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#WomentToTheFore 1: Anneleen Boehme

We talk to Belgian bass player and composer, Anneleen Boehme, about her music, her ambitions and women in music. Anneleen is the bass player of well-known trio LABtrio and has her own band, Grand Picture Palace, which has just released its first album.

How did you get into playing music originally, and who were your early mentors and influences?
Both of my parents are classical musicians. So that's how it started. I started out playing classical violin up until I was 16. At age 12, I discovered the double bass and my Dad suggested that I join the jazz classes in the music school as it would be wise to learn how to read chords.

So that’s what I did and that's how I rolled into the whole jazz world. But basically, from the start, my parents led the way for me to be a musician.

Was there something particularly about the double bass that drew you to it?
When I was 12 years old, I thought it was cool. Much cooler than the violin! That was basically how it started and I just really liked the way it sounds, and the way it leans into your body and makes your whole body vibrate with the sound.

I started playing the double bass by getting some scores from my Dad, who was an orchestral conductor. He gave me the bass scores and I realised how much I liked not playing the melody for once. I discovered that I wanted to be part of the harmony.

Now when I play the bass, I like to play the lead again, but back then I loved that discovery of the harmony  - I could hear the chords and I was an integral  part of that.

Every time I play the double bass, it's like I'm hugging my instrument and that's nice. It feels like a solid rock which I can lean on always. Literally.

How would you describe your music?
That's difficult to answer! For a very long time I've tried to fit in and be cool and make jazz that was hip. Jazz with cool chords and with cool rhythms. But ultimately it didn’t work for me.

The only thing that works for me is to write and play whatever comes out of me. And I'm not scared anymore to just write a simple 2-5-1 chord progression if that fits with the beautiful things I’ve tried to make you know through music, and the story I’m trying to tell.

And I would say it's based on jazz. Definitely, there's always room for improvisation in my music. But I can't hide my classical background. So that's in there as well. I try to be as lyrical as possible. I don't make any difficult fancy chords, I want to create a nice melody and for people to understand what I tried to say.

Can you  say a bit about what projects you're working on at the moment?
I've got my own band, Grand Picture Palace. It's a group of nine musicians and we’ve just released the first album and I'm writing and looking to record a second album. I also hope that in a couple of years I can bring together a larger ensemble and make a whole orchestra out of it. That would be really cool.


I'm doing a lot of solo concerts, which kind of happened without me setting out specifically to do that. It was just people asking, would you like to play solo, and I thought yes, if that’s what you want me to do. So I tried it and have just kept going!  It just happened and I'm doing it a lot right now and I'm starting to like it as well.

I also teach at the local music school. And I'm doing a lot of theatre work  - I compose music for theatre, and often play it live. Sometimes it's just me and sometimes I have a little orchestra or band that I write for and that's something I've really enjoyed doing.

As well as Grand Picture Palace and LABtrio, I’m involved in a couple of other bands as well, including an Arabic-Andalucian-influenced trio called Saragon. We’ve recently released our first album.


Can you tell us about one of your most memorable moments of music making?
A couple of years ago in 2019. I was asked to host an entire stage at the Jazz Middelheim festival in Belgium. It was the first time that I got to do something like that because before that I was usually seen as the bass player from LABtrio and not as Anneleen. And it was the first time I had the chance to do something that was all under my own name.

So I formed four bands and filled an entire afternoon at the festival, which was the greatest opportunity. This was also the first time that I performed with my band Grand Picture Palace, and from there on, it started going really well for me.

So that was definitely my most memorable moment,  because I was finally seen as a bass player, and as me, and not just as one part of the trio (which is still going really well).

Who are the women you work with who inspire you the most, and which female artists are you most excited about at the moment?
I'm really influenced by Maaike Wuyts, my manager, who, like me, is a woman in the jazz world. She isn’t an artist herself but has been in this scene for many years. And she's really fierce and strong. She's always fought for our rights as artists, and she's always done her best and maintained her credibility in the indie scene.

She means a lot to me, she's someone that I really look up to. She showed me the path that I could take and it's nice to have someone like that to show you the way.

And music wise, I'm still discovering lots of new artists all the time. I'm going to Iceland this week (to the first edition of Freyjufest), and I’ve discovered Sarah Chaksad from Switzerland, who invited me to play with her band. I didn’t know her music before, and nowI really love it. And it's so nice to discover all these new artists.

Have there been particular challenges for you as a female artist and composer?
I find this a difficult subject to talk about because yes, I've experienced issues, especially when I was a conservatoire student, that was tough. I remember people looking at me, and not believing I was a bass player. The assumption was always that I must be a singer. And I felt I had to prove myself every single time. People only believed I could play when they actually saw me play.

There have also been times that I was touring and performing with LABtrio (with Lander Gyselinck and Bram de Looze) and people would come backstage and ask if I was the girlfriend of one of the guys, or ask ‘Where's the bass player?’.

I'm glad that there's been this movement going on for women in jazz, and I feel that there's a lot more women coming forward and there's a lot more happening.

But it also has this side that I don't really like. Sometimes I feel that I'm being asked to play, because I'm a woman, and I don't want that. I don't really like the ideas of quotas either.

I mean, there will always be more men performing because the lifestyle is so challenging. I'm a mother too and I’m about to go to Iceland for four days. It's hard to leave my kid behind and try to fix everything. And I'm fine with that.

It doesn't have to be 50/50, but I do want to be recognised as a bass player, as a composer, not as a woman bass player or a woman composer. I just want to be a part of it.

And I know that some of my male colleagues have been denied gigs because of gender quotas at festivals or concert halls. They need equal chances to show their music to the world, as do I. I want concert bookers and anybody else to just book what they like to hear, but think of everybody rather than the male performers coming to mind first.

It's such a difficult balance. The best thing would be if we don't even have to talk about it anymore because it's just that we [women] are there. We needed change and I think that things are changing now but it shouldn't go completely the other way.  I hope everything just keeps going and we keep up this new change and we adapt ourselves to change.

What advice would you give to young female artists or anyone embarking on a career in this sector?
I don't think that I need to give advice. I'm actually really happy that, because of all that’s happened, there are women artists out there now and if girls want to start playing, they have the role models, and that's the most important thing.

They just see that they can be a bass player when they grow up or a saxophone player. When I grew up, I never saw that, I lacked role models. I still find it weird to believe that one day I will be an old woman playing bass, because I have not seen that many older women playing bass. I want to be that old woman where a young girl or boy can look up and think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too’.

What are your aspirations for the future and what ambitions do you still want to fulfil?
I'm going to record a solo album, which I'm really happy about. And a second album with Grand Picture Palace. I actually just want to keep going the way I'm going with Grand Picture Palance and my other band LABtrio, after a quiet couple of years post-pandemic. And we're planning a new album with LABtrio too. 


So there's a lot going on, and I can only hope that in 10 years time, I'm still doing the same things because I really like what I'm doing right now!  And I hope there's a lot of  theatre projects as well. 


1: (c) Sven Dullaert
2: (c) Laura D'Hallewyn
3: (c) Bruno Bollaert
4: (c) Geert Vandepoele

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