Band History


The Berlin Wall has fallen and a spirit of optimism is appearing. It’s time to try out something new. Simon Jakob Drees founds the band, Ahava Raba (Simon Jakob Drees, Jan Hermerschmidt, Cathrin Pfeifer, Tobias Dutschke, Georg Schwark). Their music is a soundtrack for transition, a release from the limitations under a Socialist regime and for Simon Jakob Drees, personally, part of a process of disentanglement from unrequited love. Violinist Drees, borrowing from Jewish music, now accessible following the fall of the wall, begins composing existential sound worlds. Unique, tension-filled, drama and self-discovery sound in the pitches, influenced by overtone singing and Klezmer music. Simon Jakob Drees finds stability within musical instability. The first concert program takes place with a Yiddish focus. The Berlin record label, Buschfunk, picks it up immediately for a CD.


Simon Jakob Drees travels through Asia for a year. There he discovers and collects the musical origins of the eastern continent. Back in Berlin he composes a new Ahava Raba program, „Turkmenische Schnitte“ influenced by experimental, Asian and East European music.


John Zorn, an avant-garde musician and producer from the USA, takes notice of Ahava Raba and releases the album, „Kete Kuf“, on his New York label, Tzadik. It is the first Tzadik release from a German band.


Ahava Raba breaks up. Yet other life circumstances have happier developments. Simon Jakob Drees’ daughter is born. Not only that, the mother is the same who left Drees in the 90s thus motivating him to start Ahava Raba.


Ahava Raba forms again, now as “Ahava Nada”. Simon Jakob Drees pulls together experienced musical colleagues with whom he has worked closely for years. In addition to Simon Jakob Drees (Compositions, violin, overtone singing, voice) the band consists of Nathan Bontrager (Cello, voice), Jan Hermerschmidt (Clarinet, Voice) and Uwe Steger (Accordion, voice).


Ahava Nada goes on tour with a new program, “Schöpfen aus Nichts”. To commemorate the band’s Berlin premier of the new program in Villa Elisabeth (March 10, 2018), the DVD „Ahava Nada“ is released.


Simon Jakob Drees | Foto:

Simon Jakob Drees 
Violine | Viola | Gesang | Komposition

Simon Jakob Drees is a musical phenomenon. For over 30 years the violinist, singer and composer has helped shape the experimental music scene in Berlin. He performs in galleries with a bicycle turned into a musical instrument, composes choral works (“Ich und Du”, an oratorio on love, 2000; Mirkaledo Krabat, 2006), undertakes musical direction for theater productions (Deutsches Theater Berlin, Theater Junge Generation Dresden, Poetenpack), runs a practice for Gestalt music therapy and is head of the band, Ahava Nada.

A classically trained violinist, he went beyond the borders of classical music early on. In his mid-20s, he spent a year on tour throughout Asia and earned his keep via spontaneous violin concerts. He brought back with him traditional melodies from Turkmenitan, India and Mongolia which one still hears in his compositions today. Simon Jakob Drees takes his listeners along on musical journeys. Whether creating a vortex of sound or leading audiences with a gentle whisper, everyone arrives at the end as themselves. Fitting entirely with his trusted motto: „I am here, as myself. Nothing more.“

Jan Hermerschmidt

Jan Hermerschmidt 
Klarinette | Stimme

By way of his multi-faceted playing, the Balkan and Klezmer master, Jan Hermerschmidt, fires up those who hear him play. He counts himself among the most sought after clarinetists for Jewish music in German-speaking lands. With the Klezmer band, “Aufwind”, he has given concerts throughout the USA, South America and Europe. Aufwind, as early as summer 1990, was invited as the first foreign band by Giora Feidman to play at the Safed Klezmer festival in Israel. Hermerschmidt, who also teaches music at a Jewish school, says „I am enthralled by Jewish culture.“
Jan Hermerschmidt’s decades long experience, including over 50 CD productions and as clarinetist in bands from, among others, Gerhard Schöne, Hans-Eckardt Wenzel, and Karsten Troyke, fuels his role as ensemble coach and clarinet teacher. He is also continually active in theater productions at such institutions as the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin and the Staatstheater in Cottbus. Regardless if in the theater or concert hall, Jan Hermerschmidt sings, whispers and seduces with his clarinet on any stage.

Uwe Steger

Uwe Steger 
Akkordeon | Stimme

Uwe Stegers fingers fly over the keys and bass buttons of his accordion faster than the eye can see. When asked how he does this, he gives a simple answer. “When playing, I get in the flow. My hands are totally subordinate to the music.” With such virtuosity, Uwe Steger has won renowned music competitions. He was a scholarship recipient from the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation and has been sponsored by the Japanese instrument maker, Roland, and the Italian accordion maker, Bugari, since 2007.

An accordionist must master the sound worlds of everything from film music, such as “Harry Potter” or “Catch Me If You Can”, to classical composers like Louis Claude Daquin or Domenico Scarlatti. Uwe Steger is an instructor at the Conservatory for Music and Theater “Felix Mendelsohn Bartholdy” in Leipzig since 2008. He has performed with Klaus Hoffmann, Monserrat Caballé and works regularly with notable orchestras in central Germany, such as the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig. Uwe Steger’s performances are as bold as they are light-hearted and there is no better experience than being present at one of his live crossover programs.

Nathan Bontrager

Nathan Bontrager
Cello | Stimme

Nathan Bontrager is at home in many places. Equally in New York City or in Cologne. Whether playing John Dowland on the treble viol or in the improvised music scene. Like an experienced cowboy, the USA born and raised musician rides with purpose, Celli by his side, through all musical worlds. In his saddlebags he carries three different Masters degrees: Viola da Gamba (Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, 2016), Baroque cello (Folkwang Universität der Künste Essen, 2014) and modern cello (University of Maryland, 2009).
It should come as no surprise then that he is so often in demand as a many-sided musical partner. Nathan Bontrager plays with the avant-Jazz guitarist, Marc Ribot, in the Rundfunk-Tanzorchester Ehrendfeld in Jan Böhmermann’s TV show, “Neo Magazin Royale” and in the viola da gamba consort, the O’Henry Consort. If things get more traditional, Bontrager can pull out, in addition to his cello, a fiddle or banjo. As a composer he has written works for solo cello, choir and various chamber music ensembles. “I’m a restless, musical adventurer,” says Nathan Bontrager, with a twinkle in his eye, of himself.