REVIEW FROM JUAN ISAZA
One leaves the concert hall, in this case, Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle, with a feeling of community. It sounds superficial, but it’s actually deep. To understand, you need to visit a concert by the Minimal Utopia Orkestra. On that basis, if you live in or near Berlin you are very privileged. If you live in Bonn though… you will need to wait until the next visit.
Looking at the stage before the concert begins I am struck by the variation and the sheer number of instruments waiting to be picked up and played. A monochord from Vietnam, Congas, a Moroccan bass, drums (in all shapes and forms), a lute or oud, a violin, maracas, tambourines, a computer and keyboard, microphones… It all looks a little bewildering, but fortunately, there is an introduction before the musicians appear. Someone, seemingly one of the founders or managers, who has been sitting in the first row with a camera, suddenly steps up to share the story of the project.
Inspired by the rich and varied incoming cultural streams that exist today in Germany as a result of the many guest workers and later immigrants, a group of people in Berlin came together to explore these different
cultures, with that of East and West Germany. The intention was to create a mixture of the new incoming music with that of German folk, but instead of German folk, initially, a minimalist Stockhausen style is used.
This was around 2020, and then of course came COVID. As a result, the orchestra went through several phases and changes of personnel as some members left. Today band members from various Countries and Cultures present their own compositions and creations. The result is a wonderful diversity of instruments, rhythms, and styles that come together – forming songs that invite the audience to dance.
Arab and Caribbean rhythms play together, take turns, and dance with one another. Voices and singing
complement one another beautifully and bring many different elements into one song. There is electronic sound support, and effects, light and figures form a backdrop and a singer appears and sometimes dances on stage. Cuban hip hop in a song that has an Arabic and Berber feeling – a feeling of being in the Caribbean or in
Marrakesh. Suddenly the music stops and only the vibrating notes of the monochord continue… to be
gradually joined again by instruments and voices.
The band members come from a wide spectrum of different countries: Algeria, Morrocco, Cuba, Germany, Vietnam, India and their music is correspondingly a wide mixture. It’s a new concept that is taken good care of by excellent sound engineers. All in all, an experience not to be missed and certainly not something you will hear on any street corner. You leave the concert with a heightened sense of respect, not just for the excellent musical styles but also for the Cultures involved.
A future world, where all cultures can coexist and respect each other, can be enjoyed in these troubled times – while the band performs at least, Utopia seems within reach. Next time they come to Bonn, make sure you get a ticket. The experience is one that is both rich and unexpected.