Red Corner: Illegal Lithuanian Jazz Festival Jams Away

This last weekend, the Lithuanian town of Birštonas held its semi-annual jazz festival. The Birštonas Jazz Festival is perhaps the least known jazz festival on this planet. It takes place in a small town on the Nemunas River with a population of only 3800 people.

Why such a remote location for a jazz festival you ask? Well, in 1980 it was impossible to organize such an event under the communist government. So, jazz lovers put together the clandestine festival in a reclusive, wooded location where they could secretly play without the KGB crashing their party. The government goons came nonetheless and set dogs upon festival-goers. The concerts, however, persevered.

Now that communism is dead, the festival has taken on a far more international appeal, drawing musicians from throughout Europe. It remains a small and intimate affair, but one popular and legendary enough amongst Lithuanians to sell out six months in advance. With the next festival occurring March 2008, you should have plenty of time to buy your tickets.