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May 4, 2017

A busker’s life: Neutral Ground Brass Band


Street musicians prefer the warm sunlight over the bright spotlight. What motivates them to wander the globe? Bernhard was born in Germany and is a bass player, tuba player, composer, arranger and leader of the Neutral Ground Brass Band. After living in New Orleans for a while he started a band and they’re now traveling the world to play. Their next stop is Volkshotel’s street music festival Busker’s Inn. This is his story.

Why did you choose the wandering life of a street musician?
“Well, I didn’t choose to be a street musician. I chose to be a musician. When I was living in New Orleans I was struck by the lively street culture. People gather on the streets to talk, to drink and to eat. They consider themselves as being the most Northern city of the Caribbean. So it’s very much related to the nice weather. I would always pass a great brass band on the streets. After my return from New Orleans I bought a tuba, even though I never played it before, gathered some friends and we’ve been playing ever since.”

Being so free, what are the things you cherish most?
“It’s great when the weather is nice. People are outside and are having a good time. When you’re on the streets, it’s nice to feel the people around you. You’re so close together. That’s different from being on stage. It just feels honest and you’re in direct contact with the people listening to you.”

You must have had many adventures being on the road so much. Could you let us in on one?
“We have had many. But really nice was the time we went to Italy, to a small village called L’Aquila that was destroyed due to the earthquake. The whole city centre was in ruins, which gave a really weird vibe playing there. People came from the outskirts into the city centre. They hadn’t been there in a while, because it was too dangerous to go. The whole experience was magical.”

Is there any message that you like to pass on through your music?
“Yeah, it’s so beautiful when you’re able to create that magic. Everywhere you go you can connect to people though music. Kids, elderly, parents, young people. It’s a universal language and it’s so positive. Everyone feels something when they listen. This is just beautiful.”

What can people expect from your performance at Busker’s Inn?
“Really positive and sweaty New Orleans music. And they should be ready to join in, because we need them. In New Orleans the music is based on response. For instance: you shout something and someone in the crowd shouts back. The band is really powered by the crowd. Without them it would be only half as cool.”

Bernhard Hollinger – Neutral Ground Brass Band
More about the band
Check out their album

Busker’s Inn – Street music festival
Sunday 11 June 2017 // 15:00-22:30
Volkshotel // Wibautstraat 150 // Amsterdam
Attend on Facebook or visit festival website for full programme

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