No. 26: 7–10 July 2016

“Rudolstadt Festival?!” Does anyone still remember the consternation prompted by this new name just a few months beforehand? But no sooner had the festival opened, it was all forgotten! And by the time the festival ended on the Sunday, all doubts had been truly allayed – for the name clearly still fronted the same tried-and-tested content. And anyway, what’s in a name given all the pressing political issues going on?!
It was striking how many musicians used the occasion to include appeals for peace, tolerance and intercultural understanding in their performances. The festival team itself took a stand with its own special multi-ethnic production addressing refugee policy. ‘Noah’s Ark Reloaded’, which dealt with migration and displacement, and featured musicians from Burkina Faso, Germany, Slovakia and Syria, was premiered in Rudolstadt. Directed by Petra Paschinger, the musical director was Matthias Schriefl, a revolutionary from the Alpine brass scene and the 2016 winner of the world music award RUTH.
The choice of this year’s showcase country, Colombia, took on special significance a fortnight before the festival without any help from the team – for after more than 50 years of civil war, the Colombian government signed a ceasefire agreement with guerrilla organization FARC. The country’s musical and ethnic diversity was represented in Rudolstadt by ten bands ranging from traditional to modern styles between cumbia, hip hop and jazz. Performers such as Afro-Colombian flute player Paíto (the last great exponent of his art), Sidestepper (pioneers of electro cumbia) and virtuoso jazz harpist Edmar Castañeda created a variety of highpoints. They were joined by Rancho Aparte, whose street party sound flowed straight from the ears to the feet – a sensation also felt at the workshops devoted to Rudolstadt’s dance of the year, cumbia.
As always, there was plenty of spontaneous dancing, too, including to Dobranotch, Harald Haugaard & Helene Blum, and Gangstagrass, who on their first European tour were promptly declared by many visitors to be their new favourite band. Along with Jambinai from South Korea and the Dakh Daughters from Ukraine, Gangstagrass were easily one of the most powerful, most surprising discoveries. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘quieter’, moving recitals included those by Lorcán Mac Mathúna with his archaic sean-nós vocals as well as by Germán López, famed for his mastery of the timple, a small five-string guitar from the Canary Islands.
Time for a bit of namedropping! In 2016, we had Anoushka Shankar, Lena Willemark, Ernst Molden, Gasandji and DJ Ipek to thank for some happy, stirring and memorable moments. We were also indebted to Stoppok, who came to Rudolstadt specially to perform live for the very first time in Germany at the RUTH awards ceremony with his colleagues from India, with whom he’s already released three albums in Asia.
By the way, the festival coincided with Euro 2016, the European men’s soccer championships. In the end, the final was won on the Sunday evening by Portugal. But no one really paid any attention, because at the same time Glen Hansard was performing a dazzling closing concert in Heine Park – and it was just wonderful!