Monday, September 19, 2011

Dancin in the streets! Johzenji Jazz Fest

The weekend before last (Sept. 10th and 11th) was Sendai's Johzenji Jazz Festival. It had the misfortune this year of falling on both the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the 6 month anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake. There was a somber but hopeful mood at some of the events, with performers speaking in remembrance of the tragedies and looking forward to the future. But for the most part, the festival felt very optimistic and fun and it was a good chance for us to get out and enjoy some good music.

My favorite thing about the Jazz Fest is the way it spreads itself all over downtown, so that no matter where you go you're bound to run into some free concerts. Also the variety is great, with everything from blues to jazz to classical. Here are some of the highlights:

Delighted Groovers, gettin' their groove on in the station.
The manager of my school is a member of a gospel group, so I went to see their performance inside Sendai Station. They performed up on the balcony overlooking the main ticket gate in front of a fairly big crowd of onlookers. Some of the songs they performed included Amazing Grace and Oh Happy Day. They were great! (And now I can never go to karaoke with my manager again, for shame of my not-so-lovely singing voice.)

I met up with some friends who are into swing dancing and we went to see a Rockabilly band called Eldorado which does Elvis covers. It was great music to dance to!

Swing dancin! That'd be me in the maroon sweater.
We wandered around a bit and ate some deliciously unhealthy festival food, and discovered a really good blues group. Best of all, the lead singer and guitarist for the band was an older woman who was totally rocking the old blues songs. She even took the time to explain "hoochie koochie" to the mostly Japanese audience. 

Coolest obaachan ever.
We went to see the finale on the main stage after that, which included a famous jazz artist from Sweden (I believe), followed by the American military brass band. The Americans were really good, playing a variety of big band and jazz music.

I have never before seen jazz performed by so many people with buzz cuts.
It was a really fun, relaxing weekend that reminded me of how lucky we've all been to have been spared the worst of the disaster six months ago. Our lives have really gone back to normal and although I know none of us have forgotten what happened, it's good to remember while still being able to look forward.

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