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Aug 14: 17 Hippies at WOMAD Charlton Park

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:38 pm
by Charlie
World on 3, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 14 August 2009, featuring the performance by 17 Hippies at WOMAD Charlton Park, July 26

If you ask me to name my favourite band in the world at the moment, it would be a tie, between Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, from Mali, and the 17 Hippies, from Berlin.

It was only as they finished their set, playing five songs instead of just the three they had prepared, that I realised another reason why I have liked 17 Hippies so much for the past ten years. There is no drummer in the line-up. I have nothing against drummers, some of my best friends are drummers. But they do tend to impose a more rigid structure to the rhythms and arrangements of songs. No such anchors weigh down the songs of 17 Hippies, which ebb and flow as the players of double bass and banjo lock into each other’s pulses.

The name of the band has probably been a hindrance, implying a casual, dilettante approach that does not do justice to their disciplined commitment. Their annual touring itinerary is so congested, the wonder is that they ever find time to write and record enough new songs for another album. But those albums keep on coming, and their last two have been their best so far, Heimlich being probably slightly stronger than the new one, El Dorado, if only because it includes their masterly ‘Son Mystère’.

17 Hippies on Radio 3 Stage
[photo by Martin Smith]

The members of the band were so friendly, there was no sign that any of them have any reservations about the particular focus of my enthusiasm, which is so clearly biased towards the songs that are written and sung by their female vocalist, Kiki Sauer. She sings with equal conviction in French and German, while the men sing mostly in German but can cope with English too.

Their music defies classification, and steers clear of any obvious categories, hinting at jazz one moment, and flitting across Cajun, Klezmer and folk while suggesting night club ballads every now and then. The perfect group for a music festival, you might think, but it has taken WOMAD an awfully long time to invite them. The consolation for me was that they were featured on Sunday and therefore available to play during my allocated set that evening. What a pity it was raining. The band were impressed at the audience’s fortitude – “in any other country, everybody would have gone inside, and we’d have had no audienceâ€


PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:37 am
by Charlie
email from:

1. Peter Barakan [Peter was a long-time Honky Tonk listener who has been based in Japan for many years, where as he notes, he presents his own radio show]:

Hi Charlie,

It's Peter Barakan in Tokyo. I saw this track in the playlist, and was curious as to why it got played. I've been doing a Saturday morning show on NHK here for over ten years now, and the theme tune is Sunshine Day, though the majority of my listeners have never heard of Osibisa.

I'm listening to the show now, and shocked to find out that so many people are immune to the talent of the amazing Oumou Sangare.

By the way, have you heard the album Throw Down Your Heart by Bela Fleck? The album was recorded in several countries in Africa, and the whole project was inspired by his hearing a record of Oumou's.

It's nice to see you back in action again. Are you completely over the condition that made you step down from the Saturday night show?

Peter Barakan

CG reply: The Best of Osibisa is a new release, hence my noting its availability. I don't know that Bela Fleck album.


2. Harry Fletcher-Wood

Dear Charlie

I'm a regular listener, but having just finished this week's programme, I'm impelled to let you know it was absolutely cracking. Well done, great, beautiful selection of music.



PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:56 am
by Gordon Neill
For the first time in ages, I was able to listen to this live on the radio. I was a bit worried that it was going to be all dodgy live recordings from WOMAD. So it was a nice surprise to hear some great records. As ever, Tinariwen played their song. But it's the best version that I've ever heard. And I'd never realised just how great a song Ian Dury's 'Spasticus Autisticus' is. Even the 'dodgy live recordings', from 17 Hippies, turned out to be rather good.

Re: emails

PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:31 pm
by Rob Hall
Charlie wrote:I don't know that Bela Fleck album.

There's a documentary about it too.

PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:00 pm
by Charlie
You have to wait a minute or two before it starts at: ... e_Gillett/