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17 Hippies

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

Berlin has emerged as one of the great contemporary melting pots and 17 Hippies are surely the finest of Berlin band 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.

PHANTOM SONGS & the other end of the world

In 2010 we wanted to spend more time working on a new album. So we toured less … a side effect being that we spent less time sitting around airports, or careering through breathtaking landscapes on our way to a gig… and then of course it is a nice (almost new) sensation to hang out at home, see friends, and enjoy Berlin. We did travel a little though, Idar-Oberstein, Erkner, Worms, Palermo, Hitchin (near London), Aranda de Duero, Marcoussis (near Paris) and Saarbrücken among the places we played at… and (you’ll be expecting this) it is fun to be on the road, and so we will be doing more of it this year!

We started recording PHANTOM SONGS in February (we didn’t have the title yet, nor did we know where we would be going), and we kept at it all year. Using our own small studio for the first time to experiment with sounds, and voicing without having to rush… our producer Klaus Wagner (who has been working with us for years), and our guest producer JD Foster from New York encouraging us to tread new, hitherto untrodden paths. Sometimes simple details grew to unknown dimensions, that took weeks, and even months to sort out… new worlds revealed themselves, and new horizons to get lost over … and in the end 13 songs emerged, that tie together what music, and lyrics! mean to us. It stays intense!

So… in 2011 we will be traveling more again. Our tours take us all over (France, the UK, the US, China, Israel, Jordan), and now “down under”… where this year we had the privilege to play WOMAD in Australia and New Zealand.

It’s almost overwhelming how our repertoire (with quite a few songs in German) is received abroad. The atmosphere, the “how” seems so much more important… the reactions we get are fantastic; “we didn’t know that you people from Berlin are like THIS”… well, what did you think?

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