Trees, as Folk Club impresario John Harrison wisely points out, cannot simply uproot and march away if their living conditions are impaired by thoughtless human activities. Where a Cedar can’t walk though, we humans can ‘step in’. John was one of many local and talented musicians supporting the ‘Baumwächter’ Tree Guardians‘ initiative at Alter Zoll on Sunday afternoon.
I arrived in time to catch Melchi Vepouyoum, or Melchi as his steadily increasing fanbase know him. He is clearly passionate about supporting nature as the ‘Save Soil’ sticker on his guitar case attests. Whether he has any songs of protest in his set today though I cannot tell, since his lyrics are in his native Bamoun language. Melchi is though certainly someone who believes in acting now rather than later to put our climate problems right and also that music is a potent force as the first page of his website attests:
“we only have today. I don’t know about you, but me, music helps me through this Journey”
Very ably assisted by Leonie Wollersheim on cello, Melchi’s set put up a high bar musically for the coming acts to follow. They did not let us down.
“I am the Green Man don’t take my name in vain. I am the Green Man and it’s time to break the chain!”
The Green Man is a traditional figure representing the natural cycle of rebirth in Nature and consequently, the changing climate makes him an ideal figure to cast judgement and warnings to us all on the consequences of what we humans are doing to Planet Earth. Appropriately then John Harrison and Eva Henneken’s set today involved two songs and a poem about the legendary ancient custodian of Nature. my favourite of these was Martin Donnelly’s song (see end of article). The duo also had a smattering of songs reflecting on nature, in name at least, Richard Thompson’s ‘Beeswing’ is actually about a broken relationship – but the title fitted the day and who cares as it’s a great song and we don’t hear nearly enough covers by one of England’s premier folk singer-songwriters. A fair smattering of blues too, with Eva’s tasteful violin and vocals often pushing the end result more into Jazz territory. A fresh approach indeed.
UN based band Cayu can also be relied on to find the right words for such an occasion and their self-composition about the Glasgow Climate Summit was perfectly placed, as was ‘Little Stone’ celebrating the happiness of being, well, a little stone that just ‘rambles in the road alone, with no worries’ except for being crushed by a big car I suspect – but I get the point, Lady and Gentlemen. Nature is more relaxed – as should mankind be. Lots to enjoy and new music too from Caju as always fresh surprises.
Gerd Schinkel‘s songs of protest can sometimes seem rather long at Folk Club meets, as he sings through pages pinned to his music stand with earnest voice and face. The Baumwächter Festival though is tailor-made for Gerd and his observations. It’s clear that the arch-enemy is very often Energy Company RWE, and its de-forestation policies in search of excavating lignite (Braunkohl). It’s not a bad thing to have memories jogged about such places as Hambacher Forst as the latest news quickly becomes old news in this busy world, and often causes are forgotten/replaced by new ones despite their still being valid. A theme that will definitely have more longevity in the public eye though is dealt with by Gerd in ‘Sie sind Grün’: How Green is the Green Party these days? Do their actions match their rhetoric? Gerd’s earnest white eyebrows angle down in a way that suggests we should be concerned at the very least. The stickers almost covering his guitar tell us all is not right with the World and Gerd’s presence tells us that there are still people standing up to sing and say so.
The duo Saitenstreych make no protestations. For a start, they have no lyrics. Their help for Nature seems more in the line of soothing it with gentle melodies. We, humans, are also alongside to enjoy the melody. Lucky us! Eva Henneken is back for her third (and far from last) appearance this evening, alongside her Violin is the harp of Uwe Jendricke. I still remember their appearance at the folk club with Christmas tree lights the only illumination around their music stands. No lights this time, but still magic in abundance.
It seems almost odd to just type the name Sobo. For a very long time now it always seems like ‘Marion &’ should, by default, be attached to it as a pre-fix. That would though do a great disservice to Polish-born Alexander Sobocinski, who actually featured in the local General Anzeiger recently (and revealed himself to have been something of a ‘metal-head’ musically in his younger musical days.
Sobo in 2022 though is one of the best flamenco/jazz style guitarists I know. Being a fan of Django Reinhardt is one thing. Being able to play his music well is another. Sobo is both. He is also well versed in putting together backing melodies on a loop-pedal and gives us an introduction to how the likes of Ed Sheeran got started. Sobo is also old enough to remember when we did this at home fiddling around with cassette tapes and the like. Sheeran has it easy is all I will say.
Joining Sobo as a special guest was Kilian Hübinger on saxophone. Their friendship goes back a long way said Sobo, but didn’t need to, since the almost instinctive way they fed off of each other’s lines made it self-evident. Maybe there’s a word for such instinctual playing? I’ll call it ‘musical osmosis’ in the meantime.
I wouldn’t want to have followed Sobo and Hüblinger’s magic, but someone had to and Cynthia Nickschas certainly would not have let it worry her. She already had, as always, a frontline fan-club stage front, not to mention what seemed like an ever-growing entourage of dogs accompanying them/her, each one seemingly friendlier than the next. Why shouldn’t canines support trees? They obviously have a need for them as anyone who has taken a forest walk will tell you.
I won’t bore you with saying how wonderful her set was. If you’ve seen Cynthia even once, even been lucky enough to catch her playing on a street corner, then you will not need my words of recommendation. Today she has forsaken both her trademark black hat and the Band formation in favour of a ponytail and ‘just’ Alwin Moser on violin. It means, for me at least, that the best song of her set was ‘In Reihe Bleiben’ with it’s wonderful violin melody.. “Wie So Oft”, “Es Läuft’ and naturally, ‘Egoschwein’ were all greeted with a welcome, a dance, and occasionally even a sing-along although 6 pm in the sunshine doesn’t create the best sing-along mood in audiences.
So it was down to the last act of the evening Marina Eckhart to follow two excellent and popular local ‘matadors’. Could she do it? and more to the point, who was Marina Eckhart?
In the order of questions asked: Yes she very ably followed on from the fine singing/songwriting of Cynthia. Eckhart hails from Vienna and is to be found, surprisingly, as drummer in a trio with the name Under Violet Skies. Well, not so surprisingly, since she spends the set sitting behind and playing a Cajon. There are also videos on YouTube that attest to her being very adept behind a full drum kit. It all suggests this might be a little loud for Bonn? No fears on that front ‘Lärm Motzkis”. Today Marina is introducing songs from her solo CD ‘Lifts Me High’ which is a relaxing collection of well-written and well sung/played compositions and recommended listening. Accompanied by Alex on guitar and Eva (making her fourth appearance with a band this afternoon!) Beautiful music, and her title ‘I am Floating’ sums up my feelings at the end of Marina’s set. Come back soon Marina!
A wonderful afternoon of music then, and all for nothing as far as the entrance fee was concerned. Hopefully not for nothing as far as spreading the word of looking after Nature and in particular our wooden friends the trees. On a side note, I was surprised to see a stand manned by the Nature organization BUND supporting an event involving electrified music. They have, after all, caused chaos by legal interactions at nearby Grafenwerth. Alten Zoll is not, as BUND informed me when I asked, a Naturschutzgebiet, so no problems here. I wonder if the trees overlooking the Rhine at Alten Zoll, not to mention the Nature living alongside them, feel ‘second best’? Or is it all politics? There is perhaps a song waiting to be written here Gerd Schinkel…
The initiator of the tree Guardians Festival is Andreas Thieves. To find out more visit the Baumwächter-Haus Carstanjen Link Here