Winners IMJA 2017
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"How Los Angeles Got Its Jazz Mojo Back" (Hayden Coplen / Gear Patrol)
Music journalism today is facing new challenges. It’s no longer about documenting what’s already there: listeners, readers and users can find out for themselves all they want to know through the relevant online channels. It’s much more about putting music into a larger intermedia, cultural and social context,as well as revealing connections that are not immediately apparent through an approach that stimulates curiosity and offers an all-encompassing perspective. American journalist Hayden Coplen pulls this off perfectly in his article "How Los Angeles Got Its Jazz Mojo Back" for Gear Patrol magazine.
Coplen skilfully and sensitively tells the story of jazz in Los Angeles, juxtaposing the present and the past in a light narrative style. He doesn’t just target jazz fans or connoisseurs, although the story may also appeal to this audience. Instead he appeals to the average music and culture fan with a portrayal that is as entertaining as it is witty. He succeeds in squeezing people, eras and places into a four-dimensional "search-and-find" image in the reader’s imagination, elegantly combining the familiar with the unknown, established names with those that have yet to make their breakthrough. He needs remarkably few words to paint a picture of Los Angeles over the course of an abundantly rewarding half century, while still describing different forms of socialisation and levels of jazz perception.
And yet from this sweeping panoramic picture you can draw an article about jazz which conveys much about the soul of a city, or unfold an epochal musicalmap of Los Angeles which inevitably leads you to the jazz of Dexter Gordon or Kamasi Washington.
For the jury: Wolf Kampmann
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"From Disco to Disco" (Hans Nieswandt / Rolling Stone)
Marking forty years since the infamous Studio 54 nightclub opened its doors in New York, Hans Nieswandt writes in Rolling Stone about the birth of the disco sound and its subsequent incarnations. The fact that the title of this article matches that of the biggest hit of Nieswandt’s band Whirlpool Produktion is already a sign that it’s anything but a commissioned piece rattled off to meet a print deadline. Disco music and House are at the heart of this musician’s creative work, and each sentence here bears testimony to his intense preoccupation with every facet of the genre. With the light feel of a tour guide whose day-to-day business consists of telling this story or – time permitting – expanding upon any other issues that might be raised, Hans Nieswandt takes us by the hand and leads us unerringly to events and locations with the greatest symbolic meaning. To understand how soul, funk, and rock developed from disco into House and techno, or discover what Mrs Antje, George McCrae and the women in the FA adverts have in common is one thing; the unanswered question as to why almost all early New York disco pioneers were gay Italians with names ending in “o”, from the 60s through to the 70s, is another. However deeply we delve into a topic, one small secret will probably always remain. That is the beauty of art – and the beauty of this article.
For the jury: Frank Spilker
of the year
As "head rock and pop critic" for The Guardian and music editor of GQ magazine, Alexis Petridis won the Record Reviews Writer of the Year Award eight times consecutively from 2005 to 2012. In 2010, he came 53rd in a list of the "100 worst people on Twitter" in a British blog. So the jury of the International Music Journalism Award should consider itself lucky that Alexis Petridis is usually allowed more than 140 characters for his music articles because he continues to effortlessly incorporate 70 years of pop culture in the context of a record review (Arcade Fire in a logical "consumerism" criticism of groups ranging from The Who to U2) without any finger-wagging, using sophisticated (figurative) language ("the musical equivalent of a scented candle") and eloquent puns ("California gleaming") yet still operating in the genre of this precise pop culture, not taking his own opinion too seriously, in true British tongue-in-cheek fashion. Alexis Petridis wins the category "Music Journalist Of The Year International" because skilful music journalism is a combination of a credible sender and a receiver who is taught to view something differently in a succinct and entertaining way. If this is done as enjoyably and informatively as is the case in Petridis' articles, it most definitely deserves another award.
