Hubert von Goisern


GRENZENLOS >> West Africa: 1 2

Hubert von Goisern in West Africa

HvGThree stops were planned on Hubert von Goisern and his band's adventure in Africa: the Cape Verde capital city of Praia, Dakar and Burkina Faso. "I want to find friend, look for musical exchange and show the kind of music we play", Hubert explained before the expedition. He succeeded with the very first concert in Praia in front of 4000 people. The absolute high point of the tour was a show in the slums of Dakar. Despite many warnings safety concerns from others, the band played to an enthusiastic and grateful audience. The wish to play together with African musicians was fulfilled as the various musicians taking part presented their own songs and rhythms.

Desire, sea and lifeblood

Die Presse 27th February 2004 | Text & Photo: Fritz Kalteis
Tete Alhinho and Hubert von Goisern

The Cape Verde islands dance African rhythms and sing European melodies. Their capital Praia maintains a cheerful melancholy and is not at all far from Viennese nature

[...] Since Easter 2002 people in Praia have also known the meaning of the word yodelling - Hubert von Goisern was there. Gerhard Überbacher, guitarist in Goisern's band at that time, remembers one of the nights in the lively old town of Praia. "The club was called Tex Mex and had opened especially for us on this day because we wanted to jam with the reggae band of musician Vadu. Through word of mouth it got about and the whole club danced until 5 o'clock in the morning." 20,000 people celebrated at the official concert on the following day, a year later at the huge Gamboa Festival in May, it was 90,000. "Each island has its own rhythm," confirms Tete Alhinho, the solo singer from Simentera, "every Cape Verdian has music in their blood".

"Über d'Alma" under the West African sun

Bad Ischler Rundschau 25th April 2002 (Part 1) | Text & Photo: Hannes Heide
Hubert von Goisern in West Africa

Cultural exchange - Hubert von Goisern and the Hohtraxlecker in Cape Verde

Cape Verde is not Africa and certainly not Europe. A different wind blows here. That is established. Nobody yet knows at the arrival of Hubert von Goisern and his (new) band whether the Cape Verde capital Praia is therefore the ideal starting point for a musical journey through West African countries. Admittedly everyone still carries with them the euphoria of the recent appearances in Egypt in front of 15, 000 enthusiastic fans.

But can such a successful experience be repeated within the shortest time?

Doubts arise: "Why is the stage not standing one day before the concert? Why are there no posters? How many people are coming?"

There are no satisfactory answers. Cape Verde is not only geographically close to Africa, but no doubt mentally too.

And yet: slowly but surely all questions are (mostly self) answered. There are no posters because the rate of illiteracy is 30%. The radio advertising is important and the radio stations have been referring to the event for days: Simentera are celebrating their 10th birthday and are giving a free concert together with the Austrian groups Hubert von Goisern and Hohtraxlecker Sprungschanznmusi.

On the day of the event, the stage is also standing, covered with canvasses and the odd hole. And nevertheless everything which is assembled here seems somewhat improvised, but properly thought-out. It is already gloomy, but the lighting is not yet erected, let alone understood. And yet: for the first appearance, that of the Hohtraxlecker, everything is standing.

Now only people have to come. At 9 o'clock at the advertised start of the concert, the backdrop is thin, perhaps 100 people spread themselves over the enormous area in front of the football stadium.

When the Hohtraxlecker finish playing, the audience has already clearly grown. During Simentera's appearance, the area slowly fills, before finally at about 11pm, Hubert von Goisern and his band step onto the stage in front of a backdrop of a good 4,000 spectators.

And the atmosphere for which they provide is unique: people spring up onto the stage and dance along, the individual songs are clapped to. Car drivers who are travelling on the nearby road take part in the concert, honking their horns.

Memories of Egypt are faint and nevertheless it is a tremendous evening.

Encouraging start for the journey

Tété Alhinho from the group Simentera comes onto the stage and sings über d'Alma together with Hubert. The concert lasts one and a half hours, which should be a worthy and encouraging beginning for the Africa trip.

