by Steve Perry
I have something to confess. I skipped Folk Club in July. Not because I
was sick or at a business meeting or anything like that. No, I was
just plain unfaithful and went to the "Tanz- und Folkfest"
(TFF) in Rudolstadt. Every first weekend in July this little city
(about the size of Bad Honnef) near Weimar in Thüringen is host to
about 100 top drawer Folk Music groups from all over the world and
about 80,000 visitors. Okay, so they count the visitors all over
again on each of the 3 days, and many people are counted 2 or 3
times, but still, we are talking about roughly 100 Folk Clubs every
day! The entire downtown section plus a park about half the size of
the Rheinaue was cordonned off and 3 full-sized stages were set up:
one in the market square downtown and two in the park plus a smaller
one at the Heidegsburg overlooking the city. In addition, the
municipal theatre and many other public buildings including the
library where Goethe and Schiller may have trod the boards, the
church and the Heidegsburg itself were commandeered, and there
were street musicians are on every corner. It was a real, peaceful
Folkie invasion. The clothes, the age group from kids to Rollator grannys, the
hairstyles from knee-length dreadlocks to bowling-ball-and-beard, and smiles, that if you put
them end to end would have embraced the world. The whole hootenanny
atmosphere reminded me so much of the 70s I thought I had entered a
There is just one word to describe this spectacle: overwhelming. I was
contact person for 3 groups (one from the Cape Verde Islands (Hmm,
now just where is Cape Verde?), one from Argentina and adjacent
countries and one from England, so I got to see much of the festival
from backstage. I was impressed not only by the professionalism of
the groups and how down-to-earth and friendly these upper-end
performers were, but also by the superb organisation. The musicians
and their instruments were met at major airports such as Frankfurt
and Berlin and brought to Rudolstadt, where they were ferried by van
back and forth between their venues and their hotels.
And this just scratches the surface: scheduling, brochures,
performer accommodation, decoration, cafeteria for performers and
staff, festival security, medical support...... Everything went like
Each year a country, a dance and an instrument are are featured.
This year the country was Norway and the dance was also Norwegian but
the instrument was not the 7-stringed Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, but
instead, the Waldzither. Just the instrument I have been trying to
learn to play for the past year! Right up my alley. Needless to say,
when I was not tending to my groups;I was getting inspired by
enjoying the wonderful music that professionals can coax from this
and related instruments such as the Portuguese (fado) guitar or the
I tented near the outdoor pool,
which turned out to be a very good idea with temperatures soaring to
35°C in the shade, only there was no shade. And to make matters
worse for the performers, 2 of the 3 major stages faced the afternoon
sun, meaning that the temperature on stage was at least 10° hotter.
My African performers had to cut their performance a bit short due to
their manager's concern about their health. Don't ask me how the
Norwegians, who were the next ones up, survived.
I was in the swimming pool.
It took me about a week to recover, get re-hydrated and stop dreaming
that my group is supposed to perform somewhere but I don't know
where. The TFF is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and I
just ask myself where I have been the past 24 years.