The First 30 Years
Since our founding in 1981, over 200 CD productions have been released on our record label, likewise called JARO.
Among them are a number of albums which have been distinguished with music awards. The women’s choir Bulgarian Voices Angelite, for instance, was nominated for the Grammy in 1993, in 1995 Nusrath Fateh Ali Khan won the international music prize of the UNESCO, and the Warsaw Village Band was honoured with the BBC World Music Award in 2004.
In the course of our 30-year history and more then 180 music releases, JARO has always been distinguished by its broadmindedness with regard to style, producing jazz, classical music, European-Arabic music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, world music, pop and a number of projects that defy classification in the usual categories. This attitude goes hand in hand with a conspicuous willingness to take risks and the very stubborn pursuit of an individual profile which hardly takes recourse to popular trends – but sometimes anticipates them! Every year, JARO purposely publishes only a limited number of products – the products we can identify with. Our motto is: qualitative diversity. From the start, JARO has always placed itself entirely at the service of music and the musicians, setting its stakes on continuity: We have been working with many of our artists for more than twenty years.
In the beginning was a band from Finland…
For the record label JARO it all began 30 years ago with the Finnish band Piirpauke. Back then, the formation around the multi-instrumentalist Sakari Kukko was confronting the music critics in Germany and elsewhere with a number of riddles: Formally a jazz band, Piirpauke also played with rock elements, combining the whole thing with folklore found all over the world. In this context it should be pointed out that, at the time, terms now taken entirely for granted – for example ethno jazz, world music and world jazz – had not yet been invented; back then, people were making cautious use of the term “folk jazz.”
Uli Balss wanted to find a forum for this band and its highly suspenseful sound – both of which were virtually unknown outside Finland. Guided by the principle of “learning by doing,” Balss up and founded the record label JARO, his first production being the Piirpauke LP (we’re still talking vinyl here!) “Live in der Balver Höhle.”
Uli Balss was no newcomer to the music scene. In the town of Enger near Bielefeld in eastern Westphalia he had been organizing concerts at the local youth club since the early seventies, then going on to found the music club “Forum Enger” and organize two jazz festivals. In the process, he established contact to musicians from all over the world. Already in 1977, these activities led Uli Balss to found a concert agency which organized John Scofield’s first European tours and introduced the fascinating qawwali singer Nusrath Fateh Ali Khan to the Continent, while also initiating the East German jazz musician Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky’s first performances in Western Germany.
With the founding of the label and publishing company in 1981, the operation referred to today as JARO Medien GmbH took its final shape. Originally located in Enger, it has been at home in Bremen for more than twenty years. Today JARO is a CD label, music publisher, concert agency and distributor in one. In other words, JARO offers musicians an all-around service. Back in 1981, it was that aim that motivated Uli Balss to embark upon the venture of an independent label and publishing company.
Focus on Eastern Europe
From the beginning, Uli Balss and JARO devoted their efforts intensively to the music of Eastern Europe. Let it be recalled that, at the time, the Warsaw Pact was still in effect, and communication with the countries behind the Iron Curtain was accordingly complicated. The first contacts had already been established in 1977 to the Hungarian bandleader and drummer Imre Köszegi and the Polish band Crash. They were followed by the Bulgarian women’s choir Bulgarian Voices Angelite, which was to become world-famous, and the Moscow Art Trio, a veritable symbol of the highly individual jazz style of Russia. The Georgian Hamlet Gonashvili, who was to die a tragically premature death, was as much a JARO musician as the Farlanders or the Moldavian formation Trigon. More recently, the Polish Warsaw Village Band has entered into collaboration with JARO, and in the autumn of 2006 the label will release an album by the Georgian band The Shin. Good familiarity with the various Eastern European music milieus have led to JARO’s organizing concert tours in Russia and being called in to serve as a consultant to Polish television in the context of its festival in Sopot.
Focus on Vocal Music
Huun-Huur-Tu can also be considered among the groups JARO discovered in the East, though in this case it was the Far East: These overtone singers come from the former Soviet republic of Tuva, near Mongolia. At the same time, Huun-Huur-Tu stand for another major JARO focus, namely its great interest in unusual vocal projects. The latter are subsumed in our series V=Voice, which was founded in 1995. Further examples are the Portuguese Fado singer Dona Rosa, the German a-cappella formation Aquabella and the vocal ensembles Trinovox and Tam’Echo’Tam.
In many respects, the ensemble Sarband likewise belongs to this vocal music category. On a wide range of CDs, the group explores the relationships between Orient and Occident, Islamic, Sephardic and Christian music, thus providing listeners a means of access to the early music of the Middle Ages.
The Warsaw Village Band takes a somewhat different approach to tradition and old vocal techniques, making use of the so-called white voice of Poland. The members of the WVB experiment with their roots, creating an entirely new field of tension between tradition and modernity in the process. They play music that appeals to young people and have been met with enthusiasm by audiences from America to Japan. In the U.S. the sounds they produce are referred to as New Folk. The band members themselves prefer to emphasize the trance-like quality of their music.
