UNESCO digs Montreux jazz archive

Thousands of hours of jazz, blues and rock from the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival dating back 45 years could be awarded UNESCO protected status, organizers said on Tuesday.

UNESCO digs Montreux jazz archive
Lana Del Rey, one of the performer's at this year's festival.

“These 5,000 hours of music represent the world’s biggest collection of taped live concerts,” said Claude Nobs, who founded the event in the Swiss Lake Geneva town in 1967.

“It’s so important that UNESCO is looking into classifying the archive as a part of our world cultural heritage,” he added, referring to the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Nobs, 76, started keeping a record of the festivals after finding out in 1968 that a Swiss television company had wiped a cassette featuring Ella Fitzgerald to record a football match.

Since then, Nobs kept his archive safe in a bunker on the grounds of his chalet in Caux, Switzerland.

Work began to digitalize the footage in 2008 and will take 15,000 hours in total.

Members of the public will soon be able to view the concerts in a specially-designed two-seater booth unveiled by Lausanne’s Ecole Polytechnique (EPFL) in Renens.

“For me the booth is a wonderful thing because I never got to see concerts
from the auditorium,” said Nobs.

“It recreates the festival atmosphere totally.”

The 46th Montreux Jazz Festival takes place this year from June 29th to July 14th and will feature Bob Dylan, Alanis Morissette, Jane Birkin and Herbie Hancock.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Seven Swiss music festivals you need to see this summer

Switzerland is home to a growing crop of great summer music festivals. Here is our guide to the best of the best.

Seven Swiss music festivals you need to see this summer
Billie Eilish will be performing at the Zurich Openair in August. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America/AFP

Montreux Jazz Festival

June 28th–July 13th

This is Switzerland’s most famous musical festival and one of the world’s best-known events. Headliners this year include folk legend Joan Baez and pop queen Janet Jackson while the usual diverse program features everyone from Slash (of Guns N’ Roses fame) to jazz singer Bobby McFerrin and the amazing Bon Iver. And if the high ticket prices are a turn off, the streets of Montreux are full of free music during the festival making a visit to the town worthwhile even if you aren’t visiting one of the venues.

Openair Frauenfeld

July 11th–13th

Often described as the biggest hip hop festival in Europe, the 2019 Frauenfeld music festival features Cardi B and Travis Scott. This is also Switzerland’s largest outdoor musical festival with around 150,000 attendees.

Gurtenfestival, Bern

July 17th–20th

The Gurtenfestival is Bern’s biggest and features international big names alongside the hottest acts in the Swiss music scene. This year the legendary (and elusive) Lauryn Hill and US duo Twenty One Pilots as well as Swiss stars Patent Ochsner and Lo & Leduc.

Blue Balls Festival, Lucerne

July 19th–27th

A long-running member of the Swiss summer music scene, Lucerne’s Blue Balls festival features music, art and photography exhibitions and discussion panels. Among the musical highlights this year are blues legend Keb Mo, high energy Australian ensemble The Cat Empire and German soul and R&B star Xavier Naidoo.

Paléo Festival, Nyon

July 23th–July 28th

The Paléo Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva has a lot of heart, which can always be said in these days of hyper-commercial summer music festivals. Heading up the bill in 2019 are UK indie legends The Cure, US singer Lana del Rey and French songstress Charlotte Gainsbourg. It’s not just about music though. Kids up to the age of 12 get in free and there are all sorts of activities on offer for them. There is also street theatre for young and old alike and a strong focus on supporting charitable causes.

St Gallen Open Air 

July 27th–July 30th

St Gallen’s open air is the grand old dame of Swiss music festivals. Now in its 41st year, the event sees over 100,000 people descending on the eastern Swiss city. Over the years, anyone who is anyone has played here – from the Beastie Boys to B.B. King. At the top of the bill this year are German punk legends Die Ärzte and UK Indie rock band Florence and the Machine.

Zurich Openair

August 21st–24th

Held near Zurich Airport, this star-studded festival focuses on electronica and rock music. The big names this year include dance group Swedish House Mafia, UK duo Chemical Brothers, US rapper Macklemore and none other than US singer-songwriter Billie Eilish.

Read also: Summer travel – 26 things to do in Switzerland's 26 cantons