FolkWorld Issue 40 11/2009; Article by Walkin' T:-)M

Germany's Folk & World Music Mecca
Folk & The City: Rudolstadt


To be honest, most time of the year Rudolstadt is rather quiet and deserted. There seems to be no artist or music group really worth mentioning. Yet, this small town in Thuringia did become Germany's folk and world music mecca - if only for the first weekend each July.

Heidecksburg Castle

Focus: Music, Dance and Song of Native Americans, 20th Anniversary of the Albion Band & 25th Anniversary of Fairport Convention, WDR Folk Festival goes East; Magic Instrument: Violin; German Folk Promotion Awards: Baba Jam Band, Hagelschlag & Elfenreigen, Noks.

Country Special: Finland; Focus: Music of Sinti & Roma; Magic Instrument: Hurdy Gurdy; German Folk Promotion Awards: Hölderlin Express, Nûrê / Tango Fuego, Bremer Straßenmusikohrkäster.

Focus: EBU Folk Music Festival; Magic Instrument: Percussion; German Folk Promotion Awards: Johannes & Andreas Uhlmann, Werner Vonberg, Thalassa.

TFF.Rudolstadt;  photo Walkin' T:-)m

Country Special: South Africa; Magic Instrument: Mandolin; German Folk Promotion Awards: Grenzgänger, Suzanna & Dzelem, Trio Modal.

Country Special: Hungary; Magic Instrument: Hackbrett; German Folk Promotion Awards: O.Felix, Hora Colora, Passepartout.

Country Special: India; Magic Instrument: Saxophone; German Folk Promotion Awards: Schlüsselbund, Aquabella, Schnaftl Ufftschik.

Country Special: Portugal; Magic Instrument: Banjo; German Folk Promotion Awards: Kerberbrothers Alpenfusion, Micha Dümpelmann, Rolling Drones.

TFF.Rudolstadt 1999

Country Special: European Capitals of Culture; Magic Instrument: Mundharmonika; German Folk Promotion Awards: Robert Zollitsch, Naßler & Schneider, Das Blaue Einhorn.

Country Special: England; Magic Instrument: Stimme; German Folk Promotion Awards: Schandmaul, Jan Degenhardt, Sneppedalen.

Country Special: Kleine Antillen; Focus: 25th Anniversary Folkländer / Bierfiedler & Liederjan; Focus Regional: Bavaria; Magic Instrument: Clarinet; German Folk Promotion Awards: Toni Gelling, Iki Dünya, Ecco Meineke.

TFF.Rudolstadt 2002

Country Special: Poland; Focus Regional: Ruhr District; Magic Instrument: Knee Fiddle; Dance of the Year: Mazurka. German Folk Awards: Daniel Kempin & Dimitry Reznik, Di Grine Kuzine, Törnmeister.

TFF.Rudolstadt 2003

Country Special: Canada; Focus Regional: Berlin; Magic Instrument: Marimba; Dance of the Year:: Salsa; German Folk & World Music Awards 'Ruth': Wenzel, Urna, Mohammed Reza Mortazavi, Achim Bergmann (Trikont).

Country Special: Greece; Magic Instrument: Zither; Dance of the Year:: Round Dances; German Folk & World Music Awards 'Ruth': Hiss, Wu Wei, Yalla Babo Express Orchestra, Zoriya.

Country Special: Brazil; Focus: Symposium zum 100. Geburtstag von Wolfgang Steinitz; Magic Instrument: E-Guitar; Dance of the Year: Polka; German World Music Awards 'Ruth': Biermösl Blosn, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Malbrook, Nomad Soundsystem, Tango Crash, Dr. Jan Reichow.

Marketplace Rudolstadt

Country Special: France; Magic Instrument: Bagpipes; Dance Special: Tango; German World Music Awards 'Ruth': Konstantin Wecker / Bagdad-Kabul-Projekt, Rüdiger Oppermann & Karawane; Die Ohrbooten; Duo Bögeholz & Mosalini, Dr. Hartmut Franz.