Hubert has to sign autographs and receives a row of compliments ("Bono, bono, you are Bono Vox"). Why did he got to Africa? "I want to make friends, search for musical exchange and show what music we make."

It is already successful with the first concert - for that was the first station of a 3 week journey through Africa.

Thanks Gerhard

Everyone who has a voice should sing!

Bad Ischler Rundschau 2nd May 2002 (Part 2) | Text & Photo: Hannes Heide

Cultural exchange: Hubert von Goisern & Co. in West Africa

Hubert von Goisern in AfricaAfrica is not just a geographical concept, but also an attitude, a mentality. That also means that a good many who stay fourteen days in Africa possibly still do not catch on.

"Yes, now we are in Africa," assesses Hubert von Goisern after five days in Senegal. While Cape Verde is culturally a cross between Europe and Africa, Hubert feels he has "arrived in Africa" is Dakar.

Even if he has to quickly remark that the statement "that is simply Africa" often serves as an excuse that the respective opponent does not want to do anything. The concert in the Sorano Theatre in Dakar, one of the most outstanding concert halls of the continent, especially falls into this category: terrible sound system, a grandly expressed unhappy programme arrangement (Hubert: "At first I thought, well, that suits the taste of the Senegalese, until people here also told me how weak they thought the programme was. The Culture Minister would have had the presenter arrested if he had been able to!") and the lowest attendance (250 to 300 people).

Only: in hindsight, this concert also had a positive effect - effusive critics in the newspapers, a euphoric report on TV should have made Hubert famous in the whole of Senegal, and perhaps a less disinterested public than it had perhaps seemed at first.

Africa has very many faces

A friendship also developed with Oumou Sy, fashion designer as well as internet pioneer who opened the first internet café in Dakar and propagated the internet access for Africa. Personalities like Oumou Sy, who will give a report this year at the Ars Electronica, are the positive face of Africa.

He came to West Africa with no expectations, Hubert should repeatedly emphasise. But the others, the new band, have expectations, mostly very concrete, but above all also the accompanying journalists. Musical meetings, daily great moments, they have obviously expected. Only that Hubert is not fulfilling expectations in himself, the fellow passengers must quickly find that out - provided they had arrived in Africa.

Instead he often preferred the examination of the social situations and visited one or other of the development cooperation projects. And exactly from these from time to time not exactly comprehensible steps have developed the lasting, vivid impressions and also provides for getting to know Africa from its "other" side ... to feel it. One time, contrary to many warnings, the band played a spontaneous concert in the poor district of Rail in the middle of Dakar with a view of the mosque. Admittedly nobody had really known what he was letting himself in for. And one can also easily be brave afterwards. So honestly: Hubert and band did not go through this concert without thoughts about their safety.

Ex-mayor Rudi Graf, Ebensee

But being brave or having to prove something to someone was also not the motive for it. The people gratefully accepted this offer. And it was a spirit which gave the musicians and listeners a soul, like in Assiut: also here the people were starved and longed for a cultural meeting like this. And countless African musicians from traditional music to rappers joined the Austrian musicians and played together with them.

The other time though, out of lethargy, the travelling group swept their visit into a village near the town of Thies, in which the Austrian organisation EWA is active around the former Ebensee mayor Rudi Graf. Hubert played his accordion in front of and with the women of the village. The villagers thought the rhythms of such folk songs as Stadltür and Rote Wand were very fast. "Alle die a Stimm haben, soll'n singa, all die koane haben, sollen tanzen" ("All those who have a voice should sing, all those who don't should dance") it says in the lyrics to Hubert's new song Afrika.

28th July, Bad Ischl and the spirit of Ouagadougou

Bad Ischler Rundschau 9th May 2002 (Part 3) | Text & Photo: Hannes Heide

Cultural exchange: Grenzenlos is the motto of the current Hubert von Goisern tour

Someone actually sits in the French Culture Centre in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and cries "Hiatamadl". The man has more: he knows the lyrics by heart, he learned them about eight years ago when he studied in Germany. Admittedly there was no Hiatamadl, but instead a liberating, rousing concert - a compact band, a duet of Katholisch with the local star Bilaka Kora, who brought himself to the top act of the "Land of the Incorruptible" (yes, that is the translation of Burkina Faso) with his Djongo music.

