Hubert von Goisern


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Dangerous turning point? 1999 | Text: Helmut Forster-Latsch

The Tibet question and Chinese politics

The rock musician Hubert von Goisern undertook a journey of a very special kind on his CD Tibet INEXIL. In 1996 he packed up his rucksack and made his way to Lhasa, because the "strangeness, indeed inaccessibility" of Tibetan culture attracted him like the "unbelievable stories about the Chinese occupying force". "What I found exceeded anything I'd heard or read. The arbitrariness of the terror was unfortunately just as pervasive as the deep spirituality and the peaceableness that comes from that of the Tibetan people." His subsequent CD, "urgent need for solidarity with the oppressed", is a musical contest between different cultures.

Lying, torturing, murdering

Kleine Zeitung 28th June 1998

Hubert von Goisern's heart has beaten for Tibet for a long time. Since he was there, he knows about the cruelty of the occupiers and the ignorance of the Westerners. "I come myself from mountain country, but Tibet already fascinated me since I was a child," says Hubert von Goisern in an interview with Lutz Maurer, that you can see this evening. The megastar of the Austrian travelled through the land in May with only one escort.

Tseten Zöchbauer travelled with him, a native Tibetan and organiser of many remarkable tours, that were to be seen in Austria a few months ago. Goisern had supported the Tibetans at that time through his presence. And his longing after the country became overwhelming.

The situation was awful: "Delight, ecstasy and tears lie so close together," says the musician. There was a occupying regime that "lied, cheated, tortured and murdered, and the Westerners do, as if nothing at all would be there."

The extensive nonviolent battle of the Tibetans against the Chinese gained "enormous respect" from Hubert von Goisern. But without the assistance from outside he was hopeless: "It is awful to see how they must suffer there." He may not want to generalise what happened in Tibet for all Chinese, but they are brutal there.

Also the Austrian delegation, that briefly travelled around China, failed miserably: they asked after the fate of the Panchen Lama, a six year old child that the Chinese arrested to question: "They said: 'It is better not to speak about that subject at all, we just want a dialogue.' Just what kind of dialogue is it, when we let all subjects be forced upon us?!"

Tibet singing, velvety gentle

Kurier 14th June 1998

HvG and the Dalai Lama"'Rain brings luck' says the Dalai Lama," said Hubert von Goisern as he was blown by the wind. Hallmania with with water, lights and a laser show were announced to the cultural heritage celebrations. But first the technical parts broke down, then the tarpaulins for the picture projection were carried away. Rain brings luck. Pitiful comfort for those thousands of admirers who wanted to celebrate the Goiserer's return to the stage with splendour and glory. How the time flies, Hubert then greeted you. Otherwise everything is new. The Tibetan dress and almost shoulder length hair. And instead of Alpine Sabine, Tibetan singer, Passang Lhamo, from the Roof of the World is at the microphone. One of four artists from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in the north Indian Dharamsala, where many Tibetans fled before the Chinese sought to retain their culture.

Last autumn he sent to the sound studio in Salzburg: Opera singer, Sonam and his colleagues Jamjang and the two girls, Sherab and Passang. Twelve songs took six weeks to record. From songs for "the youngest Tibetan prisoner" - Gedhun Chökyi Nyima and his family who have been detained at an unknown location in since 1995 - to cloud-pearls and eagles, the jewels of the sky. Or a song written by the 6th Dalai Lama in the 17th century. The songs are sung with gentle, bright voices that do not try to sing in a western style.

The Goiserer processed the raw material in order to manufacture "singular and unmistakable world music". Under the title Inexil he brought the first CD onto the market with BMG. It was finely co-ordinated with the attendance of the Dalai Lama in Ischl. With the start of the exhibition Fascination Tibet, Hubert von Goisern was saving cultural heritage like Francesca Habsburg. Jet strength of the subtler PR type for a music production, which should now "come among the people".

At the same time, Goisern was concerned with his African album Gombe. This culminated with the meeting with African research scientist, Jane Goodall, two journeys to Africa and the Land der Berge film with Lutz Maurer. "Sounds, which can perhaps pass the charm and the gameness of the paradises at Lake Tanganyika", hopes Hubert. Double result of his retreat four years before as a sensitive, intelligent unsettled spirit who no longer wanted to play the profit-orientated music industry. Nevertheless, everything is a little different. Hubert Achleitner experienced the arbitrariness of the terror in the meantime on his journeys to the Tibetans and the calm happiness of the Dalai Lama and the mutual gentleness of the musicians from the Roof of the World. They call themselves "white crows - because white crows are different from the flock". And Hubert von Goisern never flew with the flock.

