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Meetings, Open Mic, Performance Nights

Copenhagen Meetup, April 2010 – Cafe Retro

In many ways, Copenhagen is one of Europe’s creative capitals. Known as the home of story writer Hans Christian Andersen this city’s cobble stone streets not only have stories to tell, but still today bring out the best in story telling. It is a town that inspires all artists.

Deep in the winding streets of ‘Old Copenhagen’ is Cafe Retro, a venue like none that I have experienced. A true artist’s venue. With old furniture and it’s 70’s style wall paper, this venue has it’s own groove. We moved the Music Producers Forum meetup from the night before, to the Thursday night to start an hour before the weekly open mic. And what a night we were in for, in a breeding ground for the next HC Andersens of music.


Being a not for profit venue, supporting the arts, Retro is reliant on the good will of volunteers who work in the venue. Goodwill is what has fostered an open mic experience like I’ve never had before. ‘Originals Only’ is the only hard rule for performers, and that is a chance for those of us with story’s to tell, to give us an audience that is ready to listen, not just hear. Since 2006, artist, songwriter and performer Benjamin Aggerbaek has organised this weekly event.

As the host and producer of the night, Benjamin makes the performers feel more than welcome. Not only does he provide a warm welcome introduction, but he makes sure that we have what we need when in that spotlight. This includes the use of his guitar and making sure that we have the best sound coming out of the PA system. As a fellow musician, he knows what is needed to make the artist at home, and to bring out their best on the night.

Benjamin’s initiative and efforts are paying off, as I was totally blown away by the creative calibre of the other songwriters and performances as those I saw that Thursday night open mic in Cafe Retro. A diverse blend of artisans with their poetry and sound sharing their point of view or experience in life. Mixing with the other artists really added another dimension to the experience, as having just bared our souls, we have also shared our souls. To be able to shake hands with the other performers or having complete strangers come and shake your hand gives one a feeling of comradeship like the feeling of finding an old long lost friend.

Playing bass guitar and singing is known as one of the hardest combinations of performance to master. One of the artists performing that night was Fredrik Hjulmand, and he not only did just this, but he made it look easy. With a funky groove accompanied by a percussionist Jakob on the Kahun and Rasmus on guitar, Fredrik brought the room to their feet.

Louis from local group Loucas Band gave a solo performance to remember, with the steel string guitar perfectly complimenting a soulful voice. We spoke after our performances and compared our opinions about music today, and how pop songwriting and production today has really lost its way. A song like any creation needs time to nurture and develop once it is born. It seems that commercial songs are often written, produced and recorded in too short a time frame, with no time for the groove and feel to develop to a greater potential. A song is like a musician in some ways, it needs an audience as a part of its development and growth phase, and commercial radio music is all too often over produced, over perfected, too clean, robotic and soul-less.

Technology can be to blame, where in recent years sequencing, sampling and mixing have become an affordable commodity. Interestingly enough, technology is giving back to musicians and music lovers through the internet. As listeners, we now vote for our music with our downloads, and the old establishment (the likes of Sony Music, Warner and EMI) that dictated the industry for many years, is panic mode and decline. As producers of music, we now have instant global distribution channels and communities to tap into. Developing and growing our audience is up to us, and never before have we had better opportunities to have our music heard.

The open mic as a concept is an important resource for us as it is a true organic environment for our music to be heard. What Benjamin has developed at the Cafe Retro, is now more than just a weekly event, it is an ecosystem for songwriters, musicians and producers. I know for sure that this is not the last article to come out of Cafe Retro, as there is a more than a roomful of stories to tell.

Related Links:

Cafe Retro: http://www.cafe-retro.dk/

Open mic producer/artist – Benjamin Aggerbaek: http://aggerbaek.dk/

Artist – Fredrik Hjulmand: http://myspace.com/fredrikhjulmand

Register for future Music Producers Forum, Copenhagen Meetups: http://www.meetup.com/musicproducersforum-eu

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About Jomar Reyes

Jomar Lectures in Creative Industries as well as Digital Media in Marketing at the Danish Institute of Studies Abroad. He also runs the Strategic Media Company, a corporate consultancy agency based in Copenhagen.

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