Whoever said that good things never last wasn’t thinking of Bonn’s ‘Over The Border’ Festival. Now in its 6th year, with the World in turmoil, we need music that embraces diversity from every corner of the planet more than ever in 2022. Sunday’s traditional opening ‘taster’ concert at the Harmonie certainly created positive energy aplenty and suggested there will be a lot to savor until 9 April.
It seemed fitting that a Doctor, Johannes Kuchta, got the evening underway. Delivering music as his medicine this evening to an audience that has spent more than two years living with Covid and more than two weeks living with events in Ukraine. Johannes has a wonderfully soothing voice that seems to weigh every syllable before his mouth opens. Certainly ‘The Great Gates of Kiev (Daedelus Calling)’ was the perfect opener this evening. Beautiful flute playing by Waldemar Lackowski too. Chilling moments and we were barely five minutes into a long evening of music. Opening the festival with familiar faces from the local scene such as Kuchta, Lackowski, percussionist Roland Peil, bassist Vincent Themba and keyboardist extraordinaire Marcus Schinkel also underlined how lucky we are locally for musical talent. It was also a formation that created the perfect fundament on which all of the wonderful musicians appearing built their sets on an extraordinary night of World music magic.
Ana Maria Leistikow is well known and loved locally under the name Astatine for her Gypsy Jazz and Bohemian performances, and I never tire of hearing her gentle voice that is able to pull me out of the foulest of moods just by the calm aura of musical happiness that appears on her face at every show. regardless of musical style or accompanying musicians, it’s clear that she loves to sing and loves to feed off of the challenge of doing so alongside excellent jazz musicians. Alas, only a short set tonight from the Rumanian chanteuse, but you can visit Bad Godesberg on July 11th ‘Unter der Zeder’ for a lot more from Astatine and a set based around the holy jazz trinity of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Duke Ellington.
Lots of deserved praise then for the Local Matadors this evening, but let’s take a step now ‘Over The Border’to wonderful musicians from further afield. It is definitely a step worth taking as you are about to discover…
Estrela Gomez: Markus Schinkel made much in his introduction of the fact that Estrela had forsaken the offer of leisurely transport to Bonn – preferring instead to arrive by moped. waiting in the wings to come on stage, she smiled with slight embarrassment admitting she had no idea what he’d just said as she didn’t speak German. Any feeling that I was one-up on her for that evaporated though as she did speak French, Portuguese and English. He did mention too that Gomez had an extraordinary voice, and he was right on that count too. It is perhaps an acquired taste, going a little in the range of Asaf Avidan, but pleasantly listenable on the night.
More interesting was the ability that Estrela Gomez had to play trumpet without an instrument, and that brings me to an interesting (to me anyway) observation: Gomez cut her teeth as a female busker. Two other such ladies come to mind. Our own Cynthia Nickschas, and French icon Zaz, both of whom are also to be heard making ‘ersatz’ kazoo/trumpet sounds in their sets. Do male buskers also have this ability? Let me know of any. Whatever, successful street musicians have an ability to captivate their audience and, despite her relatively quiet voice, Estrela Gomez did just that. Leaving to quite possibly the loudest applause of the evening. Possibly…
Stella Tonon would certainly also have no trouble drawing audience attention on a suburban street corner with jet-black hair and sparkling eyes that are Mona Lisa like in their ability to draw the gaze directly and deeply in. Interestingly, Stella is part of a Duisburg musical institution named Bröselmaschine that at one time included Helge Schneider in its ranks. Rather like Schneider, Tonon exudes the feeling that you are watching a one-off talent. That said, there is something of Zaz in her performance too. Maybe it was down to the impish jumping around.
Lucia de Carvalho from Angola has no trouble catching attention. She is brightly dressed and carrying a large drum on her petit shoulder. Presenting material from her new album “Pwanga ni Puy”. Her songs are a combination of words with rhythm and sound, additionally enriched with a very personal Afro-Brazilian touch.
‘Love’ in the Kimbundu language of Angola, was the title of an album that Carvalho released in 2016, and also the title of a moving documentary that retraced her quest for roots and for her own identity. Her description of that journey in the documentary fits very well with the concept of tonight’s concert:
“ The roots are Angola, the branch is Portugal, the flower at the end of it is Brazil, and France is the ground in which that flower was given a chance to grow.”
To say that anyone, anywhere, is purely English, German, or whatever nationality is as nonsensical as saying that any music is purely from one source. Music is, quite simply, as diverse as the people who sing it. Music illuminates the world around us, as Lucia, together with her guitarist and partner Edouard Heilbronn from Strasbourg admirably proved with rhythms and smiles in equally large portions. Could the Harmonie have kept the audience seated for this one a few months ago? I think not. Good that people were finally able to feel the music and physically join in with the rhythm of that drum!
I should point out that the audience was let into the hall somewhat later than planned because there were so many musicians appearing who needed to soundcheck. If you count the names listed so far and then add the ones to come, then you will understand the problem.
Despite being a new name in Bonn, the next act had some very familiar faces.
The Golden Kebab Ensemble? Who else but Saman Haddad would come up with a name like that? He brought with him two other faces familiar from Bonn’s Kulturklungel Orkester in Philip Gondecki on Tzoura (a Greek mandolin) and Ayham Nabuti on guitar and equally talented on smile. But then competing with Saman’s enthusiasm is probably great training in that department. Needless to say, the trio played a blinder.
It has been a long evening with never a dull moment. Filled with musicians radiating a love for their craft and their fellow human beings that has been as enjoyable as the music itself. It really would be unfair to say anyone was the ‘main attraction’ on such a night. That said, the final act was something a bit special.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Miroca Paris hails from Cape Verde. He accompanied the legendary Cesaria Evora for over ten years as a percussionist and is at home in several metropolises. In recent years, Miroca toured with world star Madonna on her MadameX world tour. He has since gone on to tour in his own right, singing songs from his own Afro_Portugese background.
It was clear from his short set this evening that Miroca will undoubtedly be one of the stars to remember when he appears at Pantheon to close this year’s festival on 9 April. Today though he provided the perfect conduit to bring all of tonight’s stars onto the stage for an emotional song of peace.
You can get tickets for Miroca Paris and all of the coming concerts of this year’s Over The Border Festival via the EVENT WEBSITE Which I heartily recommend you do. Music is an excellent medicine in this ailing World.