Yodelling is the coolest language of music 1998 | Text & Photo: Bernd Schweinar

Hubert von Goisern returns after four years with a picture of sound

Hubert von GoisernIllegally travelling to Tibet outweighed the feeling in Africa. In Tibet it was more the emotions. Tibet "happened" to Hubert, "because there was an enquiry and a political problem". Nevertheless he he also "came to this subject via music". Music, which for him "only palpable - was not comprehensible!" An exiled Tibetan woman living in Austria had asked him to support a tour of Tibetan musicians and dancers. In order to bring to the attention of the Austrian population the fact that Tibet exists and that it is an occupied country, he committed to the tour and was "quite fascinated by this culture".

"Afterwards I needed another two weeks and said to the exiled Tibetan: "Come, now we'll go to Tibet". The journey took place "in very adventurous ways", channels, about which he could not say anything "out of reasons of safety for the other exiled Tibetans". Hubert had agreed with friends that he would telephone them once a week. If he should miss a call, his friends would have alerted the public. The decision to travel was very difficult for the exiled Tibetan, who had not been in her homeland since she was two because of her Swiss passport, but then all doubts were stripped away.

Hubert von Goisern: "I was convinced that the stories I had heard beforehand had a large amount of propaganda in them." He found that "not just every negative confirmed", it had been much worse. "For the first time in my life, I experienced what liberty means, because up until then I had not experienced a lack of freedom," he says. In Tibet there is "a network of informers and an arbitrariness of power", to which one is "always and at any time exposed". Nothing has to happen, but something can happen at any time: "this awareness wears you out". A still agitated Hubert von Goisern: "you never know whether you are opposite a friend or an enemy. This uncertainty and this distrust shapes everything there! - it is dreadful".

He returned from Tibet charged and "with great need to talk to others". He wrote reports about the journey, gave press conferences and noticed: "I'm threatening to become a journalist, reporting on political conditions". However, he is still at his "most understandable and honest", if he shows what he feels with music. He then took up contact with the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in the north Indian Dharamsala and the artists, whom he knew from their Austrian tour, and invited them to record in Austria.

He saw himself more in the producer role for the CD Inexil/ Tibet. "I said to the Tibetans: Let us express what moves you, your current dreams and suffering with your musical traditions - but also with what has basically become a part of your tradition". But with that he was in the middle of an elementary conflict situation. Only two of the musicians had ever even been in Tibet, the remainder of them were born in exile. In India, they were shaped daily by Hindi Pop and western music. What these young musicians present on the stage in the evening, is in their eyes a "preservation of tradition, comparable with a showcase in a museum". But this generational conflict does not differ in any culture around the world: "It reminded me greatly of how it was 15 years ago with our folk music - a pure maintenance of tradition which had nothing to do with here and now."

The work with the Tibetans required patience. "I said, when you sing a song, with lyrics and a melody too, which carries something particular, then I want you to live it!" That was "something very new" for them. Sherab said: "I sing the words, but I do not feel anything, it is no different from when I eat." Hubert von Goisern contradicted: "But that's impossible! You must become this figure! Actors do it no differently and slip inside a role. A musician must have this courage too".

So, as Passang presented with the joint song Kham Lu during a recording for the Bavarian television (Songs an einem Sommerabend, transmission date: 4th September 1998, 7.45pm) at Kloster Banz in Upper Franconia and penetrated the emotional life of the 4,000 people in the audience, Hubert's work nevertheless bore fruit. "Passang has a magic, that gets under your skin" and Hubert's own enthusiasm is noticeable in his words. His contribution for Tibet can be altogether only a showing of pure solidarity. With the release of this CD, this phase has ended for him for the moment. He has visions and ideas, as to how it could continue, but whether the Tibetans would come again on a tour to Europe or possibly be a part with his tour, he could not influence. Hubert: "It must be of interest to the Tibetans for this collaboration to continue".

Goal: own album with tour in 1999

He still doesn't have new songs in his head, but he feels "an immense music making feeling". There is a lot that wants to come out of him. "I have an almost physically palpable feeling of what I would like to translate into music", Hubert von Goisern gesticulates with his hands. Starting from September he must "identify and make it audible", so that concrete numbers come from it. In the winter he would like to record the new CD so that he could end the time of his absence from the stage with a tour in spring 1999.

His contributions to Gombe and Inexil show that the tendency level could turn out onomatopoeic. Hubert von Goisern: "in me is a certain need to make the music more international. When I sing dialect, it is very regional. If I use yodelling against it, using the voice as an instrument, then I can do that exactly the same in Africa or Tibet, as in America." But that would not strictly mean that he departs from lyrics. That is rather a dimension, which he has sometimes put aside because he primarily wants to make music: "music is the coolest language for me - the moment where words come in, you restrict the room for interpretation a great deal because you're dictating to people that there is something quite special to feel because it's the story of whatever". Music as such he sees more freely and wants to dive more deeply into it too.

