FolkWorld article by The Mollis: WIN CDs of Ambrozijn

Ambrozijn's Ambitions for
Flemish Folk

One of the greatest new Belgian Folk Bands

Ambrozijn, press photo A highly professional CD with highest quality Belgian music - something that catches directly the interest of FolkWorld. Up to now, you would not often hear anything in Germany of the folk music of our Flemish neighbours. Ambrozijn - whose CD was No. 4 in the FolkWorld Charts 1998 - were simply a 'Must' for an online interview, to find out more about the current scene over there.

The Ambrozijn CD - along with the two other new releases on the Wildboar Label, of the Girl Trio LAS and the instrumental band FLUXUS - with their exciting Flemish music and professional look of the CD suggest that native folk music must have quite a positive image in Belgium - or is the Wildboar label just one positive exception? "It was very calm here in Belgium on the folkscene", explains Ambrozijn's violin player Wouter Vandenabeele, "until 3 or 4 young bands started and had some success: LAS, FLUXUS and AMBROZIJN. Erwin (Libbrecht) started a new label (Wildboar) with these bands; and he wanted a modern lay-out of the CDs. Before that, Belgian folk label were mostly old-fashioned." This new approach to the folk music marketing prooves as a success; Wildboar and its recordings had a lot of response in the national radio and TV.

Ambrozijn started in 1996 after jamming a lot in pubs in Ghent (Belgium).The first concert in January 1997 was a succes, after that Ambrozijn were invited for the big Dranouter festival in 1997. This lead also to their label deal with Wildboar.

Ambrozijn, press photo What Ambrozijn play is "based on Flemish traditional music (old dances and songs), but with a lot of own compositions in Flemish style, with many influences of music from Ireland and France as well as of rock, jazz and ethnical music". And in a similar way as "ambrozijn", that is the Dutch name of the drink that turned the gods in Greek mythology immortal - the lads want to make the old traditional melodies immortal by blowing the dust off them: this means not just playing the tunes and dances but experimenting with them in order to distil a fresh new sound. They try to find a balance between their own Flemish roots and international, ethnic melodies and lyrics, which results in a surprising and attractive harmony. They have now introduced more and more of their own compositions.

Although all the musicians of Ambrozijn have no real traditional family backgorund, all have grown up with some of the songs that are today part of Ambrozijn's programme and of the repertoire in their cd. "We learned them in school (e.g.: 'vier weverkens'), but we made with Ambrozijn a completely different version of it - the young people like that a lot."

Ambrozijn sing both in Flemish and French, although their focus lies on Flemish music. "We don't seperate the cultures that much; our music is more international. Belgium was conquered by a lot of people (French, Austria,..), and now there are a lot of immigrants (Turks,..), and that makes the music here very interesting. Many folk bands have influences of all those different cultures, and we like that a lot. We like the living tradition of folkmusic that changes every day."

Ambrozijn, press photo Still, the folk music scenes of the Wallonian/French-spoken and Flemish parts of the country are more seperate. "But a wonderful folk-workshop in Wallonie (NEUFCHATEAU) brings both scenes together (also, the band Pantha Rei has Flemish and Wallonian musicians). With the music of the old folkies in the Wallonian and Flemish scenes, it's a bit different; but the young musicians are bringing both scenes more and more together." Ambrozijn has played already a lot in Wallonie, too.

The musicians of Ambrozijn have all quite different musical backgrounds; here is a short introduction to the lads:
Wouter Vandenabeele, the 27 year old violin player of the band, is taking a degree at the Jazz Department of the Conservatory of Music in Ghent and is involved in folk, jazz, theater and experimental projects. He has also attended courses in Holland, France and Ireland, where he developed a great interest for Celtic folk music. He leads the big folk, jazz and classical band OLLA VOGALA. He plays live music in films (in Jaune Toujours, OKO FON BIO) and theatre (Dearest Companion, Vieze Gasten), and took part in CD-recordings for diverse bands, like Horn (rock), Think of One, Asbury Faith etc.
Tom Theuns (27) plays Acoustic guitar, sitar and banjo. He graduated at the Jazz studio of Antwerp where he was awarded "first price". Travelling world wide has had a great impact on his music. A fascination for folk music brought him to Brittany, where he picked up his typical open-tuning style for guitar, to Ireland and to India (where he took sitar classes). He plays in Dearest Companion, Think of one, Humble Grumble (urban flip folk) and NADA (classical and Indian music).
The diatonic accordionist and bagpiper Wim Clays (25) studied folk music in Sweden and took music courses in Belgium and elsewhere. Since 1992 he has been playing in various bands, including traditional Flemish dance bands, and teaches today at the music school of St-Niklaas (Belgium). He performs theatre music for children, teaches the accordion in holland and organises workshops in " triviaal kunstencentrum 't einde" in St-Niklaas.
Ambrozijn, press photo Fianlly, Ludo van Deau (32), is the great singer and guitarist of the band, singing in both Flemish and French. He attended workshops with Wannes Van de Velde and took lessons with Leen D. (soprano) in Louvain. He is influenced by Irish and French folk music and by his travels through South-America. He sings with OLLA VOGALA, De Ontginning (theatre)and a few pop-groups. He has now set up his own singer-songwriter project.

Main influences of Ambrozijn are Malicorne (Gabriel Yacoub has produced their album, btw), RUM (very good flemish band, but they don't exist any more), Incredible String Band, Bruno Le Tron (French accordeon player), J.F. Vrod (one of the best French traditional violin players) and Kolinda.
Regionally, they are influenced mainly by the Irish, Scandinavian and Central France fiddle traditions, Breton guitar style and Indian classical music (Tom spended a lot of time in India).

All these influences and personalities together make up a superb and catchy brand of Middle European folk music. Fortunately, as seen above, the high quality of their music and professionality of their label create the amount of success that they merit.

The band is just embarquing on a tour with the 'Bouquet garni', a collaboration between LAS, AMBROZIJN and FLUXUS and De Cauter). These top Belgian bands have made a program together, and they have some big concerts in Belgium, maybe next year also in England and France. Another plan for the future are some new collaboration with the big OLLA VOGALA Band.
Meanwhile, Ambrozijn has already had some concerts in France, Holland and Sweden; and an international distribution of their CD.

Win CDs of Ambrozijn:

You could win two copies of Ambrozijn's debut CD (Nr. 4 in the FolkWorld Top 10 of 1998, reviewed in issue 7). Deadline was in April 99...
Question: What is the name of Ambrozijn's label?
The most correct answer was Wildboar / Alea.

Some sites of interest for those who have become interested in folk music from Belgium: Also, Marc Bekaert of Flemish folk mag T'Bourdonske writes in this issue a little feature on the latest success of some Flemish bands.

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