‘Musik unter der Zeder’ makes a welcome return to the Bonn Open-Air calendar in July/August. The concerts, created by The Kleinen Theater and KuKuG in Bad Godesberg were a storming success last year, and the 2021 programme looks to be as strong as, or dare I say it, even stronger this Summer. From the opener with Brazilian Jazz & Latin Grooves offered by Astatine and very special guests through to African Drums that will signal the Festival’s close on 9 August there is a veritable cornucopia of musical styles coming our way in the Kurpark Bad Godesberg.
Read on for more information and feedback from the musicians who gathered for this week’s press conference…
Well, actually, if we are being pedantic, this year’s concerts will actually not be under the grand old Cedar Tree outside the Kleinen Theater. There were concerns about the stage and audience harming the illustrious old ladies roots and, as a result, the stage is now actually ‘Zwischen Zeder und Eiche’ (between a Cedar and an Oaktree). It actually looks to work out better for everyone concerned. All seats are now on flat even ground and there will be more of them on offer too – Covid permitting. 119 places are planned but there is the capacity for up to 300 people. If last years shows are anything to go by, they may need that in future years.
So, a few facts to start with: Entrance will be 15 Euros (via http://www.eventbrite.de). The first concert is on 5 July, and there will be a show each Monday at 7.30pm until 9 August weather permitting. It sounds like the perfect way to while away a summer evening, but what do the musicians appearing this year think? I took the chance at this week’s press conference to ask how much playing live again means to them – and also got some first-hand pre-concert information about what awaits us musically.
The honour of opening this year’s Unter der Zeder Festival goes to an evening of ‘Brazil jazz & Latin grooves’ with the ever-popular Astatine. “I’ve been doing a lot of baking, cleaning and other things I haven’t had much time for in years!” was the charming Rumanian singer’s answer to my question about what a concert-less Lockdown has meant for her. Livestreaming etc is not her thing she confesses. The best music is inspired by a live audience to feed off of. That said, Astatine did admit that in between baking and cleaning she has also found time to take a new musical direction. More about that in a separate interview that I plan to publish shortly before the show – but The word ‘Bossa’ turned up frequently in our conversation, alongside the names of guitarist Uwe Arendt and one of Europe’s top flute players Michael Heupel. The evening is called ‘Brazilian Jazz & Latin Grooves’ and judging by the lady’s enthusiasm, Astatine is looking forward to it as much as her many local fans will be.
“We were going to play as a trio with Moritz (Götzen) on double bass but now, we have been able to add Jonas (Vogelsang) on guitar so it’s become a quartet for the evening,” said a smiling Marion Lenfant-Preus. And she certainly has good reason to look forward to 19 July, because for the Marion & Sobo Band this event will also be a CD release party. The band’seagerly awaited new release ‘Histoires’ finds Marion embracing tales about dancing dragons, jumping into cold water, and bathtubs full of beer. Of tears and dreams, of love, lust and sorrow, of joy and fantasy. Colorful stories told in six different languages. She promises there will be plenty new to hear on 19 July alongside the band’s many current live favourites. Marion and Sobo have played in many venues in Bonn so her thoughts on the new venue are based very much on wide experience: “We’ve never played here before so I’m looking forward to it. It’s great that it’s not too open. There’s a cosy atmosphere. I think it’s going to be a very nice evening”. A definite thumbs up then from one of Bonn’s finest bands. Definitely a ‘do not miss’ too for Django Reinhardt lovers with the Gypsy Jazz talents of Alexander Sobocinski („Sobo“) on guitar.
The Seven Sins are a local cover band that I was not familiar with. “We come from St Augustin, starting out 25 years ago now – once playing a gig in Kleve as support act for Manfred Mann’s Earthband” said a smiling Achim Haag the band’s guitarist and singer. Their website offers the choice for visitors of “Tanzen oder zuhören”. Since dancing will probably not be possible, what will we be listening to on 26 July? “Rock and pop. Dance music as well. For our show here we want to play something from our Jazz repertoire too. A change from 4/4 tact. Classics like ‘Take 5’ but there will also be plenty of pop and rock hits. We will start with a Police number, some Cream, also early Rory Gallagher from his time with Taste – ‘Railway & Gun’ (from ‘On the Boards’). Some early Rory Gallagher? Not the average fare of Rory’s tribute bands. I’m sold.
John Harrison remembers the Festival organizer from KuKuG Sabine Köhne-Kayser asking if he might be interested in putting an Anglo folk music evening together for the ‘zedern’ festival this year. “Which was good news,” remarked John, “as we weren’t able to offer Simon Kempston a Folk Club appearance last December and he has become a real favourite with our audience. He has also been kind enough to label us ‘the best folk club outside Scotland’!” John remembered, “So, with such kind words, how can you not ask him along?”. Then it occurred to John that he had to cut Irishman Shay McVeigh’s set short when Bonn Folk Club did a ‘lite’ version at the Harmonie last year, so Shay was in. “With myself, that made an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman, which is the famous start of many a joke – it seemed pre-destined for the bill!” Thus was born ‘Live in Europe – from the British Isles’ on 2 August.
I still haven’t mentioned ‘African Drums in the Park’: Pape Samory Seck with his drum rhythms and pianist Mike Herting who, together with vocalist Mame Balla Diouf will be presenting music from Senegal. Oh, and how could I possibly forget Bonn’s own mini-superstar with the maxi heart for music Cynthia Nickschas. She will be back on 12 July. Probably I don’t need to mention Cynthia anyway. You must know her by now. No? Then book your ticket ASAP and thank me later for the tip!