Country Special: USA; Magic Instrument: Keyboards; Dance Special: Polonaise; German World Music Awards 'Ruth': Etta Scollo, Achim Reichel, Charlie Mariano, Mike Kamp.

Country Special: Israel; Magic Instrument: Frame Drum; Focus Regional: Saxony; Dance Special: Rock'n'Roll; German World Music Awards 'Ruth': Bobo, Sarband, Embryo, Christoph Borkowsky.

TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Country Special: Russia; Magic Instrument: Lute; Focus Regional: Baden-Württemberg; Dance Special: Male Dances; German World Music Awards 'Ruth': Hans Söllner, Aly Keita, Alan Bern & Brave Old World, Günter Gretz.

Rudolstadt 2008
Rudolstadt 1991-2007
Rudolstadt 2006
Rudolstadt 2005
Rudol 2004

Rudolstadt, Photo by The Mollis

Rudolstadt 1995 Jams 1991 Baba Yaga 1992 Haidouk de Tarafs 1993 Poozies 1994 Danish Dia Delait 1994 Sharon Shannon 1995 Deishovida 1996 Berroguetto 1997 Tri Yann 1997 Flook 1998 Magic Banjos 1998 Altan 1998 DUG 1998 Nathalie MacMaster 1999 Susana Seivane 2000 Stimmhorn 2000 Liederjan/Bierfiedler 2001 Ivo Papasov 2001 Ross Daly 2002 Haindling 2002 Dick Gaughan 2003 Jorane Jordan 2003 Hiss 2004 Biermösl Blues 2005 Bellowhead 2006 Etta Scollo 2007 The Imagined Village 2008 Klaus der Geiger 2008

The famous German scholar and statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt called the former residency Rudolstadt one of the most beautiful areas of Germany. The town, already mentioned in the 8th century, is situated in the wooded valley of the River Saale where she turns from south to east.

Gogol Bordello, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Gogol Bordello @ FolkWorld: FW #36

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From the 18th century onwards, the Counts of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt tried to develop their residency into a Little Weimar. They opened a theatre in 1793, featuring performances of the Hoftheater Weimar under the direction of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Here in the summer of 1788, Friedrich Schiller met his colleague Goethe for the first time. Schiller also was inspired to his famous poem "Von der Glocke" (Song of the Bell) by the local bell foundry. Later composers such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Niccolo Paganini were employed in Rudolstadt.

The Heidecksburg castle is overlooking the town, nowadays featuring a museum for regional history. You can view a stuccoed ceiling from 1636, a mirrored gallery from 1720 and a two-storey Rococo ballroom with a musicians balcony. Another place of interest in Rudolstadt is a rather small, but nice open air museum in the Heinrich Heine Park, actually the oldest of its kind in Europe, displaying two authentically furnished half-timbered houses from 1667 and 1700, respectively.

Valravn, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Valravn @ FolkWorld: FW#39

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In the neighbourhood you can pay a visit to the town of Saalfeld. It is called Steinerne Chronik (Stony Chronicle) because of several well-preserved houses from different ages. The main attraction is the Feengrotten (Fairy Grottos) with the most colourful showmines of the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The highlight of every visit ist the Gralsburg (Grail's Castle) with the Märchendom (Fairy Dome), featuring iron phosphate stalactites being 440 years old and up to 1,60 metres tall. Siegfried Wagner, son of the famous composer, built a replica as stage design for a performance of the "Tannhäuser" opera in the 1920s.

Ahoar, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Ahoar @ FolkWorld: FW #35

Icon Sound Labtschi, Djordjine, Tek-Dom, Hado

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North of Rudolstadt a short stop is worth at Schloss Kochberg (in Großkochberg) and at the early Romanic church in Weitersdorf, one of the oldest religious buildings in Thuringia. Let me also mention Bad Blankenburg where Friedrich Fröbel opened the first German kindergarten in 1839, Schwarzburg where president Friedrich Ebert signed the so-called Weimarer Verfassung (Weimar Constitution) in 1919, and the ruins of the Paulinzella monastery from the early 11th century. The latter locations lie in the highly romantic Schwarza valley, a deeply carved rocky gorge in the Thuringian Schiefergebirge (Shale Mountains).

