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Berlin in English

Baby Dee – Renaissance Girl

Baby Dee (c) Winter Vandenbrink

26.04. - May 1st can be a rough night in Berlin, the angry poor versus the armoured defenders of the masters’ property. Like a lot in modern life, one can easily spot parallels with the Dark Ages. Perhaps though, as night descends on Kreuzberg, you’ll find yourself longing for a gentler form of protest. You will head up the Prenzlauer Berg where multi-instrumentalist composer and performer Baby Dee awaits you – the woman to lead us towards the Renaissance.

Like her lyrics, a conversation with Baby Dee swoops through charming stories, dark musings and delicate reflections, ever returning to gleeful chuckling. This tour with her sixth studio album I Am a Stick is the most recent step on a musical journey which traverses decades. It has taken her from Cleveland to New York City and back, through conducting studies, appointments as a church organist, turns performing on streets and in sideshows, and playing harp with Antony Hegarty. In 1999 she retreated from public life to concentrate on composing, initially with no plans to perform the resultant pieces live herself. Now, it’s hard to imagine her deeply personal songs being crooned, cantillated and snarled by anybody else.

“There are particular songs that are very much not serious, but for the most part my music is deadly serious. A lot of the songs are love songs, even if they don’t always sound like love songs. I try to write from a place of truth.” Her intention often yields exhilarating results. Who else would so deftly pair the desire for a delicious piece of pie with polyphonic vocal arrangements, like Palestrina in mourning at an empty dessert buffet?

Her patient dedication in birthing her songs is exemplified by Whose Rough Hands, some eight years in the writing. An early chorus sprang from memories of Kent Lang, a boy from her childhood. A “Charlie-Manson-fucked-up” kid. Over time the song lead to a realisation – that the Kent Langs of this world are like nails which have been brutally bent over, driven home by bad carpenters. People keep hammering well past the point of stopping and thinking, warping the nails completely and then flattening them.

She sees it now as a protest song against a universal aspect of human stupidity. “These poor assholes out in the desert sawing off people’s heads, they think as long as they can keep carving heads off everything will be okay. We can’t imagine ourselves being so angry that we would want to cut off someone’s head, we think we’re civilised and would never get that angry. We would totally get that angry.”

If it takes bad carpenters to make a Kent, then what does it take to make a Dee? The answer is a peal of laughter. “The finest craftsmen! No, we create ourselves with all our hammering too. I guess I take responsibility for my own stupidity. I am the bad carpenter who made me. It’s basically a protest song about the stupidity of me. Maybe people should come to see me because I’m colossally stupid.”

If the prospect of seeing the act ‘The Wisest Stupid Person in the World Plays Piano and Sings’ is not motivation enough, then Dee has also promised to bring her band of ‘The Most Beautiful Boys’ along. The most recent addition to the trio is the exquisite Spanish guitarist Victor Herrero. Along with Princessin Hans, he is one of two opening acts of a night of music to point at the very best in our flawed human natures. “There’s nothing more wonderful than a wonderful song, and it’s worth waiting a lifetime for: to be able to make song. We’re very lucky.”

Hans Kellett

Baby Dee, Victor Herrero and Princessin Hans, May 1st, 9 pm, Ausland



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