Jazza: From Scala to Wembley

By Gilad Atzmon – London
London Jazza festival is behind us.  It was stressful and we took a massive risk, but it turned into a great success. For some of us, it was the most musically meaningful event we have ever participated in.

It occurred to me a while back that as far as Palestinian affairs are concerned, the tide has indeed changed — The struggle of the Palestinian people has now become a part of a Western collective conscience. We are a mass movement becoming increasingly aware of itself. At our last week’s first Jazza Festival, leading artists of all genres united together with an audience from all walks of life to side with the Palestinians. In the Scala London, we stood together, protesting against Israeli brutality.  Funds were raised for the Free Palestine Movement, an organization that challenges many aspects of the occupation, and will soon bring the all important question of the ‘Right of Return’ right to the heart of Tel Aviv. 

Jazza is an event though, which is above political agendas: like the peace activists on board the Mavi Marmara, we have a humanitarian mission to accomplish. We are artists who very simply believe that beauty is hope. And we know that it is our duty to depict an alternative reality through our music.  

Naturally enough, we were supported by every possible Palestinian and Arab media outlet: The Palestine Telegraph rallied with us, as did the Palestine Chronicle. Middle East Online covered the production process and covered the event. Press TV promoted us and sent a team to cover the event.

We were supported by the dissident network too: the SWP featured us on its front page, as did The Truth Seeker, Salem News, Whatreallyhappened.com, Rense.com, The People Voice, Uprooted Palestinian and many others. 

So far, so usual. But here is the interesting bit – even the mainstream media joined us. The Guardian made us their choice of the week, followed by a rave (4 star) post-event critique.  The London Metro highlighted the festival for its readers and BBC London asked me to the studio to talk about the event and other Palestinian issues. The BBC World Service also sent a journalist along to cover the event.

A week before kick off however, we spotted a central point regarding our marketing strategy: we realized that we had been focusing solely on the Palestinian solidarity network. But then we grasped that with such a dynamic lineup of artists with such a universal appeal, we had better take the opportunity to attract some new audiences to the cause — and here again was more proof of that ‘turning tide’ I am talking about: who would have thought that so many mainstream promotion agencies harboured sympathy for the Palestinian cause, and are now willing to openly express it too.

Every person, and every organization we approached was more than willing to help us: London clubs and promoters lent us their marketing tools, spreading the message of our festival through their email lists and web sites. Music shops and social networks asked to participate and student unions did the same, with students and activists spreading leaflets across London campuses.

We created a buzz.

I have never in my life seen so much willingness and enthusiasm put into one event. We were backed by everybody I could think of (except the PSC National Office…). We were delighted that the Freegaza Movement joined in, pleased to have a stall and distribute important information about the UN flotilla enquiry. Twinning with Palestine were also represented, carrying the necessary message across.

After all, this is the point of such events — for groups in solidarity to share information about causes related to the Palestinian struggle with the largest possible audience.

Following the success of the London Jazza Festival, we, the artists, plan to take the festival on the road. In the fall we’ll tour Europe and North America. 

Jazza is tired of the rhetoric of old decaying politicians. We are artists. We are thrilled by beauty and sound. We care about Palestine, and we are seeking to make a change. Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement vowed from the London Scala stage. “We start here tonight our march to Wembley”.

I can see it happening. I will make it happen.    

I would like to thank you all for your support.

Free Palestine Movement for believing in us.

Sarah Gillespie for putting it all together. This woman can move walls.

Lauren Booth for being clever.

Dave Groom for joining in exactly when we really need him.

Ghada Karmi for the words of support.

Robert Wyatt for the spirit.

The artists: Nizar Al Issa, Enzo Zirili, Ben Bastin. The Unthanks, Ros Stephen  & the Sigamos Quartet, Yaron Stavi, Eddie Hick, Frank Harrison, Shadia Mansour, Tali Atzmon,  Stormtrap, Rory McLeod, Clevland Watkiss, Peter King, Oren Marshal, Seb Rochford and Alex Garnet.

Maramia Café for the best Humus in town. Here is my new peace resolution. ‘Two People One Humus’.

Free Gaza for the support.

Twinning with Palestine for the effort and support.

606 Jazz club, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Vortex Jazz Club, Jazzcds.co.uk. London Student Union.

All our friends who took care of it all, the Box Office, the raffle Tickets, the merchandise, stage management etc.

All of you who donated to the event.

And all of you out there who supported us all along.

Salam, Gilad.

– Gilad Atzmon is a writer and jazz musician living in London. He is the author of several books. His latest CD is In Loving Memory of America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.gilad.co.uk.

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