Lyrical, beautiful, and warm

Dutch classical guitarist, Martin Van Hees will be performing in Bangalore on Friday

October 23, 2014 08:23 pm | Updated May 23, 2016 07:31 pm IST



This is his first time in India but he has already taken a strong liking to the place and waxes eloquent about how different Hyderabad and Bangalore are from each other and how Diwali sweets are just the best.

Dutch classical guitarist, Martin Van Hees, is in the city to perform at a concert today (he took a master class on Wednesday), hosted by The Harmony International Music Foundation, a non-profit organisation, set up by Ryan and Sandra Oberoi, to facilitate concerts with a cause.

Having started out as a musician rather early in life, Martin has come a long way. “My father gifted me a CD of Elvis Presley when I was really young. He and brother are musicians too, so when I told him I wanted to take up playing music seriously, he was more than encouraging of it. I took classical guitar lessons and was blessed with good teachers,” the musician narrates.

Martin received his Bachelor’s degree cum laude (Grade 9) from the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague under the guidance of Enno Voorhorst and his Master’s degree with distinction for his contribution in contemporary music under the guidance of Zoran Dukic. He has performed extensively around Europe and has collaborated with several classical and contemporary musicians. In 2010, Martin performed on National Radio and in October 2013 he was a soloist with The Atheneum Chamber Orchestra performing the legendary Concierto de Aranjuez by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. He has performed with great success at The Royal Theatre and The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and has taken part in many contemporary music projects such as the prestigious ‘Ligeti Academy’.

Ask him why he took up classical guitar in particular and he responds: “It’s got that inimitable delicate sound. You don’t have to plug it into a heavy amplifier. And you and your surroundings need to be calm and relaxed to enjoy the true beauty of this style of music.” He describes his signature sound as “lyrical, beautiful, and warm.”

According to him, “It’s not very easy for someone playing a different style of music to switch to the classical style of playing guitar. You’ve got to put in a little more effort and understand why you’re playing what you do because it’s so much simpler to go down the pop way where music is more accessible and where your music sounds good almost instantly and you become successful a lot faster.”

While Elvis Presley’s music sure left a lasting impression on him, he admits: “I love his work but that’s not my style of performing.” His biggest influences range from Johann Sebastian Bach, his own teacher, Zoran Dukic, who he says is “one of the most grounded yet successful musicians, to a whole range of Spanish composers.”

“I play music written by classical composers, those who have written great music, and are no more today. They have given the world such a rich repertoire of stories through their music and it is people like me who tell these stories to the world when we play their compositions so in a way I’m a historian,” Martin says, adding: “That doesn’t make it any less interesting or beautiful. I have even done extensive research about how collaborating with modern composers influences the way you play music written by composers who have passed on.”

Having learnt about the history, analysis, and theory of Western and of World music, the guitarist has also studied about how music from other parts of the world influenced western composers. “I have a fair idea about the ragas, Indian classical instruments like the sitar and the tabla and I truly appreciate the rich musical culture of this country. While I’ve heard of Bollywood music, I cannot say I’m a fan,” he quips.

Following his India tour that will end in December in Kolkata, Martin will most likely be at Bangkok for a concert. He plans to tour neighbouring countries before he returns home where he’s got concerts scheduled up to June next year.

When he isn’t teaching, practicing or touring, Martin Van Hees enjoys biking in the Netherlands, listening to music, and playing with other musicians. “I also spend a lot of time filing my nails to pluck the strings,” he laughs, as he begins to prep up for his master class.

Martin Van Hees will perform at Harmony, 877, 7th Main, 3rd Block, Koramangala, Bangalore, at 7 p.m. today. Donor passes are priced at Rs. 200.

For details, call 9343628255

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