Instead of taking a train to another quaint Swiss village, we stayed in Biel/Bienne and discovered it has quaintness in significant measure, much of it expressed in local street bands.
In the square, one band took a stage and fumbled so badly that we couldn’t tell to which genre they subscribed. Passing by, they appeared to be a rock band, but not one so familiar with its instruments.
Further down the road, thick-armed coffee-black African drummers played behind a large troupe of pale dancers in loose black sweats and tight sun-hued tank tops. They coiled their torsos around the beat and pounded barefoot on the cobblestone. About an hour later, the same large group relocated to the town square, but this time the dancers stood still while the Africans accompanied a Mexican vocalist on guitar.
An earnest smiling jazz quartet searched for a better audience, too, moving from outside a bar popular with the town’s youth, to a straight street lined with both regular shops and street vendors. They drew a large crowd. The trumpet player repeatedly paused to re-position his horn’s microphone. It was hard to say if these little interruptions were timed to the music or if they were random and disruptive, but while I found it irritating, his band members smiled on, so what do I know? Perhaps, later on the way home, they beat him in some dark corner. Click here to see a 46-second clip of the jazz players.
All this reminded us of other Swiss street musical performances, such as this marching band in Solothurn click here. I could be wrong about this, but the Swiss seem to have a heightened appreciation for music, not only at the esoteric professional level, but at the fun-let’s-jam outside-even-if-we-totally-suck level, as well. I can’t count the times I’ve passed smiling middle-age accordion players, who probably don’t know that in Canada they might be a source of amusement. Here, I’ve learned a new appreciation for this amazing instrument and those able to master it.
This ragtag assemblage of different musical styles, with a widely varying skill set, makes the street entertainment all the more fun, like American Idol early in the season when the train-wreck performers make the show as riveting as the gifted ones.