INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER CESTER, manager of ICEC Music Area
“Barcelona is the perfect city to hold a jazz meeting”
- What’s your connection with jazz? Is it a genre you often listen to?
My background as a music lover is more connected to classical music, but jazz has always been there too in one way or another. In fact, the connections throughout the 20th century are numerous. Beyond knowing the big names of jazz history, my experience, first as a journalist and later as a cultural manager, has given me the chance to have closer contact with jazz, though I wouldn’t call myself an expert.
- Do you think the genre is doing well in Catalunya and Spain in general? Do you think the number of devotees has risen?
I’d say it’s in splendid health artistically. Alongside the big names with great careers, who are luckily still active, the new generations of musicians are showing that there is talent here, and they are becoming more and more well-trained and qualified. In terms of the audience, the question is more complex, but if we consult newspaper libraries, we can see that the supposed ill health of the jazz scene has been a recurring topic for years. An yet here it is, alive and well.
- Do you think a meeting like JAZZ I AM is needed in the city of Barcelona?
Any opportunity to come into contact with other professionals from the sector is positive, and by historic tradition, because of its concert halls and festivals, and the presence of top musicians and schools, Barcelona is the perfect city for holding a meeting focused on jazz.
- What needs does it cover for the sector? Does it meet an existing need?
In Catalunya we have the Mercat de la Música Viva de Vic (The Vic Live Music Festival) which is a magnificent forum for networking between professionals. But a sector with specific needs such as jazz, with an industrial structure that is on a smaller scale than other genres, a specialised meeting such as JAZZ I AM is really beneficial.
- What does an event like this bring to the sector?
For a start, as the sector grows, allowing people to share challenges, problems and experiences is always positive. What’s more, the chance to make direct contact with professionals both at national and international level is an opportunity that the Catalan jazz sector should embrace.
- Do you think there’s a lack of events like JAZZ I AM in Catalunya and in the rest of the country, where national acts can be brought to international markets?
In Catalunya we have complementary initiatives which help to promote local talent, both at national and international level. JAZZ I AM has been added to the map where we can also find the Mercat de Música Viva de Vic and, more focused on World Music, the Fira Mediterrània de Manresa. And Catalan Arts –the international brand of the Instituto Catalán de las Empresas Culturales-, has represented the sector at international meetings such as Jazzahead. But any new initiative which offers more opportunities for our musicians is more than welcome.
- Do you think JAZZ I AM could be of interest to other professionals from outside the world of jazz?
The boundaries between genres can at times be blurred and there are a programmers and professionals with very eclectic profiles. It’s therefore evident that JAZZ I AM could be advantageous for professionals who are not specialised in jazz.
- Popular music has often suffered from a lack of institutional support. Do you think there is still a lot of work to be done?
There’s a lot to be done in many areas and the resources available have not always been what we would have liked. However, with the tools available a lot of effort has been made to support all types of initiatives in order to attend to the needs of the sector, from festivals to record labels and from strategic markets to attendance of international fairs, to give just a few examples.
- You’ve been managing the Music Department of ICEC for a year now. How would you say it is going?
It has been a very intense year, with permanent dialogue between associations and companies in the sector in order to get a real understanding of the challenges they face. The budget delays have been a big limitation, but this year’s approval of the budgets will provide the sector with much-needed oxygen and drive forward new projects.