SEDUction and emotion in the open air

If it’s July, it is the Garana International Jazz Festival “,
you will hear the lovers of cultural tourism saying at different events.

If you have never listened to jazz in nature, you should come at least once to the most famous Banat festival, which reached its twentieth edition in 2016. It is the most beautiful and the largest outdoor event in the South East of Europe.

Let yourself seduced by this music for four days, from Thursday to Sunday, in The Wolf
’ Glade of the village of Garana, music that cannot be “sung” aloud, but expresses everything that cannot be said by words, generically called, JAZZ. It is a unique mixture of sounds coming from different cultures, with acoustic cascades, richness of harmony, scenic inflections and sudden changes in the atmosphere. Under the magic of sounds, close your eyes and let your mind dance and everything turns into pictures, touches and emotions. Listen to music until you feel that everything is clear and easy within you.

I will convince you by telling you the success story of the festival grace to a skilful management and a seductive “viral” marketing, as it was experienced and narrated by Marius Giura, the organizer and the “master of the festival”, by George Tăus, one of the founders of the  festival and the “cook” of the beef goulash, and the well-known jazzman Florian Lungu, the host of the festival and the festival’s “man with the jokes”.

The idea of
a jazz festival was born in a barn, at Hromadka, in Brebu Nou (1996 – the pilot edition), then it moved to the yard with the first seven editions (1997-2003) at Gangi Tăuş’s “La Răscruce” Inn, and the last and also the majority editions (2004-2012) took place at the Wolf’s Glade, at the entrance to Gărâna, where the “Jazz Banat” Cultural Foundation, led by Marius Giura, managed to make it “the biggest festival from Romania. “[Jazz Festival Garana- program, Lungu L, 2009].

The International Jazz Festival was born on August 8, 1997. One year before (1996), in Brebu Nou, in Hromadka’s barn, a handful of jazz enthusiasts met and played “in the family” at the 0th edition of the festival, under the name of “Brebu Barn Jazz Festival”. Puba and Erika Hromadka, Paul and Herta Weiner, Oscar Berger, Constantin Grangure, Eugen Gondi, Kamocsa Bela, Liviu Butoi and George Tăuş are the founders of this festival.

As the inn from Brebu Nou was no longer roomy enough for the large number of “jazz friends”, in the summer of the beginning of the festival, in 1997, the event moved to Garana, at La Răscruce Inn, under the name “The Brebu-Garana Jazz Festival “- First edition. It was” a friendly singing session “in the yard of the inn, in a wonderful place, the village of Gărâna, with a history specific only to Mountainous Banat.

The touristic village of Garana (Wolfsberg) is located 38 km from Reşiţa, while Brebu Nou (Weidentahl) is 45 km away, on the county road DJ582:

Resita (0) – Furnaces (8) – Văliug (25) – Prislop (33)

Garana (38) – Three Waters (43) – Brebu Nou (45).

The villages have the aspect of small “Swiss districts”, located on the slope, at an altitude of almost 1 000 m, as two “twin settlements” sharing a common history in their existence.

The Pems, as the Germans were called by the Banat inhabitants, were among the last colonists in Banat, who came from Bohemia in 1827. Their purpose was to work in the woods and to supply charcoal for the Reşiţa furnaces. Over the years, until 1991, there were all there, a German ethnic group with specific garments, mountain people with a clean prosperity, displayed by the beautiful houses painted in white and green and by the geranium at the windows.

They have gained a good reputation for the skill of cultivating potatoes and preparing dairy products such as sweet cheese, butter and cream.

Throughout the Communism, these people did not seem willing to leave. And yet, after the Revolution of 1989, the villages were abandoned. In 1991, all of a sudden, at the village teacher’s signal, almost all of the inhabitants from the village went to Germany in one year.

It seemed that both settlements would follow the same road of “ruin” as the third village of Pems, Lindenfeld, which had been permanently abandoned in the 1970s.

Their chance, almost unexpected, was that in the 1990s the houses were bought at low prices by the inhabitants from Timisoara and, in part, by those from Resita, mountain and culture lovers. They have restored the houses with great taste, preserving to a large extent the specificity of the place. “Suddenly the places began to get a fresh air: art, fir, creek, old German names, and hostels.”[Jazz Fest Garana – program, Vighi D., 2009].