Standing ovations in Ouagadougou and calls of "plus, plus" ("more, more"). Nothing explains better with which mood - with the audience as well the participants on stage - ended not only the concert in Ouaga, but a three week tour. Three weeks with morale highs and lows, with hits below the belt, but above all lasting impression and experiences. Such like this last - for the time being - concert in Africa.

Yet the five day stay in Burkina Faso began rather badly: arrival at 5am after the flight from Dakar was delayed several times for hours. A slightly annoyed travelling group refused to continue their journey into Sembla country, wanting to sleep first. "You can try it. Only with this heat, nobody can sleep past 6.30am!" The argument counts. A little later the thermometer shows 46° Celsius and all are happy to catch a seemingly cool breeze in the bus with the windows open (the air conditioning does not work even though the driver insists that it does).

Bobo Dioulasso is the first destination and Bouende, a Sembla village. The Sambla are a tribe who communicate with each other not only through the spoken word, but also with music, played on the balaphone In the villages there is no electricity, no roads between the villages. A walk is on the agenda, only broken by a downpour.

The night is spent on the floor, pests allow the least sleeping. The millet beer brewed in the village also does not make people tired. The tiredness shows through at the concert in Bobo the next day. An hour before the start a sandstorm comes near and the equipment has to be dismantled in its entirety - and later put up again after the storm drifts past. In the tired atmosphere the protagonists do not notice at all how excitingly the ensemble playing with the native group Farafina Ilemba, an acoustic and with lots of percussion, balaphone and two singers, works.

"Burkina? I do not want to go to Burkina!" stresses bass player Toni Porto a week before and buys a ticket to - Dakar. He is able to be persuaded to stay. And is - like everyone else - surprised what a positive aura Burkina Faso offers: friendly people on one hand, much greener than expected, almost Mediterranean - only the sea is missing. And it is mango time: the fruits are waiting to be picked and eaten.

Tour finale on 28th July in Bad Ischl

The last concert will take place in Bad Ischl: on 28th July in the Lehartheater, intentionally held in the small setting as a desired reminder of the "spirit of Ouagadougou".

Musical cooperation North-South: Hubert von Goisern and Bil Aka Kora in concert

L'Observateur Quotidien 10th April 2002

Austrian cooperation in Burkina, on 14th April 2002 the French culture centre and Radio Pulsar offers you an unedited concert which consecrates the musical marriage between the north and the south, traditional songs and the sonority of modern music. On stage Bil Aka Kora will demonstrate the strength of his "Djongo system" and Hubert von Goisern will help you discover his alpine music. But who is this Austrian musician who is mingling with our African melodies?

Do you know Hubert von Goisern? Certainly not. Nevertheless, this Austrian is the flag-bearer for a daring musical cross-breeding, a scholarly marriage of traditional songs and modern music. It is quite simple, he is unique in Austria and his concerts play to full houses in his own country as well as Germany and Switzerland. Today Hubert von Goisern is one of the best ambassadors for world music, with a rich vein of traditional sounds from all continents. Obviously it has taken time, energy as well as faith and perseverance on the part of the artist to arrive at this point.

Born in 1952 in the idyllic town of Bad Goisern, Hubert first played trumpet in a traditional band. But he had to stop because the leader of the band did not like his long hair. Then his love of the guitar clashed with the indifference of the population of Bad Goisern, who found the instrument noisy and not at all aesthetic. Sad and frustrated, he moved with his wife to Canada, where he lived for some years. Next he went to Asia, and then to the Philippines where he discovered and learnt to play several traditional instruments, like the nose flute for example. But Hubert von Goisern did not forget the music of his country. "There are marvellous places elsewhere, but nothing can be quite so good as in one's own country," he confesses, before adding "If you think people in your own country are complicated, you discover that it is no different in other places."

