Kamasi Washington says Brexit could make touring UK tricky for artists

US jazz saxophonist says international musicians will find UK less appealing

The United Kingdom leaving the EU could make the country less appealing to international performers, one of the world’s leading jazz musicians has said.

Kamasi Washington, whose album The Epic and his work with Kendrick Lamar made him a poster boy of the jazz revival, said Brexit was not an inviting idea to musicians and could make coming to the UK harder for smaller bands.

“It is not an inviting idea … and then, yes, there will be the notion of coming to Europe and the ease of travelling from one country to the next. That is part of what makes touring possible for lots of artists,” the US saxophonist told the Guardian.

“Once it becomes harder to get into a country, just logistically, much more planning would have to be involved,” he said. “It is a bit unknown at the moment. We don’t know how difficult it is to get a visa. But if you are playing in France and want to come to the UK, you don’t know how hard it will be.

“For bigger acts it won’t be so much of a hurdle as it is for smaller acts for whom it may become too much to do. It is not only big acts who drive the musical scene of a city, [but it’s] also the bands that are being discovered.”

In February the organisers of the world music festival Womad said they were struggling to book artists because of Brexit uncertainty and concerns about difficulties entering the country. Chris Smith, the festival’s director, said: “It is harder to book artists because of Brexit … We are struggling to overcome it and let artists know they are welcome here and that people still want to experience their great music.”

Washington also praised the UK music scene, saying Britain was one of the “leading countries in terms of jazz at the moment”.

“It’s a culmination of there being a number of great musicians and all the excitement in the city for those musicians … that is inspiring for the musicians who have a good network amongst each other. They are all collaborating with one another,” he said.

Washington said jazz was experiencing a revival in part because people were unhappy with what had been going on in the world, and the fact that they had more access to music they might not have been able to access so easily in the past.

“It [jazz] hasn’t had the same push behind it as other music. It has always been part of other styles of music but jazz has a feeling of freedom and honesty. People are also able to get to the music they want now. It does not need to be pushed on them. That is a big part of it ... and there is a whole new section of growing music that used to be more niche,” he said.

When asked about the pressing issues of our times, and how they translate in his music, he said: “It’s always changing so for me it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what output [politics has] in terms of my music. It sort of just happens, living life, and that finds its way into your music,” he said.

“Right now we are at a turning point and have kind of hit a snag in the US, in particular with Donald Trump. He is such a polarising figure and he almost put a line in the sand, with people positioned on one or the other side and that has not been good for anyone … I try to hope for the positive and deal with the negatives,” he said.

• This article was amended on 6 May 2019 to refer consistently to the UK.

• Kamasi Washington is performing at All Points East festival in London on 26 May.


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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