He also wants to let his "alpine musical tradition" flow further into the music, saying that he "will never sing Tibetan songs" himself. On the other hand he regards arriving in Africa and Tibet as luck rather than by coincidence. Thus for him "everything is now opened again": "I had to completely forget my traditional ways of acting and thinking, had to smash them in order to be able to penetrate other traditions", he reflects and continues with internal satisfaction: "I feel that I have completely picked my terrain to pieces again, everything was smashed to pieces and I can begin again with zero. I will cultivate new things and see what comes from them."

For three years he did,'t pick up his accordion: "I didn't want to mechanically tip into what had worked so well for me". He has become rather awkward on the accordion, but "that's unbelievably good for me". Now he must provide a completely new approach to these sounds again. Apart from his earlier keyboarder there will be nobody else from the Alpinkatzen with him: "I must get myself those people, who in basic type suit my new music and do not have to go through a reincarnation". Reinhard Stranzinger is an excellent blues and rock musician, but he could not have forced him into his new music, "just as little, as the Austrian national coach Prohaska could not urge the ingenious midfield player, Andreas Herzog, into the lonely spearhead of the attack at the World Cup".

He hopes to experience that a part of his earlier audience is curious enough to see what occupies him at the moment, and then "to listen impartially with open ears". A great deal has become exotic and he feels the danger that the fans could think: "Yes! Interesting! But what about the future?". This danger exists, but when he - differently from the 15 minute BR recording, which he regards as rather a doubtful clip - can play his full program, he also has the chance again to communicate his music to the public.

Songs an einem Sommerabend, 1998 2nd October 2002 | Photos: © Bernd Schweinar

These photos were taken in 1998, when Hubert von Goisern performed some songs from Inexil live with a new band - including Passang Lhamo from the TIPA, Stefan Engel from the Alpinkatzen and Burkhard Frauenlob, who played in Hubert's band from 2000 - 2003.

The Goiserer and Four White Crows

Salzburger Nachrichten 8th November 1997 | Text: Martin Stricker

Hubert von Goisern produces something Tibetan

"I would like to give folk music back to young people. Those who want to listen to it are becoming ever fewer. And we, we just protect our tradition - instead of following the young generations." When Sonam Phuntsok said that, he and his friends stood at the beginning of a bold project.

Sonam is an opera singer, one of the best in his ensemble. He was trained in a strict tradition, in one which has remained unchanged for centuries. In the meantime, Sonam has become a teacher himself. And passes on what his teacher had passed on to him: the art of Tibetan opera.

This art is well looked after in one place in the world. In Dharamsala, north India, exiled Tibetans congregated in the face of Chinese occupying forces in order to protect their culture.

In Salzburg, four of them ventured to do what nobody before them had dared to: he lead the old music into the twentieth century. Into the alpine twentieth century to be exact. For the producer, leader and ideas supplier is Hubert von Goisern.

For six weeks, Sonam, his colleague Jamjang Chönden, as well as the singers and dancers Sherab Wangmo and Passang Lhamo lived with the Goiserer under one roof. Place of the events: Hubert's house in the city of Salzburg, fitted out with one of the best equipped recording studios. "What we now have in material is the dream of every musician," Hubert says of the result of a week of work. "It is the first time that something like this has happened. We will see how people react," commented Sonam on the musical summit meeting. A good dozen songs were recorded.

They deal with the Panchen Lama, "Tibet's youngest prisoner", a five year old child who is definitely the next Dalai Lama and who is detained by the Chinese at an unknown location. They deal with Sixth Dalai Lama, who in the seventeenth century preferred to spend the nights down in the city in the shadows and with women, than above in the holy palace. They deal with the eagles which are the jewels of the Himalayas and the clouds which are the pearls. And they sound beautifully foreign - even though at least partly in familiar rhythms. "We have not tried to sing and play as in the West," says Jamjang Chönden of the melodies. "We have harmonised our music with yours." And tried to find a language without betraying the traditional model.

"First half of the work is created," says Sonam. The Goiserer undertakes further processing of the raw material. Everything should be mixed until Christmas, in spring the CD comes onto the market. Producer Hubert von Goisern will be heard as well, with vocals and also with instruments. "The challenge is that it will be world music, but not ordinary music." It should be distinctive and unique. "Only I myself can still stand in the way, but I can't believe that."

And: there were days in which "I was in the depths of despair," says the Goiserer. The convergence between Tibet and Austria lasted two weeks, the unification to mutual mental rules of the game. That was not so difficult in the end, because the musicians from the roof of the world are indeed soft like velvet, but as quiet as a mountain lake. "We tried out many things which we then scrapped again. But then suddenly it ran."

In any case, Hubert von Goisern is convinced and enthusiastic about what has arisen. His hopes for the premiere as producer: "That it goes to the people."

The four Tibetans have arrived back at home again. "Then we will be white crows there," they once said. "Because white crows are different and will not completely belong any more." White Crows - that will be the name of the music group.