Our man then returns to Austria and learns to play the accordion, a traditional Austrian instrument. He also sings traditional songs which he does his best to modernise. To get here he moved to Vienna and worked with the musician Wolfgang Staribacher in a duo called Die Alpinkatzen. From the difference between the two men a musical style is born, alpine music, a marriage of the city sounds of Wolfgang and the mountain background of Hubert. But success did not come immediately. The two men separated and Hubert von Goisern began to search for new musicians. He had to wait until 1991 and a great deal of work to finally carry along the enthusiasm of population.

Since then, successes multiply. Paris, New York, Texas ... adore the bewitching charm of this alpine music, very subtle successfully synthesised traditional songs and jazz, blues and rock melodies. One even finds traditional African music on his Gombe CD, where he inscribed his rich musical experiences of the dark continent.

One understands that this outstanding artist is dying to appear on an African stage. The rendezvous is already set. It is planned for 14th April 2002 at the Georges Méliès French culture centre in Ouagadougou. Alongside Hubert von Goisern, one will have the good fortune to sample the new titles from Bil Aka Kora, the darling of music lovers in Burkina and who himself also makes a beautiful synthesis between traditional and modern. One might as well say, that on this day the alpine cat will court our national Djongo, in a general transport of world music.

Yodelling at the limits in Africa

Hubert von Goisern and his band without a name toured through West Africa. A journey accelerating into slowness

Ferro Gaita and Simentera singer Tete Alhinho

Ferro Gaita and Simentera singer Tete Alhinho


Adventurer. Sometimes a rum and a Toblerone are also needed to withstand the Africa adventure. Hubert von Goisern has at least tried it, as our colleague Annelies Pichler found out on the tour with his band. She was travelling with the musician train for three weeks and was able to be astounded, also like unbelieving school children, about how good yodelling sounds for example in Cape Verde.

Bitta likes to cook. While they follow all Hubert von Goisern's movements with the handheld camera, swing onto the band and then aim at the audience again, position themselves right at the back of the audience, here in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in the middle of Africa, the question about the recipe of the German film team Bitta Börger and Oliver Bauer: how much sweetness, sourness, spiciness, saltiness, bitterness, bubbliness is stored in the film material? What will fall in the witch's cauldron of the cutting room?

It is the day before the return home after three weeks in Africa: Cape Verde, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Musician in search of harmony.

Flashback. Cape Verde, the beginning of a journey in the deceptive slowness of Africa. Lost islands outside the west coast, beauties which the Portuguese colonists once forced themselves upon in order to transport slaves. Whoever lived here dreamed of somewhere else. The island kept people short: barely any water, little vegetation and the rough sea refused to be intimate with the fishermen themselves. But in the music lies the lightheartedness of those who have nothing to lose.

Gerhard überbacher and Magou

Gerhard Überbacher and Magou

Quick cut. And yodel. Pupils of the school, a showpiece project of the Austrian development collaboration, are staring at Hubert von Goisern. The children politely refrain from bursting into laughter. But how? No chance, the exotic foreigner confronts the giggles. And sympathy.

Hubert's "boys" sound completely different in the night without their frontman in the capital Praia. They cause a stir in the Tex Mex pub with no yodelling at all. "Funky stuff as they have never known it," explains the guitarist from Graz, Gerhard Überbacher. The audience reaction gives a foretaste of the von Goisern appearance in front of the football stadium in Praia.

The party packs the 300 head audience in no time. As soon as the songs become calmer, what is there as a desire to dance fights, thinned out into aggression. In Austria, the security would probably take brutal action, but here other members of the audience suffocate the fury in sympathetic embraces.

Main act Dakar, Senegal. Undeterred, Hubert wants to go into the Africa of millions: into the slums. "The concert in the poor district arose almost spontaneously. Against the resistance of everyone we know in Africa. 'Don't play after sunset! It is dangerous there,' they drummed into us, until I then warned Hubert myself: "Look, that is not said without reason, we must play quickly before it gets dark"," described Bernd Bechtloff. For years he has not only been singer in his band Seven Ages, but also percussionist for the Goiserer. But this time Hubert simply did not let him make an impression: "Dangerous, ah".

