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The International Jazz Festival in Beautiful Kardamyli

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Greece, Peloponnese | 6 comments

One of the joys of travel is stumbling upon cool events we knew nothing about, such as the Kardamyli International Jazz Festival.  Synchronicity brought us to the lovely village of Kardamyli, usually a quiet hamlet of 400 people, but now filled with lovers of music from mostly Norway and other European countries, for the Tenth Annual Kardamyli International Jazz Festival. Free music performances were held in the various bars and restaurants throughout the village and a big celebration at the port featured five bands, fun dancing, food and libations, capped with fireworks courtesy of the village mayor.

Tony Coxon the Latin guitarist playing music
Latin guitarist, Tony Coxon, entertained us with music from Brazil, Argentina and Spain in the intimate garden of Beer Bar 1866.

Bjarne Aaserod, the originator of the festival, graciously gave us some time to find out more how it all came to be.  Having worked for a Norwegian tour company that brought people to little known places, he started visiting Kardamyli in the early 2000s.  In 2012, The Beer Bar 1866 opened in town and became his local hangout.  After a few years, he said to the owner, “the only thing missing in the bar is a piano.”  He offered to buy one, and got his tour company’s owner to contribute. They each put up a thousand euro, and brought in a few jazz pianists that he knew in Norway to advise on buying the piano.  

Bjarne Aaserod, founder of the Kardamyli Jazz Festival, introducing Stefanos Stefos and friends for traditional Greek music
Bjarne Aaserod, founder of the Kardamyli Jazz Festival, introducing Stefanos Stefos and friends for traditional Greek music.
Local Greek women leading the dance to Stefanos and friends songs
Local Greek women leading the dance to Stefanos and friends songs.

Once they installed it in the bar, the musicians started playing nightly and people came to listen.  Bjarne had a jazz club in Oslo and had been going to Jazz Fest in New Orleans for years so he suggested starting a jazz festival in little Kardamyli, and this cool event was born. 

Hot Rod Doble
Hot Rod Doble performed upbeat rockabilly that got the crowd up dancing.

In 2014, the festival began with very small group of musicians from Norway and Greece. Over the years, the festival has steadily grown, and this year, 137 musicians from various countries performed in over 80 concerts during the week.  To help grow the event, Bjarne invited local restaurants to participate. Although they said, “Yes” to his proposal, they didn’t believe many would come to their small village that most travelers to Greece had never heard of. In the first year of the festival at one breakfast concert, over 120 people came, but the restaurant had only 30 eggs on hand. Needless to say, the local restaurant owners became believers and great supporters.

Reidar Larsen Bluesband featuring Jolly Jumper
Reidar Larsen Bluesband featuring Jolly Jumper on harmonica played the party at the port and kept us on the dance floor.
Best use of an old VW Bus as a mobile Bar Car ready for action
Best use of an old VW Bus as a mobile Bar Car ready for action. The top folds down when driving to next venue.

Since Bjarne has been to the New Orleans Jazz Festival over 30 times, he decided to follow its tradition by opening the Kardamyli Jazz Fest with a New Orleans style opening parade through Kardamyli in the 4th year of the festival.  Word of mouth is the only marketing needed. He gets requests from musicians who want to play at the festival, and a number of musicians return each year.

All the musicians and those who organize the festival are volunteers, so there is a strong sense of community among the performers, the attendees, and the local people that make Kardamyli Jazz Fest a very special event.

The  Kardamyli Jazz Fest is also very musically inclusive, as we heard Latin guitar, blues, rockabilly, and Greek music in addition to jazz.  We asked about jazz in Norway, and he said they have so many good musicians due to the high quality of music education in Norway.  The “jazz club” he manages in Oslo isn’t a club as we imagine it. It’s a “movable feast” of music that occurs in restaurants, churches, outdoor settings, and many other venues across Oslo.

Due to the success of the May Jazz Festival, Bjarne and his crew will initiate an October Jazz Fest in Kardamyli in 2024, a perfect time to be there. If this sounds like your kind of event, we highly recommend the Kardamyli Jazz Fest for its high quality music, strong sense of community, and lovely setting. Find them on Facebook for more information or at their website, http://Kardamilijazzfestival.com.

Tricia Boutte singing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” with Feast for Fools band.
Tenth year celebration port party Kardamyli International Jazz Festival.
Tenth year celebration port party for the Kardamyli International Jazz Festival, a real treat for John and me.

Here are links to some of the musicians-
Tricia Boutte at http://www.TriciaBoutte.com

Tony Coxon at http://www.Facebook/TonyCoxon.guitarist

Hot Rod Double at https://www.Facebook.com/p/Hot-Rod-Double-100063478271015/?_rdr

Feast for Fools at http://www.Facebook/feastforfools.com

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6 Comments

  1. Cellardoor Art

    Thoroughly enjoy “traveling” with you. Steeped in art, culture, and natural beauty. This is an awesome blog!

    Reply
    • Julie Roller

      So glad you’re enjoying our blog Sue and fun to have you “travel” with us. It’s a different experience with the blog and takes some getting used to but it was fun to interview the jazz festival organizer and learn the back story of how it came to be. See you on down the road.❤️❤️

      Reply
  2. Sandy Weissel

    WOW…such an amazing place to be for the Festival! like you said, such a treat for you both. Such talented musicians from all around…WHAT FUN!!!!! Beautiful photos as well. Wow..Tricia can belt it out…and I love her doggie. Keep enjoying life John and Julie. This festival was a treasure for you to discover.

    Reply
    • Julie Roller

      It’s been a fun trip for music Sandy, and we just danced more last night at a favorite little town on Crete. Greek band played for 3 hours and there was a woman who led the dances and taught some steps. She got a lot of us up for dancing and 5e 3 piece band was excellent. Onward!

      Reply
  3. Glo

    Looks like a great time. Music and dancing outside by the sea! Hope you continue to have wonderful travel serendipity. Very nice blog! I look forward to more.

    Reply
    • Julie Roller

      Thanks for reading Glo! We were just at the Alianthos in Plakias where we stayed with your tour and danced to Greek music for hours. Remember last time they only played 1 hour but this band played for 3 hours!

      Reply

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