By Merje Jarv-Griffiths
TALLINN - As we draw closer to Christmas, it’s once again time to listen to the mellow sounds of the annual Christmas Jazz (Joulujazz) festival, which takes place from Dec. 4 - 17 in various locations around Estonia. This year’s main performer will be Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa, and if you want to hear them book now – their first concert on Dec. 4 is already sold out.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a male choral group that sings in the isicathamiya and mbube a cappella vocal styles, both of which originated from South African Zulu tradition. The eight-man group rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his “Graceland” album.
LBM was formed in 1960 by Joseph Shabalala, who still leads the group, and has become one of South Africa’s prolific recording artists, with releases receiving gold and platinum disc honors.
The group’s name is derived from three words that are important to the musicians: Ladysmith is the name of their home town ; “black” refers to the strongest black oxen on the farms and the Zulu word “mambazo” means “axe” and refers to the group’s ability to “cut down” all the competition. In fact, LBM is musically so good that they were eventually forbidden to enter competitions but were welcomed to entertain at them. The Grammy award winning group has recorded with top artists such as Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Josh Groban, and The Wynans.
Festival goers will also have the privilege of hearing the velvety baritones of Peter Elridge who will be performing this time with the Peter Elridge Group. The American vocalist has previously performed in Estonia with the New York Voices. Elridge has been described as a stylish singer, continuing in the traditions melodic poetry where music supports a poetic message and enchants the listeners with emotion. He has released three solo albums and composed several pop jazz songs.
Other highlights include Tuomo from Finland and Dhafer Youssef ja Vox Clamantis (Tunisia- Estonia).
Tuomo Prattala rose to the the attention of the soul music circuits in Finland in 2007 with the release of his debut album “My Thing,” which critics have counted among the best jazz records ever produced in Finland. Tuomo’s music is stylish and well balanced, and the new album has quickly found its way to the hearts of both critics and listeners.
Basing his music on the Islamic traditional and Sufi sounds, the singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef mixes modern digital and Arabic sounds with other types of tunes, and has expressed an affinity for the music of India and Nordic countries. At this year’s Christmas Jazz he will be performing alongside Estonian ensemble Vox Clamantis who are best known for their Gregorian chant music.
Other artists performing during the two-week festival include the Anomie Orchestra from Sweden, as well as respected Estonians Liisi Koikson and the Siim Aimla ensemble, the Usna Vaikne Duo, Siiri Sisask and the Kristjan Randalu quartet, Hedvig Hanson, James Werts and the Estonian Radio Children’s Choir, Johanson & Brothers, Willane Bluus, Kaire Vilgats and Riho Sibul.
All in all, this year’s Christmas Jazz promises to be a real treat.