I was reunited with Hungarian violinist, Zoltan Lantos, last week at The 606 Club's Anglo-Hungarian Festival. It brought back happy memories of Iwalewa-Haus in Bayreuth, where we met back the 90's at a meeting of musicians curated by the renowned anthropologist and scholar Ulli Beier.
Ulli had lived and worked for many years in Nigeria, Australia and Papua New Guinea where he studied, documented and celebrated indiginous art. Later in life Ulli set up Iwalewa Haus as a gallery and work space for contemporary artists from Africa and beyond. It was in this space that Ulli initiated the 'Grenzüberschreitungen' (Border Crossings) Festivals in the 1990s bringing together musicians from all continents for a week's residency. On the last day we played to a full house at the magnificent, baroque Margravean Opera House.
I attended six or seven of the festivals and they helped to expand my musical world. I forged great relationships many of which still continue today. The music was always a challenge, bringing together such diverse characters and disciplines, but the concerts were fantastically received.
Ulli's son Tunji studied percussion in India and Nigeria and we performed many concerts together. Each year we would visit the Staffelstein Therme Baths near the Czech border - I can still picture Randy Weston and John Parricelli sitting in the sauna receiving instructions from a spa matron with a clip board!