01/11/2011 05:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Punk Meets World

This is the 3rd in a multi-part series on the Dutch Jazz and World Meeting held in Amsterdam.

The Ex may have all the trappings of a punk band... the pigeon-toed stances, awkward moves and the impossibly low slung guitars, but don't let that fool you. There's a lot more than thrashing going on. And in reading about them, it seems there's always been more than sheer volume and energy that has kept them going strong for this long. The Ex have been around since the late 70's and have 122 releases to their credit, (123 if you add "Catch My Shoe" their latest CD on Carrot Top Records slated for US release January 25th.) I confess that I had actually never heard of these guys before I saw them at the opening of the Dutch Jazz and World Meeting in Amsterdam. Travel does broaden the mind!

The evening at the impressive venue Bimhuis opened with a duet by jazzers Lee Konitz and Guus Janssen which was very good, if unsurprising. But when The Ex revved up I really did not know what to expect. Theirs is not complex music; riffs are short and drum patterns are basic. There are no lightning fast solos; the guitar work is sound-oriented. There's a heavy element of trance, but there is also something to listen to, that develops nicely. And although they project density and power, they do not need volume to make a point. (As a matter of fact, when I reviewed my camcorder footage, I found to my surprise that the sound had not distorted at all; it was only the mix that was problematic.) When all was said and done, I enjoyed the musicality of The Ex thoroughly.

The Ex, with Wolter Wierbos and Afework Nigussie from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

At first I wondered why this particular band was chosen to represent "world music" on opening night. But as I listened it was apparent that the Ex has been heavily influenced by non-western and experimental constructs. In the course of the concert, they were joined by trombonist Wolter Wierbos who occasionally sounded like a rampaging rogue elephant, and Afework Nigussie, an Ethiopian with a sweet and soulful voice. Drummer Katherina Bornefeld also stepped out from behind the kit to sing a paean to freedom from the repertoire of Muzikàs. At one point when I was shooting the performance I wondered how the band would sound jamming with Konono, the distortion-driven Mbira group from Congo. Sure enough, only moments later, lead singer Arnold de Boer announced the next song as "Theme from Konono." Evidently that band has played a significant role in his music. (If you have not heard them, run, don't walk to Crammed and check out "Lufuola Ndongo.")

In view of all this, presenting The Ex for world music made perfect sense and prepared me for the rest of the event which proved to be every bit as adventurous and ear-opening as that first night.

To get the complete background of The Ex go to their official website. It's quite a read.

To see more of my world music videos visit