Those who follow the international press may recognize that the term Americanization is used pejoratively by some guardians of European culture. The worldwide dominance of the English language, the American dollar, and US pop culture is viewed by some as a threat to indigenous ways, especially in smaller countries.
But even with that attitude, bluegrass continues to make inroads into the European experience, with multiple generations of EU grassers having taken root, and influenced the next.
Loes van Schaijk is a musician and music teacher in The Netherlands who has recently completed her master’s degree in Arts & Culture. She grew up with a fetish for all things American, which was fueled by her parents spending several years living in North Carolina before she was born, and a mother who supported her pursuit of American folk music.
Upon reaching adulthood, she discovered bluegrass anew at an EWOB convention, leading to her taking a position as vocalist with Slovak band, Waterflow. Presently, she performs on bass and vocals with Red Herring in The Netherlands.
Now, together with her friend and fellow bluegrass enthusiast, photographer Marieke Odekerken, van Schaijk has completed a book chronicling the Dutch bluegrass scene, entitled High Lonesome Below Sea Level: Faces and Stories of Bluegrass Music in the Netherlands, which profiles several dozen Dutch bluegrass personalities, along with high-quality black & white images.
The pair traveled the width and breadth of The Netherlands interviewing and photographing nearly a hundred people, many of whom Loes had first met doing research for her masters thesis. It’s theme was an examination of whether interest in bluegrass in her country was a side effect of Americanization, but she came to the conclusion that the people she had met loved the music for its own sake, regardless of where it may have originated.
Dutch grassers are also proud to note Bill Monroe’s ancestry, with his mother’s maiden name, Vandiver, being an Anglicization of the familiar Dutch surname, Van der Veere. They claim him as one of their own and view him as half-Dutch. But given their relatively small population, we don’t hear a lot about their active bluegrass scene.
This new book, with it’s collection of thumbnail biographies, should serve to remedy that somewhat.
Loes and Marieke made this video to explain their goals with High Lonesome Below Sea Level. The video is in Dutch (with English subtitles), but the book has been written in English.
The book is anticipated for release on May 14, and is offered for sale worldwide from the authors’ web site. It will be printed in a 9 X 11” format, using archival grade paper, and offered for € 30 (approximately $32.50 USD). A collection of Odekerken’s prints can also be ordered online.