari Boines’ shamanistic singing which, in turn, draws upon the music of the Laplanders in northern Finland and Norway. Worlds open up into realms that defy any simple, translatable meanings.

Faber & Special Guest: Fil Bo Riva 16.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz No one knows why Julian Pollina chose the stage name Faber. Perhaps to distinguish himself from his prominent father, Pippo Pollina, who enjoys legendary fame as a singer in Italy. Perhaps as a nod to Max Frisch’s most well-known novel—Faber himself is also Swiss, but also a musician and, as such, more homo ludens (playing man) than homo faber (working man). Faber, however, is indeed a little different. In the cozy corner of modern German singers, now occupied by many of great talent, he stands out for his raw, throaty voice that sometimes takes nosedives and for lyrics which are anything but feel good. He sings in the classic blues manner of life’s (supposed) losers, of lonely men, nights spent drinking, rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean, and, yes, despite everything about all-encompassing love. It is this warm-hearted sincerity, the striking yet offhand connections between major issues and apparently small, absurd human observations that make Faber’s songs so intense. With his small band he brings all of this together playing home-style folk blues guitar pop that repeatedly takes off and ends in a kind of absurd street-music punk happening. If this seems familiar and reminiscent of the music of Faber’s countrywoman Sophie Hunger, then you are right on the money, for it was she who helped Faber to his first real stage performances, naturally as an opening act. It is not even four years since and already he has several songs out and a band to serve as his own opening act, whereby Fil Bo Riva is more than that, rather a very special guest who, like Faber, produces songs with emotional impact, full of energy and crisp rhythms, carried by an extremely dark voice certainly equal to that of AnnenMayKantereit’s singer Henning May.

GoGo Penguin 17.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz By 2014, at the latest, they were ready: with the release of their second album “v2.0” Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka and Rob Turner from Manchester, England, stormed the European clubs and festivals. And while some were still trying to figure out if there were perhaps any warm-hearted animal lovers behind the band’s name who cheered on little baby penguins from the comfort of their armchairs, others were already indulging in the no less exciting vibrations of a kind of music that can only be inadequately described by the term jazz. For GoGo Penguin teases out from its classic trio line-up such sounds that have been described by a major German newspaper as “rave jazz for the iPhone generation.” This is of course rubbish since neither technical equipment, nor rave experience is necessary to enjoy this band. However, anyone who has ever heard the minimalistic, repetitive, yet tremendously infectious melodies of GoGo Penguin has an idea what could have been meant by this. In the German-speaking countries, bands such as Brandt Brauer Frick or Feindrehstar have recently been combining modern club rhythms with lush acoustic instruments. GoGo Penguin, however, clearly tends toward minimalistic jazz, even if the style is a little reminiscent of post-rock pioneers like Tortoise or even electronic icons like Aphex Twin or Massive Attack. In addition, the experimental work of jazz musicians such as Esbjörn Svensson or Bugge Wesseltoft float through the acoustic fabric everywhere. This certainly explains the joyous ecstasy with which the third and brilliant album was recorded by these Brits in 2016 (“Man Made Object”): GoGo Penguin has pared good old jazz down to a translucent framework and built up their own sparkling acoustic structure around it. And in doing so, they pose no less than one possible, rather cool future of jazz.

Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra 18.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz The name is clear: Andromeda! Mega! Express! Orchestra! Here comes not a band but an orchestra! We’re not fiddling about here, this band is big, galactically so. The reputation held by the large, football team-sized ensemble has less to do with name-based superlatives and more with their unique musical focus. Founded in Berlin in 2006, AMEO (their own abbreviation) consists of musicians from all conceivable genres, such as jazz, new music, baroque and progressive rock, and unites instruments ranging from strings, brass, winds, vibraphone and harp to synthesizers and percussion. Each musician collaborates with famous artists in their own disciplines, for example, in the Ensemble intercontemporain, with The Notwist, Gunter Hampel or Tony Allen. But it is together, as the AMEO, that the incredible range and depth of this interdisciplinary cooperation takes effect. With the force of a big band, the tonal expressiveness of a symphony orchestra and the sheer delight in making music of a jazz-rock ensemble, this group has been performing on stage for over 10 years, be it in the Berlin Philharmonic or at the Roskilde Festival. AMEO exemplifies one of the main themes of this year’s line-up at the KulturArena: the unification of classical, traditional music styles with the most modern sounds from the club and electro scenes. AMEO’s compositions are not only reminiscent of legendary ensembles of the 1950s and 60s, such as the Arkestra von Sun Ra, Gil Evans’ ensembles or the truly alien instrumental world of a Harry Partch, but also of film scores and the vibrating dance rhythms of the 21st century. Above all, AMEO reminds us that even classical musicians can fall into a mad ecstasy on stage and that sweat can pour out even from an orchestra. Out of exertion, out of joy, out of pure music.

Judith Holofernes 19.08.2017 · 8:00 pm · Theatervorplatz “Ich bin das Chaos” (I am chaos) is the name of the most recent and third solo album by Judith Holofernes. Surprising? Very possibly. Since chaotic has not been among the many different characteristics attributed to the singer, songwriter and co-founder of the band Wir sind Helden. Quite the opposite. Judith Holofernes is considered one of the most incisive, clever and polemic German artists, and not only for her work with her band Wir sind Helden. For years as singer and writer, she has, together with her band members, demonstrated how the critical word and penetrating music can be united in the best of ways. In her many activities alongside the stage, she has written absurd and funny lyrics and has engaged in political and social activism. Highly memorable is her open letter to the German tabloid, Bild, in which she, on behalf of her band, refused to have any part in an advertising campaign for the newspaper. But chaos or chaotic? Possibly, this is another of the many transformations that Holofernes has undergone in the past. With her eloquence and musical reach, all of her utterances and images in public have been and are carefully measured and many-layered. Even in the choice of her richly metaphorical artistic name that with Judith and Holofernes embodies two opposing poles, her sheer playfulness and multiple personalities appear to have been responsible. Accordingly, as a solo musician her music is also more of a diverse landscape than a closed space and oscillates back and forth between the extremely entertaining and melancholic. What is completely new in her most recent songs is a certain indulgence, a sparkling, deep luster that hasn’t really been seen before in her work. “The songs wanted it that way,” claims Holofernes, those are the “light colors that really shine out in front of a dark background.”