For tourists, Garana meant “rest and relaxation” and the recreation or the pleasure were almost completely absent.

At a time when everything “descended” in tourism, the first jazz fans went up the Semenic, to the pension called” At Crossroads” in Garana.

In the first two editions of the festival (1997, 1998) there were only “voices of the house” and the soloists were singing for pleasure and in a very relaxing atmosphere.

Only from the third edition of the festival (1999) new names started to come to the inn, the festival was publicized and the audience reached a three digit number.

The fourth edition of the year 2000 was an end to a new beginning. It is the year when the festival passes from the auspices of the Jazz Banat Cultural Foundation to the organization of Marius Giura & co. with new ambitions: “I wanted the festival in Garana to enter the circuit of the big jazz festivals. Garana is a space that I have created for myself. “[Gărâna Jazz Festival program, Giura M., 2009].

Starting with this edition, the festival lasts for three days.

The 5th edition is the renaissance of the festival through the emphasis on novelty and promotion. The court of the inn becomes smaller for the crowd, reaching a four-digit number. The year 2001 is unforgettable for many due to the recitals of Teodora Enache and Jonny Răducanu. They will be followed in the following years by Anca Panghel, Aura Urziceanu, Berti Barbera s.a.

The “Romanian jazz edition” followed, which broke the mouth of the fair, so that in 2003 it would be the last edition organised at the pavilion of the inn “At the Crossroad”, becoming too small: “The child grew up and had to take his flight.” [Gărâna Jazz Festival program, Tăuş G., 2010].

From 2004 until today, the International Jazz Festival from Gărâna is held at the Wolf’s Valley and now lasts for four days.

Why in this place? Because here the Lupo Company and its founder,  Rudi Koertvelzessy offered the land, becoming the “hosts” of the festival. Because in Wolf’s Valley everything sings. The first to sing is NATURE. It is the song of the water of the Garden passing at the end of the field, it is the song of the rumble and the rustle of the surrounding woods and it is the song of the chirping of the birds. Even the German name, Wolfsberg, is a song because a wolf’s hill does not exist without hearing their cries to the moon.

Sing and play day and night.

One sings during the day only for those who want to hear. It is the song of the rubbed floors of the remaining houses from the village, of the closing and opening gates of the hostels, of the saws preparing wood for the winter, of the thread in the fishermen’ reel, of the tires that “get in pits” on Prislop – Gărâna – Three Waters – Slatina Timiş. Cheerful song. Sad song. Echo song.

The night song is the most searched for. At night the following come to sing: violins, guitars, saxophones, trumpets, clarinets and drums. Only the piano gets harder to the “top of the mountain”. They are brought by jazz musicians from all over the world: America, Japan, Israel, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, England, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Cuba and, of course Romania. They sing in duo, trio, quartet or quintet. Rather solo, because jazz is a group music.

The jazz music in Garana changes with the times and with the artists of the story that wants to be endless. Since 2011, traditional American jazz, “the music of the blacks who worked on the plantations” represented and played by Louis Armstrog, is changed with the contemporary jazz, being promoted in Garana as a new line imposed by Europeans, mostly Nordic. Nowadays, jazz from Garana is more than “a fashion” for those who have come to 1000 m altitude and it has become a seduction and an emotion.

The event-loving tourist can be seduced by skill and attracted by emotion.

The outdoor scene at “MusiCal Ranch” – the festival’s perimeter – has a width of 6 m and a length of 12 m. The spectators’ places are only on the logs. Therefore, it is preferable to come on daylight to get a seat.

The show begins in a clean, nocturnal mountain light. As you stand facing the scene, on the right hand is the hill bending lazily with the wooden horse of the sculpture park; on the left hand is the village of Garana vibrating in rhythm with the music up to “Up in the village”; in front is the Garden of Grădiştea, with its restless eye, which, under the white mire of the moon, breaks the image of the fir forest crushing it; in the back there is the festival’s “cuisine” with the beef goulash, grilled trout, bean with bacon, boiled corn, pancakes, homemade chocolate, boiled wine and other culinary goodies; above there are the moon and stars or clouds and rain. Semenic is famous for its 150 rainy days a year, of which at least one will be during the festival.

