Jazz artist warned by US State Dept over participation in Crimea fest

The leading light of the Russian jazz scene, Igor Butman, recently drew fire from Washington and Kiev when he agreed to play at the music festival held in the Crimean city of Koktebel. Butman received a warning from the US State Department not to attend.

Butman, 53, who has worked with some of the world's finest musicians, including Ray Charles and Al Jarreau, told RT that music should never suffer because of politics.

We should keep one side of life just without politics, especially jazz music, which is all about improvisation, [which] came from freedom... They are leaving us with no money and no audience if they say 'Do not perform there! If you play there, you play for this party or you play for that party...' No!” the saxophonist told RT.

Butman, whom Bill Clinton famously called “one of the world's greatest living saxophonists,” has lived in the US for several years and has dual citizenship. The celebrated musician said he wrote a letter to the US President Barack Obama and plans to write one to Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko over the negative reaction his visit to the festival has caused. 

Ukraine warned last month that it would not let the participants of the Koktebel Jazz Party festival, held from August 28 to 30, enter the country. Russian journalist Dmitry Kiselyov, the festival's founder, then reminded Kiev that the international music event has been held in Koktebel since 2003, when Crimea was still part of Ukraine. 


Crimea rejoined Russia in March 2014 after a referendum in which the majority of people voted for secession from Ukraine and for joining Russia. Ukraine dubbed the result of the referendum Russia’s “illegal annexation.” Last April, Kiev launched a military operation in the southeast after the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions refused to recognize the new, coup-imposed authorities in the capital. According to a UN report, the conflict has killed nearly 6,500 people, wounded over 16,000 and left 5 million people in need of humanitarian aid in the past year.