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Music from distant, faraway worlds

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Music from distant, faraway worlds

The best of friends: Alfred Vogel and the drums In New York, Berlin or Bezau, Vogel made his mark on the world music scene by founding the internationally recognised Festival Bezau Beatz.

On a few special evenings in August, when the heat remains palpable in the air, the final station of the erstwhile Bregenzerwaldbahn railway is transformed into a stage. Lamps bathe the terrain in bright light revealing old train coaches, which for decades connected the valley with Bregenz. People, who sit on the tracks or stand at the bar, cast long shadows. The sound of laughter mixes with music played low and footsteps across the railway ballast around the tracks. In the air, the scent of rust and coal is thick.Meanwhile on the platform, musicians sit on the benches where passengers once waited, conversing and enjoying a drink.

It’s intermission a scene devoid of time and place playing out beneath the train-station clock. Soon, visitors will return to the wide, open spaces of the train depot to hear sounds that will carry them away to another place and time. “For me, music is a vehicle for travel in the mind,” says Alfred Vogel. “I can hardly imagine a more apt metaphor for this concept than an open stage at the former train station. Principally, I like train stations and this one is special. Aspects remind me of the old west.”The first Bezau Beatz took place at the village square ten years ago. This venue also had its charms says the musician, producer and event organiser and yet the train depot allows the event to be held in any weather and the location transforms proceedings into a festival where concerts and cuisine can be offered at an extra special place. DJ journeys with the steam locomotive, select Bregenzerwald specialities (“Good food is a must”), and performances by jazz greats such as US trumpet virtuoso Peter Evans, the Belgian singer Trixie Whitley, and Reggae star Wally Warning transform the once conventional concert at the village fountain into a renowned festival celebrated on the feature pages and appreciated by audiences.

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“Traditional numbers are important, but I build upon the readiness of concert goers to hear and experience something new and unusual. The festival is doing well, precisely because it offers a mix. We offer more than just a night of jazz because we also play music from other genres or feature interdisciplinary projects. I admit that this can sometimes be a challenge for even the most hardcore jazz fans and of course for those who don’t have much to do with jazz at all. But so far such experiments have really worked out. The intensity of performances is always the decisive factor.”What sounds like a walk in the park was actually more like jumping into the deep end for Alfred Vogel. But something had to change.

“Nearly twenty years ago when I moved to Bezau for relationship reasons, there was nothing going on in the local Jazz scene. Personally, I really missed the exchange that I was used to in cities like New York so I had to do something to bring a little bit of the scene to the area.”The majority of the year, Albert Vogel lives the life of a drummer and producer, who travels the world on tour with a changing group of musicians or plays sophisticated albums (such as Vogelperspektive Vol. 1 to 5: boomslang records). An increasing amount of his time, however, is now spent organising events and this led to some exciting travels – most recently Norway to one of the world’s largest music festivals. Here, an entire country introduced its music and musicians.

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“This was an unbelievable event. Directors of the 26 most renowned jazz festivals in the world were invited including those from the Winter Jazz Fest New York or the London Jazz Festival. Bezau Beatz was also on hand, meaning me. Naturally, I was often asked: Where, please, is Bezau? But when they discovered who all had played our festival, they were surprised and I was proud. We traveled to various places where we met local musicians. The saxophonist Truygve Seim, for instance, played on a small boat in the middle of a giant fjord. All around him was the unbelievable stillness and space of an immeasurable landscape, and yet the sounds of the musician were so close. I learned a lot there, for instance that music is heavily influenced by the environment. Norway is a giant country with few inhabitants. Naturally, their music sounds and is influenced by the cinematic expanses of this extensive landscape. And at the same time, one hears the hardness and existential nature of the earth in the music. Even the rain. Such pieces are in stark contrast to the nervous energy of music played by a band originating from a vibrant metropolis. I find it thrilling when such music from far away is played in Bregenzerwald for the people here. That is an especially gratifying moment. Something almost spiritual.”

Spiritual is an apt term in describing how Alfred Vogel found his way to drums. Or, perhaps, how the drums found Alfred: “It was my first communion. During the 1970s in Lustenau it was normal to having a marching band play music at the church for first communion. There was the beat from the drums, which hit me almost physically like a shot to the gut. I felt that then I knew what I wanted. But at the time, those who wanted to go to music school had to first learn to play the recorder. But I wasn’t interested in taking the long way round. Luckily, I met Elmar Moosbrugger, known as El Moses. He was the only drummer in the country that took students who didn’t know how to play the recorder. He gave lessons at his practice studio in the basement. It stunk down there and so they always lit incense. Later in life it became clear to me that the drums and I had somewhat of a spiritual journey together.”

Author: Carina Jielg