The evening’s theme of Migration fitted perfectly into a new programme introduced recently by local songwriter Gerd Schinkel that runs under the title ‘Zuflucht’ (Asylum/Sanctuary), so Schinkel’s observations and music were a major part of Folk Club #77. As always though there was plenty besides the evenings main theme to keep a packed Dotty’s Sportsbar (Sträters) entertained this first Friday of February. Not least a set by Bromo (above)
Much as I have warmed to Dotty’s/Sträters as the new Folk Club home I still scratch my head at the set-up and tonight is no exception. There appears to be a wide empty space down the room centre running from the ‘stage’ area. I jokingly suggest to John Harrison that it’s a ‘ramp’ to take the music to out to the ‘masses’. Rather tellingy it’s Bromo, fresh from their live experience gained at Toys 2Masters who actually see and utilize this odd phenomenon. The table gap is odd because it creates an unusable space whilst pushing tables and seats back together, leaving no room whatsover for late arrivals to stand. I arrive shortly before 7pm and grab a last seat at a stage side table where normally people could stand. For the next half hour I see people walk in, survey the crowded room until the optimism fades from their eyes, and they are gone back into the chilly February air.
On the ‘stage’ itself John Harrison has a harmonica rack hanging round his neck so I’m pretty sure we are in for some Bob Dylan (why was their never a signature Dylan rack I wonder!). The title is aptly Mr Zimmerman’s ‘Pity the poor immigrant’. A quick one two of Harrison self compositions follow that show the man himself has his thoughts on wars and their effects on the people experiencing them. ‘1001’ and ‘Trouble and Strife’ are the titles and Sarajevo snipers are a part of the imagery of conflict.
Serious stuff to start then and Gert Müller‘s ‘Gedicht op bönnsch’ was needed to get everyone smiling again, except me that is. When I finally get my german language command perfect I will start on my dialect learning in earnest. Something about a smartphone in the story Gert told I think ,but possibly I’m wrong. Whatever the story was – Gert told it with relish and got well deserved applause from all bönnsch speakers in the house.
Günther Peters is the Billy Joel of Bonn Folk Club. Our piano man first order of merit. One of the very first heads to stick itself over the parapet and be counted at Folk Club #1. I did my best to impersonate Olivia Newton John but in the end just held up the lyricsheet to ‘Take me home country roads’ and mouthed it all silently as Günther hit the ivories and those around me who could find the right key hit it in unison.
Given the evening’s theme Steve Perry came up with an inspired choice with Oscar Brand’s ‘When I first came to this Land’. A folk standard with nursery rhyme qualities: “Called my cow, no milk now. Called my cat, don’t come back…” and of course the final refrain: “I was not a wealthy man, I did what I can”. Making something out of nothing as most refugees did in the days when America let them in. Enough said.
Petra Koitka always has something of a gospel air about her appearances. A charisma that says everything will be alright in the end – and if it’s not alright then it’s not the end yet. An uplifting performance and smile that was quickly replaced onstage by a veritable sea of folk musicians behind an even bigger sea of musicstands. I think there were nine performers with Zaiten-Pfeiffer but as they changed instruments almost after each song I got confused. I got confused too by the lyrics but wrote some down to check later (from Knut Kiesewetter’s ‘Fresenhof):
“Wenn de Blädder sik brun farvt,
Un Water steiht inne Groof,
Denn ward dat Harvs, op uns Fresenhof”
So there you are. Still confused? Me too. Another song to come back to after that plattdeutsch course. Thankfully a spirited version of ‘The Foggy Foggy dew‘ followed so my braincells could recuperate.
After such a full stage Chris Biederwölf almost seemed to rattle around in the space created. He moved around a lot to fill the void and brought along some fine self-penned compositions too. I especially liked his guitar homage ‘Grüß und Blues’. Buffy St Marie’s ‘Welcome Emigrante’ was also an inspired choice:
“So welcome, welcome emigrante, to my country, welcome home. Welcome, welcome emigrante, to the country that I love”.
Despite the songs mid-sixties origin, it catches well the initial welcome seen at Airports and train stations when the first wave of asylumseekers came into Germany last year – before things got complicated and helping hands seemed to turn into halting hands. Chris made a strong point when he showed us his wonderful looking (and sounding) resonator guitar and pointed out that it was almost certainly made by immigrants.
My first Folk Club review mentioning Dennis Ledermann seems like many years ago now but I remember he was discussing before that long-ago appearance about having a good name and Facebook presence with another performer during the break. All of which seemed a little premature at the time for someone who hadn’t actually played much anywhere at all. I remember too he sung an own composition ‘The Old Ways’ in a nice but nervous fashion.
In early 2016 Dennis put that Facebook site to good use to announce “Ich spiele am 30.März beim Toys To Masters Bandcontest in der Klangstation Bonn Bad-Godesberg unter dem Künstlernamen Bromo”. Along the way he brought twin brother Marvin into the set-up alongside schoolfriend Alex Schrader, found a new name, Bromo (named after a toy bear for you detail seekers), progressed to the very final of a primarily electric Rockmusic contest (coming a creditable 4th) and, full circle, is back at Bonn Folk Club singing ‘The Old Me’. The new Dennis rather took a large part of the audience by surprise. Those demanding audiences of other band’s fans were a steep learning curve, but learn the band most certainly have, with astonishing speed. Their dynamic set was bookended by Ed Sheeran covers including a first live outing for ‘Castle on the Hill’ and a storming rendition of ‘Fire on the Mountain’ that finished with Marvin stepping mid-verse, onto a table to sing. They really were a lesson that live music isn’t just about the songs but the presentation. And that nervous young man from the first outing? Seemed rather disappointed that a ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ enquiry about playing at Ed Sheeran’s up-coming show in Cologne got no reply. A shame really as it would have been fun to see three redhead Eds onstage. Off the wall is what Sheeran loves so who knows? Nothing ventured indeed – and it’s this positive attitude that has got Bromo where they are – and hopefully will remain with them in what could be a big year for them.
Gert Schinkel‘s knitted eyebrows and earnest expression made it clear that the human tidalwave that has swept europe in past months is also a source that has inspired a great deal of thought and material for his mind and pen. Having raised two adopted daughters from Korea, Schinkel has certainly experienced the clashing of cultures that occurs when people are confronted with a world that was not theirs by choice. His book ‘Bin ich Ihr ähnlich’ (Do I look like her?) traces his daughters request to rediscover the past world and mother she never knew. Not surprisingly given the topic, his songs tonight often have a bitter taste about them. ‘Vanuatu’ is an island paradise laid siege by colonialism. It’s not all bad news though Gert, the former New Hebrides is interestingly recently making very much it’s own stand having recently announced a ban on foreign junk food.
The involvement of America in some of this evening’s songs is interesting with the current events and ‘Geh, Flüchtling, Geh’ is Gert Schinkel’s interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s classic ‘Deportees’composed by Guthrie after reading in 1948 that a plane deporting migrant farm workers who had illegally entered the Country from Mexico had crashed. Their fate movingly described by Guthrie thus:
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”
An enjoyable evening then with the weight of a serious topic made all the more sadder even by the fact that so many old songs about migrants could almost have been written only yesterday. To quote Pete Seeger on a topic that all too often comes ‘Im Gepäck’ with asylum seekers – ‘war’: “When will they ever learn?” By the time our old friend Jock Stewart dropped by for his last drink of the evening we were still waiting for the answer.
And finally, what Woody Guthrie would have perhaps sang if he’d dropped by on Friday…