What is more, JARO has frequently initiated crossover contacts. Mikhail Alperin, for example, the Moscow Art Trio’s pianist, collaborated first with the Bulgarian Voices Angelite on an album, and later went on to direct a complex production with his Moscow Art Trio, the Bulgarian Voices Angelite and the overtone singers of Huun-Huur-Tu.
Confidence in Continuity
JARO has a high regard for lasting relationships, and has worked with such artists as the Dutch jazz pianist Jasper van’t Hof, the Uruguayan bandoneonist Luis Di Matteo and the choir Bulgarian Voices Angelite for more as twenty years. To an extent, this approach makes it more difficult for us to maintain our presence in the media, since the constant search for new names has already long dominated radio, television and the press.
In the course of the years, we have succeeded in providing the bandoneon virtuoso Luis Di Matteo of Uruguay the opportunity to explore the widely diverse aspects of Tango and Tango Nuevo on various CDs, from the quiet solo album to Di Matteo’s symphonic compositions, which he carried to realization with the Ulyanovsk Chamber Orchestra of Russia.
As in the case of Astor Piazzolla’s Uruguayan counterpart Luis Di Matteo, it was also in the early years of its existence that JARO discovered the enigmatic power and captivating effect of the archaic and strangely fascinating Bulgarian vocal style and published recordings by the Bulgarian Voices Angelite, thus helping the women’s choir towards world fame.
Jasper van’t Hof virtually constitutes a category of his own, since JARO produced his well-known ethno-jazz dance band Pili Pili from the very beginning, while also granting him the opportunity to make a quiet but complex solo piano album and supporting him on his latest undertaking, the fusion band Hotlips. What is more, we are presently lending Jasper van’t Hof an open ear for his collaboration with the jazz DJ, singer and “street poet” Charles Petersohn (another JARO artist).
The albums “Oh! That Cello” and “Play That Cello” can certainly be included among the memorable publications brought out by JARO in the twenty-five years of its history. Here the cellist Thomas Beckmann plays compositions by Charlie Chaplin: At a time when few people knew that the great actor and comedian had even composed and, what is more, was a cellist of no little ambition, JARO put a feather in its cap by making his music accessible to listeners everywhere.
The JARO programme naturally also includes a number of audiophilistic and bibliophilistic rarities (including some that are worthy of both adjectives). The recordings by the French cult band Magma can definitely be regarded an audiophilistic treasure. Another is the renewed publication of Joachim Ernst Berendt’s legendary “Choirs of the World” collection under the title “Voices! Voices” (3 CDs). And any musically minded book-lover’s heart is certain to skip a beat at the sight and sound of Erik Satie’s “Sport and Pleasure” with the pianist Johannes Cernota.
In 2002, with the aid of JARO, the Warsaw Village Band of Poland presented its CD "People’s Spring" in Western Europe for the first time. Since then, the sextet’s career has been on a steep upward climb. To date, JARO has published four CDs by the WVB.
Another new JARO ensemble is The Immigrant Orchestra, directed by the multi-instrumentalist and world music researcher Willy Schwarz, a native of the U.S. who now lives in Germany. The orchestra comprises eleven musicians of a wide range of nationalities (three continents are represented!) whose music is informed by a strong cultural-political component. We must learn to understand that the music of foreign cultures is something that enriches us – and not a bearer of fear and uncertainty.
A CD with the Georgian band The Shin is also released. The group consists of ten musicians and focuses on the rich musical culture of its native country, particularly the traditional song of Georgia.
One of the finest productions we ever released is "An Arabian Passion" by the ensemble SARBAND.
The New Bands
From 2007 onwards JARO established HAZMAT MODINE in Europe, more than 200 concerts all over the continent brought them best reviews. Their music shows influences from Jazz, Blues, Cajon and world music. With the Portguese Oquestrada followed another discovery in 2010. They performed major German late night TV show, more than 30 European important festivals in the summer season 2011.
... and the JARO team is still hungry to discover next acts. The latest example is the Polish born actress ALDONA with her fall 2011 release "Sonnet" and for the beginning of 2012 the next US band band from New York RED BARAAT, an Indian/American brass band, but in the end we host as well artists we have a comon history as Jasper van´t Hofs Pili Pili or Dona Rosa with their new CDs.
JARO Medien GmbH
Telefon: +49 (0)421 78080
Telefax: +49 (0)421 74066
Vertretungsberechtigter Geschäftsführer: Ulrich Balß
Registergericht: Amtsgericht Bremen
Registernummer: HRN 14354
Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer gemäß § 27 a Umsatzsteuergesetz: DE 151006291
Inhaltlich Verantwortlicher gemäß § 10 Absatz 3 MDStV: Ulrich Balß (Anschrift wie oben)
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