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Daina Urbanavičienė

(Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Jazz scene identity and its transformation in Lithuania


It is essential to note the different conditions for the development of jazz in the countries of Western Europe, Central Europe, especially in Hungary and Poland, and Lithuania. In the cultural policy of the socialist countries, there was a certain shift from socialist realism to the modernist aesthetic and postmodernism in the 1960s and 1970s. As musical styles have evolved, there are signs of hope, fear, decadence, and modernity in jazz. Likewise, its “representative” functions were closely tied to the political environment around it - the Cold War, the peace movement, decolonization, race, and cross-cultural dialogues reflecting the post-war world. Jazz is a site of discursive politics and lends itself to multiple interpretations. After Stalin's death, the communist government sought to control the musical impact of jazz in society by creating officially sanctioned jazz scenes. This led to the creation of new jazz festivals, the publication of jazz magazines and the opening of jazz cafes. In an unfree society, it is an object of repression, but it also serves as a medium of resistance and solidarity. The “diasporic” nature of jazz makes it a piece of culturally hybrid and colourful music. The institutionalized, domesticated, de-Americanized and localized jazz scene has produced many non-American jazz musicians who have travelled the world, such as the Poles Krzysztof Komeda and Adam Makowicz and the Lithuanian collective, the Ganelin Trio. I will highlight the phenomenon of the Ganelin Trio, which combined jazz with academic music, folklore and theatrical performances, attracting great attention abroad. The new style of jazz, called “free jazz”, quickly attracted attention abroad, helping record studio Leo Records, founded in 1979. The Ganelin Trio was invited to the Berlin Jazz Festival (Berliner Jazztage) in 1980, performed in the United Kingdom in 1984 and participated in the New York Jazz Festival in 1986. This group put Lithuania on the map of world jazz history.

Short biography

Daina Urbanavičienė is a PhD student in musicology and a lecturer at the Lithuanian Academy. She is a Deputy Culture Minister for Professional Art furthermore, she was Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Council for Culture from 2013 until 2021, and a Chairwoman of the Vilnius Academy of Art from 2019 until 2021. She is one of the main organizers of the Street Musician’s Day, and the founder and a long-term organizer/producer of the festival Vilnius Culture Night.