Jim Kroft – Artheater, Cologne; August 13th, 2016
Seeing Jim Kroft live often feels like a family meeting. Not only do the same people repeatedly come to see him, but Jamie himself just enjoys mingling with his audience so much that he usually has time for a friendly chat and a hug. It has to be his worst kept secret that seeing him does not only mean hearing good music and often interesting stories, but always feels like meeting up with a friend. 🙂 Having returned from Idomeni in spring, he spent much time going through the material from his trip and decided to go on a multi-media tour, sharing movies, stories and songs. I was looking forward to the concert and movies as much as to meeting people and at the end of the night I returned home, very thoughtful, but happy.
Before this evening I had never heard of the Artheater in Cologne. It turned out to be a nice venue with equally nice hosts. When I arrived, A. and M. were waiting already, but Jamie had not arrived yet. we stood outside chatting until he got there and said hello. More people arrived, among them A. and her mom as well as K. – we caught up a bit until it we were allowed to go in and sit down. It wasn’t sold out, but nicely filled. Like me, everyone in the room seemed curious how the evening was going to go.
Jamie walked on stage and told us a little bit of what to expect: Five short films from is travels with songs and room for discussion in-between. Before the first movie he described his outset on the journey to Lesvos and his doubts regarding what he, a musician, might contribute there. He felt OK about traveling as a documentary filmer but wasn’t sure about bringing his guitar and only did it after Bastian pushed him to do so. Only after he arrived there he realized how important art can be as a medium for communication, stress relief, light in dark times or an act of defiance. This was only one of many insights he shared with us during the course of the evening. Everything he said was personal, the stories came from the heart and where words failed him, his music told the rest of the story.
His performance followed an outline from his and Bastian’s journey to the volunteers working on site in Lesvos and Idomeni to the Refugees and their stories. We saw 5 short films on these topics intercut with songs and his thoughts on the topic. Compared to the Berlin gig in April that felt more like a fun family get together despite the reason that brought it about, this one was a more serious affair. There was no band this time around, just a man and his guitar who felt he had a story to tell, wanted to share his thoughts and feelings. It was honest and humble in the best sense of the word. What I liked especially was that despite his own strong feelings about the refugee crisis and the way Europe is handling it, Jamie allowed room for doubt, for different opinions. He was the first to admit that it’s difficult and that fears do and should have a place in the discussion. He mentioned terrorism as the fear inducing part of this discussion and made clear that he is as upset about it as any of us, but he also reminded us that most of the refugees flee from the very same people who bring terrorism to Europe. Yet this evening was not about dwelling on fears, but about understanding that at the heart of this crisis are human beings, everyday people that bring their hopes and dreams with them when they arrive on Europe’s shores. And it’s not only refugees who hope for a better life for their children, but they are just part of a bigger picture in which everyone has their own dreams and struggles to deal with. For Jamie, personally the dream consists of making a world where people share kindness and love instead of spreading hate in which we all do our part to make it such.
The songs he played that night were mostly written after his return from his trip and like the movies they told stories of refugees, volunteers and the world we are all living in. Many of them are published on his ‘Journey’s #3’ album, but he dug up some old gems and even played one brand new song for us. Jamie talked and sang about his experience on the journey, about the people he met there, the things he has seen as well as the bigger picture. It gave everyone in the rooms a taste of hope, despair and every feeling in-between. I cried several times that night, overwhelmed by the emotions the stories invoked. Yet, I also laughed heartily at times. Learning that there are multiple sides to the story was an important lesson to take home. Even more important was learning that there is always something that can be done, and it does not mean each one of us has to go to a foreign country and work as a volunteer. As Jamie put it “The worst thing you can tell yourself is that there is nothing you can do”.
There was room for discussion, not only during the concert break, but as part of the concert as well. There were a few refugees in the audience as well as people who work with them and they both had a chance to say a few words. From hem we learned that the struggle is not over once someone actually makes it to Europe. There is much relief in having arrived and feeling safe, but the work of making a new home and most importantly learning to live in a new culture is just beginning. The discussion with the audience brought up the question of why refer to the terrorism that has been happening lately as “Islamic terrorism” and how that condemns an entire religion whereas in comparison terrorism by the IRA was never labeled as “Christian terrorism” for instance. a difficult topic, yet an important one. It also touched on the fact that the European governments seem unwilling or unable to do with he crisis and close borders, discussing numbers while only non governmental organizations and volunteers do their best to help those who arrive on hour showers on a daily basis. What comes down to and what so many seem to fail to understand is that it’s not about politics, but about humanity. It is simply not right to let desperate people die on European shores.
I like to believe that everyone in the audience that night understood at least how complex the crisis is and as the evening progressed came closer to understanding what it means to be a refugee or a volunteer. I hoped that we all walked away knowing a little bit more. Jamie did his best to show us the people in this crisis, make us understand that they are human beings, people like you and me. He is good at making connections and that night used his words and songs to do that, making me feel that not all hope is lost just yet. There are days when I need to live in my own bubble and keep the negative events in this world out of my thoughts in order not to feel too small and helpless in the face of them. There are other days when I need people like Jamie to remind me that daring to love and striving to make connections is what makes us human. Thank you!