Bluegrass has been gradually working itself into a worldwide phenomenon, and this year’s convention of the International Bluegrass Music Association really gave one a chance to see that. I made friends from all over Europe, Australia, and Asia while in Raleigh.
Pieter Groenveld from the European World of Bluegrass said that there were were 12 bands in Raleigh this year from overseas. Groenveld worked at the European World of Bluegrass table in the Exhibition Center with information about bluegrass festivals, bands, and events throughout Europe. They have the European Festival Directory 2012/13 available so one can quickly find festivals over there. I opened the guide and there were over 100 different festivals listed at a glance by date.
One of the biggest festivals he said was the European World of Bluegrass Festival (EWOB). This year it was May 9th-May 11th in the Netherlands with 42 bands from around the world, and contests too.
The winner of the EWOB Festival Band Contest gets to come to the US and perform at the ROMP Festival each year. The EWOB Festival also has the Liz Meyer European Innovation of Bluegrass Music Award, which is awarded to a band does the best job of pulling in their country’s own traditional music into their bluegrass. Groenveld said that Tony Rice had told him that it was Liz Meyer who first introduced him to David Grisman. There is a history making bluegrass moment…
EWOB also has a CD with 48 tracks from their annual festival representing the blend of European and American bluegrass. For more information on any of the EWOB activities check out their web site.
I did happen to catch one of the bands that showcased at IBMA this year from Italy. They were called Red Wine and gave a really fun and lively show. Here is a clip if you want to have a little taste of Red Wine.
My favorite of the International Bluegrass Representatives this year was the Ozaki Brothers who, in their 80s, came all the way from Japan to receive their Distinguished Achievement Award from the IBMA. In a previous visit to the US, they had received their award for being Pioneers for Bluegrass Music from the Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro.
They had started trying to play and sing what was still called Country Music of the US back in the 1940s when World War II was still going on. There would be great dissension if people knew they were listening to the enemy’s music, so they hid their hand crank record player in a closet and played whatever records they could get.
There was little food or supplies available in Japan at the time, and metal was very hard to come by, so they had to make a needle for the record player from bamboo. They went on to eventually get a mandolin and a guitar, formed a bluegrass duet and performed in US Army camps to get their start in the music. They were the first bluegrass band in Japan and influenced countless people in Japan, letting them know about and hear bluegrass for the first time.
Now they are in their 80s and their excitement and love of the music is as strong as ever. Their acceptance speech was so moving that I started recording it in the middle of the speech as one of the brothers said something to the extent of this was one of the happiest days of his life.
Here is what I captured of their acceptance. You can see an interview we did together afterwards here.