Nisville Jazz Festival, bringing the finest of world’s jazz to the Balkans

Milena Mihajlovic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Imagine a brave dissonance that reflects a unique atmosphere and emotion. Imagine the relaxing saxophone tones occasionally broken with some futuristic elements. Imagine the irresistible urge to dance, swing your hips, and whistle an unknown tune. Imagine the grandmothers in colorful dresses, wearing a striking makeup that contrasts their white hair. Imagine a youth in their 20s discovering the purifying jazz sounds and a new way of music. Imagine the dedicated and educated musicians that preserve the contemporary spirit of jazz. Now, imagine that all what I’ve described is not an American movie from the 1970s. Welcome to the Nisville Jazz Festival in Serbia, held annually every year during August.

Ever since 1995, the city of Nis has been a jazz capital of Southeastern Europe, bringing the finest of world’s jazz to the Balkans. The Nisville Jazz Festival is one of the rare events that focuses on quality over the quantity, striving to mix the well-known jazz names and promising newcomers, during the four days long music program. Each year, it welcomes more than 100.000 people to the gates of the medieval fortress, where it’s held. Naturally, the program has evolved over the years and grew to contain several different stages with a diverse program like Movie Summit, Jazz Festival, and Jazz Theater.

Nisville Movie Summit

Previously known as “Nisville Movie Stage”, it expectedly matured to become an event within an event. As an integral part of the Nisville manifestation, the Nisville Movie Summit aims to bring filmmakers of artistic and indie movies together, embracing on their unique connection with jazz music. We notice there are two parts of the summit: the first one being a competition that features documentaries, feature films, and silent movies, mostly produced by the Academy students and international artists and musicians. The movie summit is a great way to remind the viewers that filmmaking is an art by itself, much deeper and more demanding than the “big budget production” of the Hollywood industry. There is still an art, a creativity and a more profound message. The second part is an exhibition that shows more popular and already established movies like Miles Away, Bird, Maria by Callas, Artist, etc.

Nisville International Jazz Festival

The epicenter of the Nisville manifestation is The Nisville Jazz Festival, featuring some of the loudest names on the international jazz scene. The main program is concentrated on the Earth&Sky stage, that consists of two podiums used evenly by the performers, lowering the time between the performances. There are several smaller stages that focus on alternative jazz music and performers: Youth stage - featuring promising young musicians, Open stage - featuring experimental and fusion sounds and Midnight Jazzdance Stage that brings the most skilled DJs who play with jazz, soul and funk beats to create an authentic, all night long, party. The Nisville Jazz Festival is often labeled as a unique event because it promotes the American jazz musicians in this part of Europe. It also intertwines the program with the Asian and European musicians, along with a small tribute to the traditional Balkan sounds and local performers.

Nisville Jazz Theater

Another new addition to spice up the artistic mixture at the cultural summer in the city of Nis, and an integral part of the Nisville Jazz Festival, is the Nisville Jazz Theater. The idea behind the Nisville Jazz Theater, the third pillar of Nisville, is to show how jazz music expands into other areas of art and promotes the artistic performances, plays, exhibitions and dance performances as an important part of the international art scene. The Jazz Theater program for 2018 was open for visitors on the week before the start of main music program with various performances and workshops at several locations around the city and in the fortress. The main music program was followed by numerous plays for kids, performed in the open-air amphitheater and free of charge.

A famous American jazz magazine “DownBeat” marked the Nisville Jazz Festival as one of the most important jazz festivals in the world, for its colorful program and expanding artistic influence. British “The Guardian” put it on the list of the ten best jazz festivals in Europe as well. The best acknowledgment for the Nisville Jazz Festival is the growing list of the world’s finest jazz names that it’s bringing to the Balkans: Stanley Jordan, Candy Dulfer, Solomon Burke, Mungo Jerry Blues Band, The Original Blues Brothers, Kyle Eastwood, Nouvelle Vague, Gypsy Kings and many others.

A fantastic atmosphere and an excellent program make the Nisville Jazz Festival one of the must-visit summer festivals in Serbia. Furthermore, it marks Nis as a lively city and a colorful music and artistic capital that’s certainly worth visiting and exploring.

Many thanks to the official Nisville Jazz Festival team for providing information and photos.

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