My article on Bluegrass in Europe appeared today in the International Herald Tribune and -- thanks to the Trib's new web site merger with the New York Times -- on the NYTimes web site.
The original peg for the story was going to be the European Bluegrass Summit I attended in Buehl, Germany two months ago -- but things cropped up in between, and the story ends up being more a preview of events in Europe for Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month in May. I also delayed long enough to be able to add a line about Druha Trava playing ahead of the Obama speech in Prague April 5...
Bluegrass Thrives, Far from Home
PRAGUE — A recent concert in Prague demonstrated the far-flung reach of an infectious musical genre that spells “Americana” from the first ringing twang of a finger-picked string.
It was a concert of bluegrass music — but the event was a far cry from the high lonesome hills of Appalachia.
Lilly of the West, a bluegrass band from Bulgaria, was joined by Czech musicians for a performance hosted by the Bulgarian Culture Institute at its premises in the heart of the capital.
“The music is very sincere, it’s about the lyrics, about the songs; every song tells a story,” said Lilly Drumeva, the singer who founded the band more than a dozen years ago. She had first heard bluegrass in Vienna, she said, when she studied there in the early 1990s.
Famed for its close harmony singing and lightning-fast fingerwork on the banjo, mandolin and fiddle, bluegrass music has an international following among a passionate niche of devotees.
In Europe, dozens of bluegrass concerts, festivals, workshops and jam sessions take place throughout the year. Homegrown bands take center stage, but American musicians also often tour. And local bluegrass associations, Web sites, blogs and publications promote the music and chronicle events. Scotland, the Czech Republic, Norway and other locations have even had bluegrass programs in public schools.
The scene is small but intensely active, said Dennis Schut, a Dutch musician who has been involved in bluegrass since the 1970s.“I see it as a sort of religion or something,” he said. “You get addicted to bluegrass. The first time you hear it, you’re hooked.”
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