The Tilburg-based (jazz) vocalist and sound artist Sanne Rambags (1994) travels all over the world. As a result, she gains special experiences, philosophizes about life and gets to know herself a little better as a person and musician. She is active in several groups such as Under the Surface, Sister, Mudita and Twigs. She also runs her own label Sonna Records and won an Edison World/Jazz in 2019 with the album Listen tothe sound of the forest. Her love and search for folklore brought her to Norway, her second home, since the end of August.
Text & photo archive: Sanne Rambags | editing: Angelique van Os
The afternoon presents itself here in Oslo. I, Sanne Rambags, am resting on the grass in the Vigeland park. Geese fly overhead, clouds float by. The sun and wind feel soft and I find peace in lying on the earth. Since I moved to Norway two weeks ago, I feel completely turned inside out. I moved to Norway to get to know my own folklore better. From the time I was 9 months old, my parents and I came to Norway every year. Later I also traveled to this country myself because it started to feel like a second home to me. In addition, I now have several music collaborations there.
So many new impressions and impulses are coming my way. There are so many encounters, a different language and I have to get used to this new ground where I will continue on the path of my life in the coming years. When I open my eyes and look up, I see one of the sculptures by the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. In the image I see a young boy being embraced by a kind of friendly dragon. I feel how this image touches me, how much I long for such an embrace. The impact of my move hits me. And not only that, the movement I generally make through life, namely that of being on the road a lot, absorbing stimuli and entering the unknown, also affects me a lot.
Highly sensitive sensation seeker
That movement is something that gives me a lot of energy. For a number of months now I have been exploring the combination of being a highly sensitive person and a highly sensation-seeking person. As a highly sensation-seeking person, I like to live intensely and be completely absorbed in every moment, and I am constantly looking for activities that make me feel alive. In addition, I am ‘allergic’ to routine, repetition, regularity and routine because it quickly gives me a feeling of boredom and uselessness, which can make me feel meaningless.
The combination with being highly sensitive makes it very important to be able to process all those stimuli properly, because all those stimuli can come in very hard. I am aware and sensitive to what is happening around me, how others feel, how a space feels, to certain atmospheres and how I want or need to relate to them.
The profession that I practice as a performing musician is therefore extremely suitable for me because no day is the same and there is a lot to experience for me with this career. I consciously seek out new experiences and receiving stimuli. Making music and giving concerts is an immensely spiritual experience for me that can put me in a flow; a state of being where I prefer to be. With which I reach the depth of my feelings and can be completely one with life.
Through my collaboration with Under The Surface (trio with guitarist Bram Stadhouders and drummer Joost Lijbaart since 2015, ed.) I have been able to really respond to the highly sensitive sensation seeker in me. Since the start of the trio, Joost has organized so many special tours abroad for us and that has given me incredible nourishment. My very first tour abroad was to Mali. Imagine, I found that an easy challenge, because there were so many new impressions that I was able to experience.
This was followed by tours to 28 countries on 5 continents, including Mexico, Jordan, Tajikistan, India, China and Indonesia. That has brought me a lot. We have worked with local musicians on many of these tours who have taught me a lot about their musical traditions. I have become so rich in my voice because of all the different ways of using the voice that I have tried from other folk traditions.
I have become the musician I am today through encounters with other cultures. For example, I have had the opportunity to work with a great songwriter, singer and bagpiper; Adnan Selawy from Jordan. As a result, an Arabic approach to voice usage has entered my system.
All these experiences have put me on the path to investigate what my own folklore is. And that is why I am now in Norway and studying at the Norges Musikkhøgskole, to analyze all my experiences of the past years. To reflect on that, by meeting my examples. To create clarity within myself: who am I as a vocalist in relation to these folk traditions? What is my own folk? I want to find that.
The last tour before moving North was to Canada, together with Under The Surface. Five concerts spread over a long week in Vancouver and Vancouver Island. How alive I felt during this tour! In some way this one was different from all the others. We had to travel less and the concert locations where we played were mainly in nature. This allowed me to walk barefoot almost the entire week. I always give my concerts barefoot because it helps me ground myself. And it gives me a good connection with my voice and body. It’s wonderful if I can continue to feel this connection off stage, because I quickly lose connection with myself and my body due to the life I lead as a performing musician.
Two of the concerts at the Vancouver Island Music Fest were a kind of jam with two other bands from a different culture. These types of concerts give me the most nourishment and energy. Because for me there is so much pleasure in new musical encounters in which all musicians rejoice in each other’s talent, creativity and the aspect of the unexpected in improvising together.
Yes, you and me, we have something to do together.”
Hello Earth, hello sky
In addition, this is also the ultimate environment for me to become completely overstimulated. So just before the first concert I lay down on the grass next to the stage. There sat a grandmother with her two granddaughters. I breathed into my stomach and let my body completely relax to prepare for the concert that was about to start in five minutes. Then the grandmother started explaining to one of her grandchildren what I was doing. I asked the girl if she wanted to try it too and she lay down next to me in the grass. Her grandmother stroked her stomach with her hands and said at the same time: “Hello earth, hello sky.” And that touched me.
This security was the medicine for my restless head with uncertain thoughts. Because it is a lot for me to give a place to all encounters and impressions and also to get everything out of myself during the concert in order to be in deep connection with everything and everyone. A tear rolled down my cheek and it gave me strength, which I could then put back in my voice and share with everyone else.
I strongly feel that I came here on earth to create awareness among our society to regain harmony with nature. We are nature. We are just like the plants, trees and animals. We need them to be in this life. And in that moment with the little girl and her grandmother right before the concert, I realized that’s where it happened. That I could fulfill my mission in that short moment. We ended the tour in Canada with a concert in Hadden Park in Vancouver. In the grass, between the trees, a dip in the sea before the concert started and the sun shining through the leaves of the beech trees. That moment gave me the inspiration for the concert. I thought, “Yes, you and I are sunny, we have something to do together.” “Would you like to help me dare to shine?”
Now, here in Oslo the sun shines softly on my face. And I remember this concert and the intention I created for myself with it. I can find rays very scary and uncomfortable. At the same time I feel that I cannot and do not want to do anything else. Because the world needs light. In Norway I will discover how I can let that light shine through me, so that I can be of service to everyone, all over the world, with my music and voice. In Oslo I am inspired by musicians, people, and the Vigeland sculpture park. I am invited by them to do the same. Shining, just like the sun shines softly on my face – “Yes, you and I sun, we have something to do together.”
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