Who was who in innovative music: The 26th “Ring Ring” is finished

Who was who in innovative music: The 26th “Ring Ring” is finished

The twenty-sixth edition of the Ring Ring, Belgrade’s festival of new, avant-garde, experimental, improv and free jazz music, ended on May 26, 2022, at the Jewish Cultural Center. That evening, Phil Minton and Szilárd Mezei performed as did Echo Pointers quartet.

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It is an incredible feeling when the preparations for the twenty-sixth edition of Ring Ring Festival, just six months after the previous, jubilee edition, result not only in the expected good concerts but also in a fantastically dedicated, numerous audience and great atmosphere.

As previously, the 25th edition of the festival was postponed three times due to a pandemic and concert restrictions, and finally performed at the end of 2021, we were wondering if it makes sense for this year’s edition to be in the usual May term. But the dilemma did not last long.

As many times before, the desire to present innovative musicians and their sound creations to the audience nullifies any doubt. In the end, thanks to the support from various sides, we achieved another great festival, with ten concerts in five evenings. However, it is divided into two parts, between which three days have passed, but it is intense and surrounded by a real festival atmosphere.

Those who failed to reach the Jewish Cultural Center “Oneg Shabbat” and the Drugstore Club are sure to hear these days about what they missed. From the re-appearance (now double) of drummer Tony Buck in front of the Belgrade audience, in two different and great duos, to the world premiere of the Echo Pointers quartet, according to the age of its members of the youngest band at the festival.

When we started thinking about the program, the only sure thing was the trio Gordan – whose fresh debut album (“Down in the Meadow” / Morphine Records, 2021) set new boundaries in the fusion of alternative and traditional music – as well as the duo Phil Minton and Szilárd Mezei, planned for last year, but also cancelled before the 25th festival, for justified reasons.

But, as always, offers began to arrive that we could not refuse. The DDK trio (Jacques Demierre, Axel Dörner, Jonas Kocher) flew in like an ace at eleven. The proposal to host a local trio of Predrag Okiljević, Marko Čurčić and Aleksandar Škorić, in a special project Echo Pointers with Finnish saxophonist Adele Sauros, relied heavily on our concept of giving local musicians the opportunity to present their collaborations with foreign guests. Ever since Drugstore gave the idea that Rabih Beaini, the owner of the Morphine Records label (for which the album was released by Gordan), would perform the same night as Gordan, the skeleton of the 26th Ring Ring program was clear.

At that time, however, the budget of the festival was not yet known, but we have already contacted some of the desired performers, just in case, with a request to wait for the final decision. Some wanted to, but as the wait dragged on, they had to buy their tickets for a flight across the Atlantic and meet another audience there. And just then, about a month and a half before the festival, the great Canadian orchestra GGRIL (with which a performance was agreed in 2020, but, of course, could not be realized), with the message: “We are coming to Europe, count on us”. Our answer was: “Oops… And, money?”, to which GGRIL replied: “If there is, great, if not, we are definitely coming”.

We have already had such cases in the history of the festival… Musicians who create this, different music, have an approach that gives you new energy and easily accept them as your own – warm and professional. As the budget was confirmed only on April 29, the program was closed and announced only two weeks before the start of the festival. It seemed that we had too little time for promotion, but when everyone in the team does their job with so much enthusiasm, the result was seen on the first night of the festival.

The Jewish Cultural Center, which most of us still call Rex, had the atmosphere we remember from 10 years ago – radiant faces, crowds at the entrance, a line for buying tickets, chatting about the program, great performances … The audience and the media will write and talk about music and impressions …

From our point of view, it seemed unreal. The audience was extremely dedicated, the concerts were memorable, and the musicians were immensely satisfied. After a one-night trip to the Drugstore club, where the garden was opened with this part of the festival program, we returned to Jevrejska 16 on Saturday, again with the same schedule – acoustic band on the floor, next to the audience, and then more sounded and louder on stage.

The Quebec GGRIL (14 stress-free musicians despite a long European tour and constant unpacking and packing of complete equipment) was followed by The Fruitful Darkness. It was the return of the Italian saxophonist Gianni Gebbia in front of the Belgrade audience after 24 years, this time in a duo with the “inevitable” Tony Buck. An explosion of enthusiasm in the audience and enthusiastic comments in front of the JKC building rounded off this evening.

After a break of three days (let’s add that weather also served us), it couldn’t have started better. We first listened to one of the most important improvisers of our time, Joëlle Léandre and her double bass. It’s hot in the hall, but no one comes out – listening carefully has obviously become a recognizable feature of the Ring Ring audience, which is why Joëlle herself was delighted after the concert. She gladly joined in the conversations with the visitors, she sold out all the CDs, but she also returned to the hall when the concert of the Jasna Jovićević Quinary started.

This is another characteristic of these creative artists – the desire to hear others, to discover, to make contact. It is wonderful to see them in the audience and how before or after their own performance they follow the creation of their colleagues, known or unknown.

Jasna Jovićević presented, for the first time in the region, her quintet and music from the last two albums. Great gig.

