It’s coming to the end of a long and busy day in Bonn Marktplatz. There are several hundred people watching Makeda as she sings ‘The Day I Loved You Most’. But for a handful of votes, she would have instead been singing this very song tonight in front of several million people in Tel Aviv. Eurovision’s loss is Bonn’s gain though, as she joins top young Bonn Jazz drummer Richard Münchhoff and his Band, to bring the curtain down on this Democracy Festival Day on Marktplatz with a classy presentation of Pop/Jazz.
Before Richard Munchhoff’s band and Makeda took the stage this evening there was a sing-along with the audience to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Beside the stage, Bonn’s Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan, can be seen energetically joining in. A few minutes later he is actually onstage to make a short video for Facebook of the audience singing along. It’s a big day in Germany’a history for sure, but a particularly big one for Bonn. In May 1949, in this very City, the Deutsche Grundgesetz was hammered out in a hastily prepared Museum König (I assume the dinosaurs and myriad stuffed exhibits were hidden behind curtains – imagine trying to concentrate with a giraffe looking over your shoulder…). At any rate, the result was Germany’s rule-book as it exists to this very day – with one word – Democracy – writ larger than any other.
The weather throughout the day has been as positive as the people. It’s been a hot and sunny Saturday – right up until now anyway. At 5.30 pm though peals of thunder can be heard. Thankfully though the raindrops stay in the clouds and the only rumbling noise is the thunderous applause that greets the musicians as they start their set. Richard Münchhoff is one of those Bonn musicians who seems to pop up in many a bands rhythm section here in the Cologne/Bonn area, and for good reason. Münchhoff is definitely one of the best Jazz drummers around, and at the tender age of barely 21, he’s already got quite a CV, having played alongside top musicians like Audry Martells (Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Steely Dan), Billy Cobham and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson).
Münchhoff’s own band are a pretty good combo too, as they show this evening. They have a punchy horn section and the accent is very much on rhythm too as you would expect from a band fronted by a drummer. Alongside music from Münchhoff that they are familiar with, they are also backing Makeda with songs that even Makeda’s fans are not familiar with. Her band Steal A Taxi are literally on the sidelines this evening (I spy a couple of them on the front row seats offering moral support). Münchhoff’s musicians take it all in their musical stride though and the music is seamless.
Many of Makeda’s songs this evening are recent ones, written from experience. ‘Ich wollte immer Stephanie Heissen’ for example is an admission that Makeda was not, in her younger days at least, happy to have such an ‘exotic’ first name as Makeda. Nowadays, of course, it’s hard to imagine her having any other name. Maybe it would have looked odd on a bank tellers desk, but Makeda Michalke was never going to be a bank teller with a voice like hers.
Lead vocals are traded freely and happily between Makeda and Ina Krabes and it’s a joy to watch the interplay between the two. It all seems rather unjust that at the autograph tables set up after the show show most of the bustle is around Makeda as she smiles for photos with fans and signs pre-printed photocards. Behind her, Richard Munchhoff’s fans are more often than not fellow musicians and more intent on discussing the nuts and bolts of the music than having a picture taken with him on their smartphones. I suspect he’s more than happy with this arrangement.
Makeda may or may not have got back to a tv set for Eurovision. She will I’m sure now know that the ‘non-sisters’ sister act that pipped her at the post came third from last. Would ‘The Day I Loved You Most’ have fared better? The Dutch winning entry was a straightforward ballad after all. We will never know. The sisters were democratically chosen for Tel Aviv, and on this democratic day of all days, that’s what matters.
I happen to think Makeda would have done better in the votes, but the ESC publicity will certainly have done her no harm. She does seem like a talent in search of a direction right now though. The Eurovision excursion has made Makeda and not Steal A Taxi the most marketable commodity. If there’s uncertainty about the next step, she could do worse than latch onto the Cologne/Bonn Jazz scene and give it her own sound-twist.
Final thought at concerts end: It seemed somewhat ironic that, at a time when there seems so much wrong about the World we live in, the final song of the Democracy Festival turned out to be ‘Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing’. Well, I do worry. About Donald Trump, about Theresa May (and about Boris Johnson replacing her), about so many creatures on the brink of extinction, about Climate Change (so bad that the Guardian newspaper is now calling it, officially, ‘The Climate Emergency’) At least music can help us forget our troubles for a while though.