"It's good to be back; drinking good Guinness in Wolfensbuttel. I always like coming to Germany. But usually I come as a tourist, not as a musician. - We want to be in Germany as much as we can. We have many friends here."
Ron Kavana first came to Germany 20 years ago, with a Rythm'n'Blues band; the last time he was here was together with the Pogues. This time he was invited to the 1st Wolfenbüttel Folk Festival (in 1997) with his Alias band. As he has no agency in Germany, Ron does not often play in Germany. "Every time we try to have an agent we find it's not good business. We can only come if we don't lose money. This time we are just here for the beer; hopefully next time we will take the beer and the rent."
Friends and beer - that is also the setting of our talk: A June Saturday in the afternoon, the sun is shining, the party is already going on at the yard in front of the Wolfenbüttel castle. Sitting around the table are Ron with the Alias band, Niamh Parsons and The Loose Connections and Ron's friends Shay and Geraldine MacGowan, now residents in Hanover. The Guinness stall is not far away, the stout is flowing; a local German Irish folk band is playing in the background. The crack is mighty, five hours before the appearance of Alias Ron Kavana at the festival stage...
Ron is in a reflective, philosophic mood: "Sometimes I wonder - I write a lot of political songs; I wonder why people in Germany want to hear songs about Irish politics. I don't know - it seems like there was a big German appreciation for Irish Music in the past, people liked the Dubliners, the Furey Brothers. But real politics is a little bit different. I think maybe people like the romantic idea of what is Irish politics, maybe more than what is the reality of Irish politics. I think the Alias band is more about the reality of Irish politics, the real things; every day life, people living in peace." He states that several folk bands with big names sing songs about politics they don't really mean. Ron tries to represent the real Ireland; "I try to make the real Ireland speak, be the voice of some of the people of Ireland. I don't think that the bands singing about glorifying violence, that they speak for the people of Ireland."
"At the same time we are not just people who want to get drunk and forget everything. This is a very simplistic vision of Irish people that many people have, that it is all just drink and f*** everything." He points out that Ireland is the nation that produced Sean Casey, W. B. Yeats, James Joyce. "We are serious people. We have serious things to say. And when we say serious things we want people to listen and talk about them to us." Ron thinks that it is very important to talk and exchange ideas - especially now, for all the nations of Europe - "we don't know what the EU or the Monetarian Union means, it's all political talk. But we would like to think that what it means is that people of one country will understand the people of another country and reach out and say hello, I am the same as you. We are no different in our countries. We have the same hopes, same dreams, that we can make a better world - without meaning to sound like a hippie, that we can make a world that is worth living in for our children."
Sometimes it seems to Ron that Germany is one of the best countries in doing this. He supposes that it might be because of its horrific past that young people in this country want to make everything better now, "show the whole world: We are better than that. - We want it too. The violence in your country is in the past, in our country it is in the present. But we want to put it in the past. We want to move on and be part of a new world where music is more important than guns. It is that what people want to hear - not the sound of gunfire, but the sound of music."
Ron says that Ireland is base and root of everything they play, but they try to take it out everywhere in the world. They try to bring in African, Indian, American, Caribbean Music, "because we are all people together. And unless we learn to live together and to love one another and live without violence, without thread to one another, than there is no hope for the future of the world." Now this really sounds a bit like a hippie doesn't it... "And I think that one of the best ways to express this is in music. When politicians say, people go 'oh - it's just the politicians - he is just keeping his job'. We don't earn much money, we don't have a big job to keep. It's just something we believe in. I think that's the way with a lot of music - people use it to show what they believe in." In his opinion it is the duty of musicians not just to say what they believe in but also to say what they do not believe in. Very often people in literature are taken very seriously when they do this - like Salman Rushdie, like several German writers, several Irish writers. But they do not reach an awful lot of people - musicians reach more people. Ron points out that he is not trying to change the world by saying anything. "I know music can't, can't change the world. But it can help to influence people a little bit. If people are influenced a little bit and they think a little bit, then we all come closer together. And this is important. It's only small, but it is important."
Photo Credit: All photos by the Mollis:
(1) and (3) Alias Ron Kavana in Wolfenbuettel
(2) and (4) Ron Kavana and Solas' Karan Casey in Tønder 1998
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 10/98
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