Village concert

Village concert: Hubert von Goisern, Bernd Bechtloff and Hannes Peithner

The 50 year old would rather have left it to his own judgment despite all the warnings. After all he lived in Africa for four years when he was much younger, at that time when he was still earning money as a specialist for charcoal and graphite for artists and fenced his futile war against the mechanism of the apartheid regime. An East Africa tour was added later.

Oliver and Bitta

TV team

Monkey bread tree

Beneath a monkey bread tree

As the concert in the poor district began, the sun went down and the atmosphere went up. Again and again musicians from the audience played their place freely on stage, more and more Hubert's sounds opened the others until the curious end: We Are The World. Then a quick departure. In a flash the world without music is immediately less round.

"Senegal is the most energetic on the trip. Since there it is like being knocked over by a barrel," the band explain. In the Maison Yes recording studio, which was also the musician's hotel, Magou was brought into it. "He is a star, but he does now know it yet," enthused the Brazilian bass player Antonio Porto about the singer and percussionist who comes from an island outside Dakar. "One night he drummed with our drummer. That was pure magic and just like a little balcony session," says Bitta, the specialist for keeping magic alive on film.

"What should we learn from the music here? I want to find friends. Exchange happens from person to person, not from music to music," Hubert Achleitner alias Hubert von Goisern wants to assure Senegalese press representatives.

In Africa, where the pace gets slower, the present longer and life ever more unpredictable longer, he wants to find a friend and at the same time keep to the tight tour plan? "It was Hubert's dream that we should come here. And like in a dream, everything can happen," says Porto, whose own nightmare in Dakar had almost sent him home again: "It was the side-effect of the malaria prophylaxis, the Lariam. A depression. I then replaced it with a different medication."

But in Hubert's dream appears Oumou Sy, fashion designer. After another concert in Dakar "she stormed backstage and flung her arms around my neck. Unbelievably I found a sister," says an overwhelmed Hubert.

Hubert von Goisern and Oumou Sy

Hubert von Goisern and Oumou Sy

Although the 49 year old is illiterate, apart from many social projects, as the first she brought the Internet to Senegal. For a long time the mother of five has been a moral institution. "We stood there like farm boys - and she the Queen," the Austrians are flabbergasted.

Balaphon player

Balaphone player

The hot phase. "Ten hours waiting time at the airport in Dakar, the flight to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, then eight wearing hours in the bus on the way to Bobo Dioulasso, after that putting up the sound system and then giving a concert. In any other context it would have been inconceivable," groaned Hubert's co-producer Wolfgang Spannberger. "No sleep, barely any strength, but headache at 35° C. That brings a crazy dynamic," Bitta broods days later after the objective. Fast rhythms, dances to them - barefoot, exact and powerful evens out each strain.

Excursion into Bouende village, where the 300 residents of the Sambla uphold their musical tradition. Here the principle of the school is in force. That is to say: Whoever wants to be a musician must serve their apprenticeship as a young child under their parents. "That partly brings tremendous virtuosity," keyboard player Burkhard Frauenlob is rewarded with the night on the floor of the Sambla huts. And Hubert, who also lets out his yodel in Bouende. This time there is no chortling, but to make up, laughter with slaps on the back.

Somewhere between the exhaustion and lucid daydream the musicians give their crowning farewell concert in Ouagadougou. And their companion on the Afro-goodbye also still torments the Goiserer withdrawal. "Our new CD is coming soon," appeases Spannberger. Let us hope so.

Hubert von Goisern's Africa tour

Prelude in Egypt. 17,000 spectators cheer Hubert von Goisern in the Nile Theatre in Assiut. They experienced a good concert and the premiere of their new programme in the current 2002 lineup. After a week's break in Austria, the formation flies to Africa.