A jazz beacon for migrants in Sant’Anna Arresi

Rob Mazurek, Gabriele Mitelli and Alexander Hawkins witnessed a landing of migrants in Porto Pino, which inspired their performance in the sea during the Jazz Festival “Ai Confini tra Sardegna e Jazz” (on the border between Sardinia and Jazz).

Two musicians slowly go into the sea from Sa Salina beach in Is Solinas in the South West of Sardinia. The sun has just set behind the island of Sant’Antioco. Although you can only see shadows, the sound of their trumpets stands out perfectly. Viewed from the back they are, to the left, Gabriele Mitelli, a talented trumpet player from Brescia who is just thirty but has already made it to the the top of the annual Musica Jazz magazine ranking. On the right, Rob Mazurek, a fifty-three year old American from Jersey City, who has been at the top of avant-garde jazz for twenty years with his many projects. There is a light wind this September evening, the music of the waves blends in with the sound of Gabriele Mitelli’s cornet and Rob Mazurek’s small trumpet.

No words from the musicians first to explain this performance. There is no need. Everyone understands that this is not just a good idea or a simple aesthetic gesture. On these beaches the landings of boats laden with migrants have continued for years. Just here, last year a dozen Algerians arrived on a small boat. Another eleven Algerian migrants fleeing from Africa landed on the beach of Porto Pino, nearby, only the day before.


After his performance Gabriele Mitelli says: «It was all improvised. But, it should not just be seen as an aesthetic exhibition or a musical performance in a particular setting. We had seen the boat laden with migrants come towards Porto Pino. Taking the music with us in the water was a way to guide those arriving from the sea, like a fog-horn that could be heard during the day, to help them find their way to the mainland. We musicians don’t just play. We play music that comes from afar. This music of ours is the story of different peoples mixing together; of sounds and cultures finding each other».


Basilio Sulis, the creator of the festival “On the border between Sardinia and Jazz”, which for thirty-three years has brought together the best of musical avant-gardes from around the world, had said that this edition would be special. «The festival, which this year is titled “Integration on 7/8”, aims to foster integration between musical genres, styles and instruments as well as integration between people, humans and between genres. Integration, that in the same way as it applies to music, melody and composition must, or rather should, also apply to people wherever they come from».


The musicians on this beach bring their sounds, their culture, their human histories. Rob Mazurek shows the photo on his smartphone that portrays him standing with his feet in the Rio Grande, on the border between the United States and Mexico: «Here you cannot see neither borders nor barriers».


With Gabriele Mitelli he engages in a ritual, a moment of welcome for those who come from afar to these beaches. The music of the trumpets is combined with electronics and percussion.

The magic of these places and the effort of these times inspire the musicians. The following evening it is Alexander Hawkins’ turn. A thirty-seven year old renowned pianist from Oxford, he takes his multifaceted projects from Great Britain to the world. On the beach of Sa Salina he performs a piano solo. But before flying onto the piano keys, he explains to those who may not yet have understood: «Even if we are on this beach, listening to music and watching the sunset, let’s not forget about those who are on the other side of the sea and dream of being here with us». Then he starts to play so as to be heard even by those who are far away.

(Traduzione di Costanza de Toma)

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