Garana is an isolated village, which you can only reach by changing a few trains and buses, and which is the venue of one of the most famous jazz festivals in Romania and the largest outdoors jazz festival in Eastern Europe.
One of the organizers is Marius Giura, and he told us that eighteen years ago, in a place called The Crossroads Inn, a few artists from Timisoara started a jam session, which lasted two days on end. They invited over their friends and family, and enough people gathered to start a festival.
Marius Giura: “It was a few jazz musicians from Timisoara who came up with the idea. They had left the country and came back after 1990. This inn, having the only restaurant in the area, and a large courtyard, was the perfect place for a concert. They called it a festival because they played for a couple of days straight, a bunch of other bands joined them, and then the famous Mircea Tiberian showed up, with some other musicians who were living in Germany. That is how the festival started.”
How do you turn a festival started in the courtyard of an inn into the largest outdoor festival in Eastern Europe? How do you put a village in Banat on the map of the best jazz events?
Marius Giura said that you need a lot of ambition and the wish to create something that fills a gap: “There was a real need for a parallel to the legendary festival of Sibiu, and Timisoara jazz had taken a lot of hits with so many famous musicians leaving the country, and it needed reviving. There was a real ambition to have each edition be better than the previous. This is how we got where we are today. It was enough to have the support of a woman from Timisoara, who brought in a headliner like Eberhard Weber, and then things picked up from one year to the next. Right now we have a European quality festival, on a par with the best of festivals. It was our goal to create a special event, which I believe is necessary for Romania.”
The festival grew in time, and moved from the inn courtyard to Poiana Lupului, a glade outside the village. In the meantime great names in jazz played in the festival: composer and pianist Hiromi Uehara, sax players Jan Garbarek and Charles Lloyd, among many others.
Marius Giura told us that the event in Garana is more than a string of jazz recitals: “Garana is a mountain village at 1000 m of altitude, where everything is unique, from the audience seats to the nature around. It is a place where in daytime you have 40 degrees Celsius, and during the night it plummets to 4 or 5 degrees. Jean-Luc Ponty, when he played here, said that in his 55-year long career he only saw a similar place in the Rocky Mountains, 20 or 25 years ago. The audience is unique too. I wish we could have everywhere people like that, who love culture, beauty, who don’t mind the difficult weather and sit outdoors to listen to jazz in Garana.”
It rains almost every time during the festival. The veterans told us that in 2010 they had a deluge, the rushing waters washed away the tents. Some in the audience fled back to their cities.
Ioana Taut has been photographing for years the stars who perform here: “Almost every year we had rain, cold and foggy weather. This is a small price to pay for enjoying the richness that the festival gives us. It has too much to offer, for us to not be able to overlook the adversities of the weather. I think a lot of people see Garana as of a home away from home, a second family.”
Marius Giura told us that one of his joys is to see the children who were playing around the stage in the beginning bringing over their own children. Garana is already a family event.
Vlad Eftenie told us of his first contact with the festival:
“I wanted to get here because it seemed to me as if it was at the end of the earth. You have to change trains and buses to get here. When I got here in 2010, I found a community. Tents, a copse of trees, a stage. It was rainy and foggy. I remember Florian Lungu navigating the mud to get to the stage. It is a special place, a different experience.”
This year, the 18th edition of the festival starts on July 10. Concerts will spread to the nearby villages of Brebu Nou and Valiug, which have pipe organs in their churches. Among the guests are Joe DeFrancesco, one of the best organists in the world, as well as the quartet put together by Ulf Wakenius, guitarist for Oscar Peterson. We hope you will get there, but do remember to pack some warm clothes.