On the last evening, there were a lot of FMU students in the audience, who attended the previous evenings in a slightly smaller number. Nataša Penezić, pianist and professor at the Piano Department, encouraged her students to come to the twenty-sixth edition of the Ring Ring and discover something new. We met their needs and allowed everyone to attend the concerts for free. Because it’s nice to have enthusiasm spread.

Last year’s agreed, but unrealized performance of vocal improvisation veteran Phil Minton and our improviser Szilárd Mezei once again nailed the audience to their chairs, even though it was even warmer in the hall.

During the break, but also after the second concert (Echo Pointers), in front of the entrance to the building, enthusiastic musicians debated, who played at the festival this or previous years, and with them the audience… It is difficult to accept that the festival is over and we should go home.

The festival was organized by the Ring Ring Association from Belgrade, with the help of the Music Information Centre of Serbia.


Who is who in innovative music: 26th “Ring Ring” is approaching

Who is who in innovative music: 26th “Ring Ring” is approaching

The leading regional festival of new and improvised music, Ring Ring – which was declared the Festival of Regional Importance for 2021 a few days ago, according to the selection of the magazine “Muzika Klasika” – awaits us in its regular May term. The 26th Ring Ring will be held in Belgrade, at the Jewish Cultural Center and the Drugstore Club, from May 19 to 26, 2022. 

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When the first Ring Ring festival began at the Rex Cultural Center on May 23, 1996, we could only hope that the festival would last for more than a quarter of a century. The list of over 350 concerts held over the past 26 years could be labeled as: “Who’s Who in Innovative Music”. Fortunately, the list of artists and art projects shows a tendency towards infinity, so the organizers of the Ring Ring festival easily draw inspiration and energy to design a quality program every year.

This year, the program includes 5 concert evenings, with the participation of musicians from 12 countries and it’s gonna happen only 6 months after the jubilee, 25th edition of the festival, held at an unusual time in November due to the situation with the pandemic at the time. Last year, the festival returned to where its life began – in Jevrejska 16, in the former Rex, today’s Jewish Cultural Center “Oneg Shabbat”, but it was also held at the Drugstore club. Both locations will also host the 26th edition of the Ring Ring.

This year, the focus is also on cooperation between local and foreign artists. The Gordan trio consists of Berlin musicians Guido Möbius and Andy Stecher and Serbian singer Svetlana Spajić. Their last year’s debut album “Down in the Meadow” has already found a place on several world music charts. The owner of “Morphine Records”, which released the album, Rabih Beaini will perform the same evening as a DJ (formerly artistic name: DJ Morphosis). That whole night will be enriched by several local DJs’ sets by the morning, in the popular Drugstore club.

The performances of Phil Minton and Szilard Mezei, as well as the Echo Pointers quartet, at the Ring Ring are part of their premiere, May tours, which ends right with performances at the final evening of the Ring Ring festival.

The quintet of composer and multi-instrumentalist Jasna Jovićević, that consists of well-known local musicians, is also a local trump card. Jasna delighted the audience with her trio at the “Belgrade Jazz Festival”, 2021, and this will be an opportunity to present a new, five-member band to the Belgrade audience.

Among the main stars of this year’s festival is Joëlle Léandre, the leading French and world double bass player in the field of avant-garde and improvised music. Although she has been performing for almost half a century, Joëlle is still extremely popular at festivals around the world. She performed at the Ring Ring only in the festival’s introductory event, in 2009, as a musician in the play “Sho-Bo-Gen-Zo” by Jozsef Nadj.

Another music veteran at the 26th Ring Ring is the already mentioned English singer Phil Minton, also a good acquaintance of the Belgrade audience.

Drummer Tony Buck (member of the trio The Necks) is coming to Belgrade again, but this time as a member of two duos – one with guitarist Andy Moore (The Ex) and the other with Italian saxophonist Gianni Gebbia.

The spectacle at the 26th Ring Ring will certainly feature a concert by the fourteen-member band GGRIL from Montreal.

The festival will be opened by the DDK Trio (Jacques Demierre / Axel Dörner / Jonas Kocher), and will be closed by the Echo Pointers quartet, in which three of our young musicians from Novi Sad will be joined by Adele Sauros from Finland.

The festival was supported by: Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, Goethe Institute in Belgrade, Austrian Cultural Forum Belgrade, Pro Helvetia, Cantons of Geneva and Bern, City of Bill / Bien, Canadian Arts Council, Quebec Arts and Literature Council, Embassy of Finland in Belgrade, Jewish Cultural Center “Oneg Shabbat”, Drugstore, RadioAparat and škart.

The festival is organized by the Ring Ring Association from Belgrade, with the help of the Music Information Centre of Serbia.

Tickets for the 26th Ring Ring can be purchased from Saturday, May 7, on the website and tickets.rs stores, as well as at the Jewish Cultural Center and the Drugstore Club during the festival. The ticket price is 500 dinars per night, and a set of tickets costs 2,100 dinars. A special note refers to the evening at the Drugstore Club. Namely, buying a ticket for this evening at the price of 500 dinars, requires coming to the very beginning of the evening (concert of Gordan), with the possibility of attending all further events, because that ticket is valid for an all-night party. If you miss that first concert, you have to pay 300 dinars more at the entrance to Drugstore, because the price for the concert of Rabiah Beaini and the subsequent performances of local DJs is 800 dinars.


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