Deitsch, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Deitsch @ FolkWorld: FW #31, #32, #39, #39

Icon Sound Liebesklage, Heinz fährt Karussell, Wirtshaus-

In 1996, Rudolstadt gained the culture award of the State of Thuringia for both preserving traditions and developing new cultural ventures. The Rudolstädter Vogelschießen (bird shooting) in late August, dating back to 1722, attracts half a million visitors every year. Only 60,000 attend at the TFF.Rudolstadt on the first weekend in July, the biggest folk, roots and world music festival in Germany, possibly in entire Europe.

The humble origins of this festival already lie half a century ago in the German Democratic Republic. In 1955 the first Fest des deutschen Volkstanzes (festival of German folk dancing) had been launched. It propagated German unity, both politically and culturally, and costume groups of traditional music and dance from both West and East Germany came to make a stand against the American barbarism of jazz and boogie woogie.

Mercedes Peon, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Mercedes Peon @ FolkWorld:
FW #17, #18, #28, #30, #40

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When the Cold War proceeded, Western groups failed to appear and were replaced by dancing groups from Eastern Europe. While the folk dancing festival itself slowly faded away, the folk music revival took off. Eastern German folk musicians, dancers and craftspeople paid a visit to the surrounding villages on horse-drawn coaches, and went camping, carousing and crooning in the local inns. Some of its participants are part of the TFF management today.

The last dancing festival was held in 1989, just as in Hungary the border between East and West came down. However, folkies in East and West Germany put together a new festival in 1991, taking a new direction and trying to establish a German counterpart to European festivals such as Falun, St. Chartier, Dranouter and Tønder. First it was called Tanz&FolkFest Rudolstadt, eventually the nasty f-word was dropped in 2003 and the festival is known as TFF.Rudolstadt ever since.

Rachel Unthank & The Winterset, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

The Unthanks @ FolkWorld: FW #36, #40

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In the beginning no one was really sure if the concept would work out fine and the population would accept the change from the old dancing festival to the new folk and roots music festival. Would folkies from the West go to a festival in the East? Soon it was clear that they did, and the festival went from strength to strength. Depending on the weather some 60,000 visitors flock into town over the first weekend in July, listening to more than 100 music and dance groups on 20 stages which stretch from the Heidecksburg over the Old Town to the Heinepark.

Musicians from all over the world play a wide range of music: traditional folk music as well as jazz, rock and hip hop. A couple of bands introduce music from a particular country. Another focus is dedicated to a particular instrument, climaxing in a magical jam session. Since a couple of years, there also is a featured dance, and dancers meet in a tent where they can learn the steps, and there is a regional focus introducing artists from a particular German area. However, you can easily miss any of this, because there is such a huge program. There are also buskers all over the town, and a children's festival too.

Brave Old World, TFF.Rudolstadt 2009

Brave Old World @ FolkWorld: FW #2, #40

Icon Sound Gants Fayn Mazltov, Makh Tsi, Geto Getunya

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Let's not forget to mention the German World Music Award RUTH which is granted annually during the TFF. Originally intended to promote young folk musicians, today it is awarded to rather established artists in categories such as German Ruth for artists with roots in German traditions, Global Ruth for artists with roots in regional traditions from all over the world, and Honourary Ruth for deserving persons and institutions.

The 20th TFF.Rudolstadt is held from 2nd to 4th July 2010, featuring musicians from all over the
world, and specials such as trumpet, step dancing and the European Broadcasting Union Festival.

Photo Credits: (1) Rudolstadt (by Walkin' Tom); Left Column: (2)-(8) TFF Impressions & Posters (by Walkin' Tom, The Mollis, TFF.Rudolstadt); Middle Column: (9) Gogol Bordello, (11) Ahoar, (15) Brave Old World (by Tom Kamphans), (10) Valravn, (13) Mercedes Peon, (14) Rachel Unthank + The Winterset (by Christian Moll), (12) Deitsch (by Walkin' Tom); Right Column: (16)-(44) TFF Impressions 1955-2008 (by TFF.Rudolstadt).

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 11/2009

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