Berlin has emerged as one of the great contemporary melting pots and 17 Hippies are surely the finest of Berlin bands of the moment. They aren't hippies and there is only (!) 13 of them in their current line-up - double bass, banjo, ukulele and guitar give the rhythmic base, the melodious pattern is supplied by violins, cello, accordion, clarinet trombone and trumpet and there's not a single piece of percussion in sight.
No one really knows why exactly seventeen or why even hippies. But having a name is good, like a road sign announcing a town - it tells you where you are. No one has any idea what's coming up after the town sign, nor has anyone worked out what they were supposed to be doing or even where the 17 HIPPIES are heading.
We know for sure though that they have created a unique musical style, by colliding a variety of mostly European influences, from Gypsy dance to French chanson and German cabaret, with just a hint of anything from ragtime to country to early pop. From Algiers to Albuquerque, Berlin to Bloomington and Canton to Cantabria the unstoppable 17 Hippies bandwagon rolls on relentlessly, leaving crowds breathless but still wanting more.
Despite forming in 1995 it wasn't until the summer of 2009 that they added the UK to the list of over 25 countries to be mesmerised by these first rate globalists, with ecstatic festival crowds from WOMAD to Larmer Tree punching the air and singing in unison to their whirling, crashing, diving, bobbing and weaving collision of musical styles. This 13 strong “Rock the World” orchestral phenomenon are driven by boundless energy and razor-sharp interplay. The freshest, fastest, funniest dance band to hit the festival scene in years.
"If you ask me to name my favourite band in the world at the moment, it would be a tie, between Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, from Mali, and the 17 Hippies, from Berlin." Charlie Gillett, BBC Radio presenter.
"...this Berlin troupe has matured into something special; an orchestral phantasmagoria that slides between Balkan rhythms, French chanson, Weimar cabaret...great fun. The Observer
Berlin's glorious answer to Taraf de Haidouks
Let's get things straight from the start - there are 13 of them and only three or four have allowed their hair to descend below the collar. But what 17 Hippies lack in mathematical skills and hairstyles, they more than make up with their joyous transcontinental sound. Armed with myriad instruments to be plucked and blown, they inhabit the point where The Pogues and Taraf de Haidouks intersect, albeit proudly wearing a distinctive Middle European stamp. There's a whiff of Weimar cabaret about their sound, along with a warm caress of French chanson and several blasts of Balkan fury. But it's a seamless, unified sound, honed by 14 years and 1,500+ gigs together, and fuelled by a self-belief that often leads them down some unexpected strassen. As The Independent declared, they're "often weird and mostly wonderful". Indeed, any band willing to haul a euphonium up onstage certainly has our blessing. Nige Tasell