On 2 November, my drumbiker trip Elephant Songs, a musical journey from South India to the Netherlands on an old motorcycle loaded with drums, was concluded with a beautiful evening at the Utrecht theatre farm rood|noot. A full house enjoyed fantastic Indian food cooked by Sanderien, Peter, Irene, and Suzy while watching a selection of filmclips of the trip or checking out the morning pictures (now also available as a fast-forward film clip: 255 photos in 55 seconds, with music from the show at Darbast, Tehran).
The second half of the concert was a return to older Amsterdam days, when I often played duo with guitarist extraordinaire Alfredo Genovesi – for improvised or set dance shows, with the Phillip Project, as part of a larger groups, or like tonight – just the two of us, enjoying playing together.
improvisation by alfredo genovesi & robbert van hulzen
The night before we had the honour to make an appearance on the great programme Virus, which is aimed at bringing “classical music” to a younger audience. Wouldn’t have been complete without us, obviously. We played three tunes for an enthousiastic studio audience, broadcast live at the Dutch Radio 4 and the internet. Tonight’s Elephant Ensemble featured Yedo Gibson (saxophones), Jornt Duyx (guitar), Marko Bonarius (double bass), and your humble correspondent (drums).
Not entirely sure what to do now the trip was almost over, I decided to to enjoy the early autumn light in beautiful Antwerp. From there, one cold and sunny morning I rode into the Netherlands to play with Rik van Iersel‘s Beukorkest at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. On my way there however there was something else I urgently had to take care of – legalising my bike.
No one seemed to really care I arrived at the registration office with my Nepali plates – and that was only the beginning.
Hmm, that front wheel has some play in the bearings. What’s the official margin? None. Rear wheel – same story. The indicators, do they work? Sometimes… That’s ok, on a bike this old they’re not compulsory anyway. What about the brake light? Uhmm… You’ll fix all this, won’t you? Of course. Then all that was left was verifying that this was indeed the bike that was described in its Nepali registration papers. There was some doubt whether the bike was as old as it pretended to be, the speedometer and a few other things looking too new in the opinion of the friendly offical. But in the end it was decided that matching frame and engine numbers sufficed, and the Dutch papers would be in the mail shortly.
I think I wasn’t really supposed to use the bike till then, but with my frontier insurance papers in my pocket I felt safe enough and rode into the centre of the Dutch city of lights, Eindhoven, to find a good coffee and subsequently the Burootje Beukorkest – a combination of art gallery and concert venue that was part of the Dutch Design Week.
I’d found Rik online when looking for musicians in the low lands, and he kindly invited me to come join the festivities in Eindhoven. As part of the Design Week, the Beukorkest was housed in one of a row of houses still under construction. As much art gallery as concert venue, with Heet Brood‘s toasties from heaven in the garden.
After a day of playing and hanging and checking out other activities in the festival, I curled up on the short sofa in our gallery. Frozen stiff I got up before dawn and embarked on the Coldest Ride Ever to the next adventure – first rehearsals for Isabella Green with Ensemble Gending and Dyane Donck. This Elephant Songs chapter will be concluded shortly with a party at rood|noot in Utrecht – food, music, stories, films. After that, many more musical journeys, meeting local musicians and playing with them, will follow, insallah.