Beginning with the infamous club night at The Lexington, it’s been a wonderful evolution for Ja Ja Ja Music over the past five years as they’ve seen the club night extend to Berlin and the second year of their music festival. Nordic culture is steadily securing its place within the British psyche and with the Ja Ja Ja Festival coming to our very own Great Hall, CUB Music jumped at the chance to chat with director of the festival, Anna Hildur, about the huge task of curating a festival and the acts she is most excited about seeing perform.
How are English crowds different in comparison to those from your home countries?
English crowds are great – they are open minded and normally very passionate when they are into something. I think we Nordics tend to be a bit more critical and reserved.
Do you believe that Nordic culture has had an influence on British culture, and if yes in what ways?
Yes, it has been happening gradually but I think people are looking North now as there has been an explosion in the creative field. For a start, it took the Brits a long time to get into the IKEA culture – but now they have really adapted to it (for better or worse). I mention that as an example of influence on everyday life and design around us. Swedish music has been making its mark for decades and, in Iceland, The Sugarcubes paved the road for the region’s alternative sound a long time ago. Ever since there has been a steady stream of interesting bands doing well here and impressing the UK. And of course you can add to that literature, food, design, technology, film and TV. There is definitely a creative spring in the Nordic region now that is having a global impact.
How has Ja Ja Ja changed since beginning five years ago, and in what ways will you be celebrating at the festival?
We started off as a club night at the Lexington. In the first year we had different curators for each night which really helped us spread the word. These included Huw Stephens, John Kennedy (XFM), Simon Raymonde (Bella Union), Steve Lamacq, Rich Thane (Line of Best Fit) and Sean Adams (Drowned In Sound) to name a few. We then developed a booking group that selects the acts for the nights, which now takes place on a monthly basis.
But the main change has been the development of our website at www.jajajamusic.com.This is now the best source of information for those looking for new acts coming out of the Nordic region. And we are also expanding. Last year we produced our first festival and this year we have also extended the club night to Berlin.
What challenges have you faced whilst directing the festival?
Festivals come with a lot of challenges. Firstly, you need to get the bill right, and the venues need to suit the event. But we have had great collaborators and the journey of developing the festival concept has been enjoyable for most parts.
Our aim is very much to celebrate our work at Ja Ja Ja and to increase the awareness of what we do – but at the same time we are working on creating a really immersive ‘Nordic Zone’ where a London audience can get the taste, smell, vision and sound of the Nordic region. For instance, at Queen Mary’s Great Hall, we are working with Antto Melasniemi who is a great award winning Finnish chef to curate our food programme. As part of this process, he went to Iceland and worked with Emiliana Torrini, who is our headliner, on creating a new Nordic street food theme for our food court. We will also be screening Bjork’s Biophilia: Live and highlighting some of the best videos from our countries curated by the Nordic Music Video Awards. And to top it off, we will run a bar with only Nordic drinks.
Why did you choose the Great Hall as your final venue of the weekend?
The festival is running over two venues this year. November 13th and 14th will see extended Ja Ja Ja club nights at our home base of The Lexington. But we also wanted to present an all-day event, and a 1000 capacity venue really suited our line-up this year. Our booker, Sofia Hagberg, had heard about the Great Hall – which hasn’t been used much for music recently but people are starting to notice it. And we just fell in love with it. It’s such a beautiful and historic building, and with great facilities for us to bring the food and film programme in as well.
Which acts are you most looking forward to seeing perform?
At the Great Hall, I am very much looking forward to seeing Byrta, from the Faro Islands, who will start the event – and also Jenny Wilson who I find a very powerful artist. But I know that Highasakite, Sin Cos Tan, When Saint Go Machine and Emiliana Torrini will all impress.
Further details about the Ja Ja Ja Festival can be found at www.jajajamusic.com/festival and tickets can be purchased at: www.billetto.co.uk/jajajafestival2014