Cupping the hands has been an essential human gesture for thousands of years. Nomads have used it to draw water from a well; monks have used it to urge God's love into their hearts; Roland van Straaten uses it to ease his harmonica to smooth and vibrant life.
The harmonica, or blues harp, has long held a firm place in both African-American music and the European folk tradition. Straaten has taken this small metal object and he leads it from the passion of Blues and Tango to the sensuality of oriental song. The secret of his success - in churches, festivals and concert halls - lies in the phenomenal range of expression he coaxes from an instrument that is still hugely underrated.
Roland van Straaten takes his audience on musical journeys from the Mississippi to the Ganges: dancing through Europe's bucolic idylls one moment, sinking into the groves of Zen monasteries the next. Not for nothing have some critics seen his work as one possible realisation of Stockhausen's dream of the "polyphony of styles". However we choose to describe it: listening to Straaten is a moving and mystical experience. Because in Roland van Straaten's hands, the harmonica assumes its new and rightful place in the orchestra of the world.