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Clarinetist is arrested for playing klezmer on Dutch train

January 31, 2017 by norman lebrecht

26 comments.


Nathan Dillen boarded an Amsterdam train on Friday, heading home to Kampen, and thought he might entertain the commuters with a few klezmer melodies on his clarinet.

It was an amazing performance, reports passenger Maarten Sipma.

But the train guard disagreed. He called the police, who boarded the train at Almere and, despite protests from other passengers, pulled Nathan off the train and fined him 380 Euros. He had to call a friend to collect him from the deserted platform as this was the last train home.

Moral of the story: Don’t riff the Dutch.


Comments (26)

  1. Will Duffay says:

    Arresting him is rather excessive, but what is it with musicians who feel the urge to force their playing on other people in public spaces?

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Indeed. But maybe the guard was a Wagner fanatic in his free time. No doubt the action will be construed by some as a typically-Dutch antisemitic measure.

      1. Heath says:

        I think we just found that person John Borstlap! The thought of even mentioning something so dumb tells us what’s secretely on your mind.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          “Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!” King Lear, fulminating from his heath (Shakespeare, ‘King Lear’, act 3, scene 2).

    2. Cyril Blair says:

      Agree. I would have let him go without a fine, but forcing your loud music on trapped people anywhere is very narcissistic.

  2. Roza says:

    He wasn’t arrested, he just got a fine. Misleading headline, once again.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      He got hauled off a train, interrogated and fined. How is that not being arrested, in the literal sense of the verb?

      1. John says:

        Please buy yourself a dictionary and look up the meaning of “arrested”. Getting pulled off a train and being fined is *not* being arrested.

        I’ll help you on your way: when you are arrested, you are per definition taken into custody and you loose your right to walk freely. The police asking you questions is, again, not that.

  3. Myrtar says:

    He wasn’t fined for playing Klezmer, he was fined for busking, which isn’t legal everywhere and is often a public disturbance (like kids playing loud accordions in the trains in Rome).

    1. Tony Osborne says:

      I love music, I love the Clarinet, and I love Klezmer – I also love food, but not if I’m force-fed!

    2. Sara Gold says:

      Doesn’t “busking” require that the performer be asking for, or at least accepting, money? Just playing in public isn’t busking, surely…

    3. John Borstlap says:

      He should have been fined for playing Kletzmer, it is an awful type of folklore. There should be regulations on trains concerning repertoire, together with specified spaces where passengers can be acoustically intimidated into civilized behavior, like in the Parisian metro where playing Vivaldi over the speakers chases away juvenile delinquents. Misbehaving passengers who are apparently immune to music, should be locked-up in a special compartiment at the very back of the train, tied-up on a seat, and forced to listen to Xenakis’ Metastasis.

  4. Scott Fields says:

    On-train busking is the 3rd worst kind of busking, just behind elevator busking and public rest room busking. To the fine, I say yes.

  5. Mikey says:

    I use a Walkman when I travel or have to make extended use of public transportation. I like to choose the music I listen to.
    That said, I loathe klezmer music. So if I had been on that train I’d have been forced to hear that music on top of my Walkman?
    Our transit company here is quite clear about personal music: it should not be heard by other passengers.
    I’m sure Nathan Dillen plays very well. I wouldn’t want to have to listen to him playing however.

    Now, that said, kicking him off the train was rather heavy-handed (especially since it was the last train of the day). The warning/fine could/should have been handled on board.

    There may be more to this story.

    1. Tweettweet says:

      Indeed there is:
      – according to the railway company, the fine was EUR 180: EUR 90 for not stopping with playing – the train guard apparently asked two times to stop playing -and EUR 90 for not showing his ID. http://www.omroepgelderland.nl/nieuws/2126813/NS-boete-voor-klarinetspeler-was-terecht
      – the train guard says that there were also complaints on his playing. http://www.metronieuws.nl/nieuws/koffiepauze/2017/01/muzikant-amuseert-treincoupe-krijgt-boete-als-dank
      – by the way, I myself would probably have enjoyed his performance, but I also would understand people who might be disturbed. After all, loud music and noise is not allowed in trains. Not everybody has the same taste.

      1. Saxon Broken says:

        If he was twice asked to stop by the guard and refused, then I think I have no sympathy for the musician. And of course, you have to expect not everyone wants to hear your music.

  6. Tweettweet says:

    Of course there is another side of the story. Purely based on this story, a fine would be excessive. However, according to this article http://www.metronieuws.nl/nieuws/koffiepauze/2017/01/muzikant-amuseert-treincoupe-krijgt-boete-als-dank ( I have to say, it is not the finest newspaper of The Netherlands, but it seems they really have interviewed the train guard), besides the people enjoying his performance, there were also passengers who complained. The train guard says that he requested him two times to stop playing and he didn’t. This caused him a fine of 140 euro (article says 14 euro, but it is 140 euro). He also got a fine of 90 euro because he apparently did not show his ID. According to the railway company, the total fine would be 230 euro, not 380 euro. (https://www.omroepflevoland.nl/nieuws/143972/almere-ns-boete-tegen-klarinetspeler-terecht )

    Please Norman, some double checking would not harm.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      We did check. There are now four different versions of how much he was fined…

  7. Dave says:

    Damn Europeans!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Ordnung muss sein.

      1. Furzwängler says:

        Immer geradeaus!

  8. Scott Fields says:

    Nathan Dillen says that often when he boards a train some passenger will ask that he play. But that’s true for almost anyone who carries an easily identifiable musical instrument case, whether boarding a train, an airplane, checking in, killing time in a boarding area, standing in a street car, sitting in a bus, or almost any other place. People are bored and frequently someone will reflexively say “hey, play us a song.” I still hear this more often than not when fighting for space in the overheads, which is exactly when I don’t want it publicized that I managed to carry my instrument on board.

    The difference between Dillen and most rational musicians is that he takes the requests literally, oblivious to the many other passengers who are thinking “oh no, please don’t.”

    1. John Borstlap says:

      That’s true. A friend of mine who plays the double bass in an orchestra is continuously asked to play something when in public transportation (he does not drive a car because of his bad eyesight and being almost deaf).

  9. Ira Spaulding says:

    As someone who has lived both in the Netherlands and now has returned to the U.S.A., although I find the fine a bit excessive for the Dutch, I wish they would enforce this as strictly in the New York City subways where it’s not unusual to have several people forcing their music on you (loud recordings which can be hear 60 feet away, people reciting their wonderful raps in front of an non- existing concert audience etc…). Headphones aren’t always used and even when they are, you can often hear what’s playing (no doubt audiologists will continue to make a good living here). I would never force someone to listen to the Mahler 8th in public and don’t appreciate others forcing me to listen to their rap, particularly with “nasty” text!

  10. Gijs van der Meijden says:

    For those who find this ‘excessive’, please do note that the mas was asked, several times, to stop playing, which he refused. Of course some may have enjoyed his playing, but the idea is that you do not behave in a way that in intrusive to one’s fellow passengers. If playing Klezmer is OK, is playing hard-rock from you phone (using speakers) too? Or eating something very smelly (some serious French cheese, for ex)? VERY LOUD TALKING? Smoking? Holding a speech or sermon? Various people might be quite OK with this, but you are not in your own home, but rather in a public space.

    The idea is to behave in a non-intrusive way.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Entirely agreed. This comment settles the conversation for good.


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