For the jury: Birte Wiemann
of the year
"NO!!! Not Linus Volkmann again!" A cry resounds around the room as the jury reaches its decision on who is going to win the award and a familiar face starts to stand out clearly from the rest of the contenders. But what can you do? There are good reasons why this man is mentioned by all and sundry in the context of qualitative, informative, and above all eternally entertaining music journalism. Whether as initiator of the (in itself prize-worthy) Kaput magazine, as a reporter, a critic or an author: Linus Volkmann blazes an innovative trail. He regularly finds new channels through which he can communicate his forever unorthodox, uneasy opinions to his audience. But readers also love the fact that he couldn't give a damn if makes a fool of himself. So "Yes indeed!!! It's Linus Volkmann again!"
For the jury: Dani Fromm
Of Music Journalism,
"Pop ist kein weißer, heterosexueller Mann - Multimedia-Projekt über Diversität im Pop" (Isabelle Klein / detektor.fm) (mit Andre Beyer)
We still too often tend to associate “journalism” with black font on white paper, maybe adorned with a few pictures and also, more recently, with a handful of links. Far too often we expect music journalism to deliver a more or less informed review or a standard feature on artists and bands in the studio or on tour. In their multimedia project, Isabelle Klein and Andre Beyer very unpretentiously toss these traditional expectations out of the window and allow readers to develop their own flow: grabbing titbits of info here, getting deeper insights via a video there, and yet still, in easily digestible fashion, independently imbibing and teasing out a message that is subtly aimed in their direction and always entertaining. Bands have license to be openly dismissive of giving interviews, pop-culture studies are referenced and graphics publicised, and the duo probe deep into the corners of a music industry that consists of so much more than simply artists on a stage. If pop culture is the driver of change in the perception of gender roles and has the power to transform a society, then journalism is also an essential part of this driver. And we’re talking here about journalism in the style of Isabelle Klein and Andre Beyer.
For the jury: Birte Wiemann
"Raps große Depression - My own worst enemy" (Jan Kawelke / Juice)
For his essay, "Rap’s great depression", published in issue #179 of Juice, Jan Kawelke links two subject areas that at first seem to have little in common: mental illness and hip hop. The author embeds the current deluge of rap tracks, in which artists reveal their darkest abysses, not only in one genre-type narrative tradition, he also examines the underlying political, social and cultural context. His greatest achievement here is to analyse and explain awkward relationships without getting too bogged down in the scientific and intellectual dimension. In a well-researched and knowledgeable way, Kawelke states his case against making this type of personal and societal problem a taboo subject. He opposes the stigmatization of people who already have enough to deal with in the form of their "own worst enemy". Starting with Biggie and taking in Kanye West, Kid CuDi, Future or Danny Brown, right through to the current figurehead of this reflective lyricism, Kendrick Lamar, Kawelke’s text pays tribute to all those artists who have the courage to fight their demons publicly and not just behind closed doors: a remarkable piece of music journalism that deserves to be read not only by music fans.
For the jury: Dani Fromm
"Now We Can Listen To Anything - Wie sich die Musikszene in Tunis selbst entdeckt" (Felix Unger / spam-music.de)
Felix Unger is a young music journalist who lives, studies and makes music in Berlin. In his article "How The Music Scene in Tunis Is Discovering Itself" for the online magazine SPAM, he tells a story about the music scene in a city currently in the midst of political and cultural upheaval. Rather than relying on recorded music and second-hand information – as is unfortunately the custom in music journalism – Felix Unger likes to be there on the spot. He also avoids any effusiveness and glorification, and instead takes an investigative look at what makes the heart of this music biotope beat. His compelling and authentic report introduces German readers to a scene which – given the escalating political situation – is completely different to the music scene in this country, where culture is still considered a social asset – albeit on a declining scale. But Unger is not happy merely summing up the musical landscape in Tunis, he also describes the everyday life, the motivation and the environment of musicians, and the risks and social obstacles they face. When reading the article, you can't help feeling you're driving along potholed, crowded streets in a battered car yourself, or breathing in stale smoke in some dingy back room. For all his intuitive sensitivity to "the differences", Unger relies not only on his own perspective but provides numerous protagonists in the Maghreb capital with a forum, placing their statements in a context with which central European readers can identify. The article is as much an external as an internal view. Unger therefore casts ablively and multi-faceted spotlight on a music scene which is only just emerging and which stuns readers. Written from the perspective of his own experience, Felix Unger's report on the music scene in Tunis reads like a road movie in words.
For the jury: Wolf Kampmann