Sturm, Twang and the Imaginary Wild West in Europe
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Berlin versus Buehl... country music and bluegrass in Germany
Roland Heinrich at the Country Music Messe, Berlin, 2008. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
I had a hard choice for this weekend -- whether to attend the annual Country Music Messe (Fair) in Berlin, a noisy extravaganza of scores of bands, which I have attended I think four times in the past, or to try something new -- the European Bluegrass Summit in Buehl, Germany, a meeting gathering about 30 promoters, entrepreneurs and musicians from a variety of countries to discuss the state of bluegrass music in Europe.
It's really too bad that these events take place on the same weekend.... this year I opted for bluegrass, just to see something new. (More on the "summit" later.)
For several years I've been exploring the imaginary wild west in contemporary Europe -- observing and experiencing the many ways that Europeans embrace the mythology of the American Frontier to enhance, imbue or create their own identities. (Or, indeed, just have fun.) On this blog I will post pictures, stories and links relating to this multi-faceted subculture, from European country music to rodeos, theme parks, round-ups and saloons....
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years and currently coordinate the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant. In 2015 I was the Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, SC.