Sunday, September 21, 2008

17 Hippies on Willy Street

Kiki Sauer of 17 Hippies
Kiki Sauer trained as a classical pianist, has a degree in French philosophy and is one of the founding members of 17 Hippies, the eclectic Berlin-based German band that hit the World Music Festival stage at the Willy Street Fair Saturday night. She's a singer and songwriter and plays the accordian and the Indian harmonium. She's also one of several band members who plays the kalimba, or African thumb piano, shown here.

17 Hippies at Willy Street fairThere weren't really 17 musicians onstage -- only 13. But nobody was counting. That only happens in Germany, as Sauer explains.
“In Germany — and only in Germany — people tend to count musicians on stage,” chuckles Kiki, “and sometimes they say, ‘Why, there aren’t 17 of you!’ One or two have wanted their money back! Same thing happens about the hippie thing: ‘Why, you’re not hippies?’ We tell them, ‘Well, the Rolling Stones aren’t exactly stones.’”
The band's sound is an infectious, danceable blend of folk, acoustic, and rock traditions, with influences as wide-ranging as Cajun and klezmer. The band formed in the early nineties, after the Berlin Wall fell, Germany was reunified and all sorts of musical influences came flooding in from eastern Europe.

Christopher Blenkinsop of 17 HippiesThe band's guiding spirit is Christopher Blenkinsop, who sings and plays ukulele, after having played bass in other rock bands. This is how he describes the way they developed their unique sound.
The band started with a simple concept, says vocalist and musical mastermind Christopher Blenkinsop. “We said, ‘OK, so you play an instrument? Well, don’t bring it!’” Christopher picked up the ukulele (after playing bass in rock bands); Kiki, who had been trained on classical piano, took up accordion; Lüül found a misplaced banjo; Dirk, the heavy metal drummer, had always wanted to play guitar; Antje switched to clarinet, after classical flute training; and off they went creating their own sound.
More photos at this Flickr set.

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