5:09pm

Thu June 2, 2011
Life in Berlin

Harmonica Reborn: Blues to Beatbox in Berlin with Wynton Kelly Stevenson

On June 21st, the streets, parks, and churches of Berlin will come alive with music as the Fete de La Musique welcomes summer. More than 4000 musicians will celebrate on 103 stages throughout the city. The Fete is the "open house" of the Berlin music scene.

One act making waves is American-born Wynton Kelly Stevenson. He has devoted years to creating his own sound with the harmonica. He blends traditional phrasing, breathing and technique with urban beatbox and bass line humming. He calls his sound "harmonica fusion".

Stevenson started playing the harmonica 24 years ago. He moved to Berlin in 2007 to help care for his ailing father Rudy Stevenson. Rudy Stevenson was a celebrated jazz musician who spent the last 22 years of his life in Berlin. Stevenson Junior credits his father with helping him to find his sound.

Wynton says "I play with a loop station, a reverb pedal, octave pedal, delay, distortion. How I got involved with the pedals is my father always told me: "Oh play through the pedals". He told me this 15 years ago and I was like, yeah I bought a pedal but didn't really understand what he meant. When I came out here he said: "Go in your room-there's pedals. Pick out that pedal in the box." I picked out this pedal. He said plug the mike up into it and play. I started playing and then I understood what he meant."

Stevenson's a big fan of the Fete de la Musique concept-free music for the people bringing a city together for a day.

He notes "I love the concept. They should have more Fete de la Musiques."

Making a living as a musician is never easy. At the fete, musicians play for free and attend for free. Stevenson has a philosophical take on this:

"Every once in a while, all musicians play for free -so they have to take a sacrifice. If I didn't play for money, I'd still be playing. This is my love- this is what God put me here for, or my parents out me here for."

Stevenson plans to release his first album this year. Until then he can be heard in Berlin clubs and at Fete de la Musique.

He notes "I'm trying to show the world what I'm about and I'm getting there."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.