A month goes so quickly. On 1st August ‘One Take Toni’ (Anton Weber) took to the streets of Bad Godesberg as the opening street musician of the Verein ‘KunstKitsch’ and on Saturday local musicians Cayu and co-organizer Cynthia Nickschas brought the Klangstationen initiative to a colourful musical close outside of Bergfeld’s Biomarkt who initiated the whole Street Music project.
The inspired idea of shops and musicians, both under financial stress these days, working together came from Axel Bergfeld, owner of Bergfeld’s Biomarkt in the centre of Bad Godesberg. Bergfeld saw the lowering of VAT rates for the rest of this year as a way to benefit shops, musicians and also shoppers themselves. 50% of the VAT savings could go to fellow Corona caused financial strugglers – the local Arts scene. To this end, the Biomarkt decided to finance street music permits for the City (25 Euros) and found, in local music legend Cynthia Nickschas and her partner Malte Stabenau, the perfect people to organize the musicians.
It turned out to be a win-win situation. The shops got an inviting atmosphere to attract shoppers, and the musicians got the chance of an income. You could even call it a win, win, win situation as the shoppers also got a friendlier environment to go shopping in. More on that later. Cynthia Nickschas is a good example for a view of the musician’s side of the current Corona shrunken Arts scene, of how times (and income) have changed. She’s a girl who is usually very much in demand for live appearances, counting on around eighty shows a year. That number has been decimated through the Corona pandemic – a typical story amongst musicians worldwide.
You wouldn’t know it to hear Cynthia play of course. Enthusiasm radiates from her the moment she straps her acoustic guitar on and touches its strings. Out on the streets, ‘the hardest stage in the world’ is where Cynthia Nickschas made her name. These very streets in fact, and only a few years ago. Nowadays, as indeed today, she has a nucleus of excellent musicians to join her, but it’s still wonderful to see this diminutive bundle of energy pick up steam throughout her set – gradually pull in an audience and keep them for the half-hour that current licences allow in one location.
The ‘stage’ edge is tastefully and brightly designated by bundles of brightly coloured helium balloons, and there is always a nod of the head and a ready smile from the lady herself to everyone who throws money into her guitar case. The music seems to perfectly match the place. A surprising feat in that it achieves the same perfect match in front of 100 people at Bonn Folk Club, 400 people at Bonn Harmonie, and a thousand people at Stadtgarten.
The half-hour slot is all too quickly over in the late August sunshine outside of the Bio-Markt, and a barefoot Cynthia disappears into the Deichmann shoe shop across the road for a few minutes. Does she see the odd humour in that? Typically Cynthia. When she returns to pack her guitar and move to the next location I manage to ask if there is hope for the Street Music initiative to continue. Cynthia hopes so.
Also on hand with calming music for the shoppers today were Cayu. Daniel Klein on saxophone, Alexandre Paris bongos, John Hay on Flamenco guitar and Eva Henneken on violin combined to bring a hint of Havanna to Theaterplatz. Happy smiles from the band and audience. Happy shoppers. The perfect back-drop to make a visit to ‘town’ worthwhile on a late Summer’s afternoon.
Somewhat reluctantly, I take the U-Bahn back to Bonn Centre. The streets immediately seem dirtier, the people more restless, impatient, stressed. In need of some calming music for the soul. I listen carefully. Only the sounds of traffic – human and vehicles – are to be heard. Over at Münsterplatz there are e-bikes parked on the yellow box painted to represent the legally allowed stage for street musicians. 25 Euros doesn’t necessarily guarantee a stage it seems, only a licence to play if there is one. Perhaps one of the stressed civil servants in charge of Bonn’s music permits should take a U-Bahn down to Bad Godesberg and see how it could be done – they might even come back less stressed than when they left…