There are usually 12 stage group appearances, four on an evening.

The geometric logic of the festival days is one in which the music occupies the royal throne among other cultural acts: painting, sculpture or photo exhibitions, book launches and DVDs.

After leaving Garana you will feel like a part of you remains there in that place, calling you back each year in the hottest month to return to the Lapus Valley, from which the jazz echoes everywhere.

Good to know:

1. Accommodation is always hard to find. For each tourist there are two ways to reach the festival: as a “lone wolf” or “in a gang”. In any case, it is advisable to make your reservations in time for accommodation at a guesthouse, hotel / hostel or holiday house from the resorts: Garana, Brebu Nou, Trei Ape, Văliug, Crivaia or Semenic. As all accommodations are occupied throughout the festival, the only option to stay is the tent. The campsite stretches across the valley from Garana to Three Waters.

2. Global warming or not, it happens the same way every year: during the day it is deadly hot and at night we almost freeze from cold. Pack in your backpack a warm blouse; no matter that it is summer. In the evening, the cold sets in quickly in the Wolf’s Valley. Sitting on logs, everyone is wrapped in blankets to cope with the cold of the mountain nights.

3. Rain does not really backs us up. It fools around on Mount Semenic, coming when you least expect it. Having a cape or umbrella and rubber boots means you being really careful.

4. In the middle of the night, the smoke of the cigarette is filtered into the o zone of the forest. At the ranch, smoking is not a vice, but a gesture of spectators to the trance of musicians.

5. From the “Crossroads” the jazz moved to the Wolf’s Valley with all the beef goulash of Gigi Tăuş, “inherited” from the beginnings. It is the favourite food of the participants. From time to time you can retreat to a goulash and a cup of boiled wine or at least for a coffee at dawn;

6. Do not be afraid of a tornado, of a sudden storm, nor of booing for those who have come to the festival just to be seen;

7. On Semenic the blueberries have a special taste, like the salad of the forest mushrooms or sweet cheese, butter and cream from the “Mill House”. Do not leave without tasting them;

8. By day, among your sleeping hours, try to stroll around. You will see how your eyes are comforted the brightly coloured nature. Everything is in colour: white daisies, yellow lemongrass, blood-purple of the blueberries and blackberries, dark red of the rosehips, the shades of mushrooms in the woods contrasting the wild roses and the pine nuts;

9. Parking and camping are not solved the way we would like. There are hundreds of tents and thousands of empty bottles in the containers along the Grădişte River, while the cars are lined up on the side of the road;

10. The price of the ticket depends on the organizers. But the jazz bands are not cheap. And a ticket costs less than at another festival anywhere else in Europe: 15 Euros for a day or 50 Euros throughout the festival.

The Garana Jazz Fest has become an internationally renowned festival not only because of the high value of the musicians who get on stage, but also because of the participants coming as music and nature lovers, in growing number from one edition to another, in geometrical progression, reaching almost 13,000 spectators on Saturdays,  in the recent years.

Since 1997, a jazz seed has arrived near the peak of Mount Semenic, it formed roots, grew up and became a large, fertile tree, under whose crown, year after year, available people gather, eager for excitement in the open air.

Garana brings new jazz fans every year. For them, however, jazz is no longer just a form of music; it is a way of life and a way of feeling the revolt of emotion against the restriction of the freedom of existing. Because like the hungry wolves were coming to the clearing, so are the hungry people coming now for music and identity.

Now in Garana we can no longer speak of the “loneliness of the long track runner.” As Timiş river, the largest river of Banat, was born out of “Three Waters”, Grădişte, Semenic and Brebu, united in the reservoir with the same name, the International Jazz Festival of Gărâna brought to Gărâna, still in July, two other genres: folk and rock.

The Gărâna Jazz Fest
, The Gărâna Folk and The Gărâna Rock are “three festivals” for a great project: Semenic Fest.

Pay attention to the surprises prepared every year by Marius Giura and the Banta Cultural Jazz Foundation:!

Let’s hope that during the jazz weekend at Garana it will rain only with … applause!

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