On March 24, Banlieues Bleues will play its 40th edition. From Nina Simone to Emicida, a look back on 39 years of existence. The Festival emblematic of Seine-Saint-Denis offers, until April 21, an eclectic and creative jazz program, with the support of the DRAC Île-de-France.
Blue suburbs was born from the desire of several cities of the Seine-Saint-Denis to create a jazz festival revealing to the general public the richness and diversity of a creative jazz scene, at the time hidden by the media, even marginalized. The association was a pioneering experiment in inter-communal cultural collaboration, one of the first of its kind. The first edition of Blue suburbs 18 concerts, from 27 January to 3 March 1984, in 11 cities. Blue suburbs developed from there, the scattering over several cities, and the duration – exceptional, four to five weeks, for a festival–, becoming a formidable asset of dissemination and proximity to an audience to conquer.
AmarElo É Tudo Pra Ontem © Wendy Andrade
Blue suburbs, witness and actor of the musical evolution of the last decades
The festival has established itself from year to year as the largest jazz festival of Île-de-France and is recognized as one of the best spring festivals in France and jazz in Europe, a very palpable success, without that the motivations never change, fundamental: to present both the artists who make the history of jazz and the musicians little known to the general public, to promote the unpublished and the creation, and help launch young musicians and develop original actions with guest musicians and all types of audiences, the musical actions of Banlieues Bleues having also been pioneers in their genre, even before the names "cultural action", "arts and cultural education", etc.
But it is above all the quality of its programming that has built the reputation of Banlieues Bleues. By bringing together an internationally renowned artistic scene, by combining events and risk-taking, by making the French and European scene hold its place, by presenting all the jazz music, with a wide opening to other musical genres or other arts, Blue suburbs was the privileged witness but also the actor- of the musical evolution of the last decades.
Rocío Márquez & Bronquio © Lhaura Raín
Great names in jazz and an artistic springboard
In total, Blue suburbs will have hosted in 39 years of existence thousands of bands and tens of thousands of musicians in concert, including most of the great names of jazz and improvised music but also African music, like for example Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba, on the image poster of the 40th festival with a photo by Guy Le Querrec (Magnum) taken at Blue suburbs In 1989 they played the same night.
Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba © Guy Le Querrec
But also, the same year, of the duo Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, for an improvised sequel celebrating the bicentennial of the French Revolution, a concert that was recorded and released on record. This is just one example among many remarkable concerts, including a good number of unpublished and premieres, which were then broadcast in France and internationally.
New opening for the 40e anniversary edition
The opening of the 40e festival will take place at the Dynamo. This edition will start with a kaleidoscopic weekend welcoming a dozen groups bringing together musicians who prepare the future of these musics. It will be in free access but with mandatory reservation, a way also to propose to the public to discover the new current trends.
Floy Krouchi © Coni Horler
Ray Lema at the Congo River© Thomas Freteur
The rest of the program will not be left out with leading figures of the stage, like the Brazilian rapper Emicida, young creative talents, with the talented female trio Nout and the bassist and composer Floy Krouchi, veterans themselves experimenters-born, Ray Lema or Hamid Drake, or representatives of the diversity of jazz, such as Rocío Márquez & Bronquio… and many others
A festival, Dynamo of musical creation and "summer camp" of the territory
Since Blue suburbs is no longer just a festival, with its Dynamo, place of manufacture and diffusion inaugurated in 2006, only concert hall in France built for the diffusion of jazz and improvised music, the festival has a production tool to assume even better its role as a platform and showcase for musical creation by being attentive and activists of the cause and visibility of musician artists. In a musical landscape in profound change, it turns even more towards new musical forms (jazz, rap, world music) and welcomes new musical scenes, placing the artists in a lively, dynamic and original relationship with the audiences, particularly by experimenting with hybrid projects, participatory art, young audiences, etc. The program of its fortieth edition is also particularly representative of these new trends. La Dynamo welcomes artists in long or short residences thanks to the presence of three rehearsal studios plus a modular room that allows a broad spectrum of the music received, created as well as a cultural focus trademark since the origin of Blue suburbs. This project is not yet in its final form, rehabilitation work on the original factory is still underway.
Marc Ribot © Ebru Yildiz
To continue its action with the public of the territory, Blue suburbs developed a summer session with the Summer camp. Born with the creation of the Cultural Summer in 2020, a national cultural event created by the Ministry of Culture (calls for proposals - applications/ Cultural Summer), thanks to new support from the DRAC, Blue suburbs brings the Seine-Saint-Denis district to life with free outdoor concerts. This jazz scene open to world music and Hip Hop culture is an extension of the festival Blue suburbs and of its Dynamoin the same artistic line.
Photo Nout © Sylvain Gripoix
For several years new collaborative creations of musical actions such as "Grandmas guitars" and "Batman of choirs" have developed.
Ostrakinda © Guillaume Morandeau
More than one spring festival, Blue suburbs is a cultural and artistic project of the territory that has developed in various forms over the years with the Dynamo and the Summer Camp. DRAC Île-de-France supports Blue suburbs, both the festival and its creative action and through various mechanisms (under cultural action, cultural summer), to the tune of €550,000, in 2023.