Hubert von Goisern
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EGYPT 2002

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Hubert von Goisern in Egypt

ÄgyptenIn 2002 Hubert von Goisern thrilled 15,000 Egyptian concert-goers with his "alpine world music". As part of the German Culture Days in Assiut, 375km south of Cairo, he travelled to Egypt intending to show how cultural differences could be overcome. The high point of the Culture Days was his joint appearance with the popular Nubian pop star Mohamed Mounir. The concert was the start of a tour through Africa, during which Hubert von Goisern and band played concerts in Cape Verde, Dakar and Burkina Faso.

A new day

25th June 2002 | Text: apa/Virgin

Hubert von Goisern on tour

Hubert von Goisern is much more than a representative of folk music. The Austrian takes familiar and long-standing things and places them in contrast to the exotic and completely new sounds. His new album Trad proves this. On 24/6/02 he is to be seen in the Konzerthaus in Vienna and on 21/7/02 in Klam at Burg Clam.

The musician Hubert von Goisern inspired about 15,000 Egyptian concert visitors with experimental folk music and Austrian jokes. Songs like A Neia Tag (A New Day) and Afrika were cheered in the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut despite the language differences. The 49 year old provided for the four hour concert together with the popular Egyptian pop singer Mohamed Mounir. The high point of the evening was a duet.

Home and abroad

Both musicians sing about homeland and origin in their songs as well as about foreign parts. Mind you, the alpine rocker was not totally happy with his appearance: "I felt out of place for long stretches," said von Goisern after the concert. He comes from the village of Bad Goisern and his civil name is Hubert Achleitner.

The Austrian musician will now continue his tour through West Africa. The concert was the high point of the "Culture Days" of the German-speaking countries. They were held for the first time in nine years when the organisation was brought to an abrupt end by terrorist attacks on Assiut. The organisers want to set an example and "show German-speaking presence", as a spokesperson for the Goethe Institute announced.

Alpine world music on the Nile

Bad Ischler Rundschau 21st March 2002 | Text & Photos: Josef H. Handlechner

After almost 4 hours, the concert of the year began in Assiut. "Welcome in Egypt," said Hussain. He is 20 years old. He wants to be a teacher, in three years he will have completed his studies. Wouldn't I like to sit down? He pointed to a chair. Thank you, but I prefer to stand - would he like to sit perhaps? "As long as you are standing I would not sit down myself. That would go against hospitality." Hussain is one of hundreds of young women and men who wait to see what will happen. A few metres away, Hubert von Goisern is giving a TV interview.

The Egyptians have christened him "the one with the saffron" on account of his yellow trousers and quite simply for simplicity. The sun still burns on the forecourt. It is hot in Assiut.

Two days earlier, Vienna airport: for Hubert von Goisern and band, a special journey is beginning. A joint appearance with the currently undisputed most popular Egyptian singer, Mohamed Mounir, in the framework of the Culture days of German-speaking countries in Assiut is certainly one of the high points.

Alpine world music for 15,000 visitors

Just before the flight the first surprise: The Nile Hall with 1,700 seats, originally planned for the concert is too small. Does anyone have anything against doing the event as an open air? No-one does. You reckon with 7,000 to 10,000 visitors, Enzio Wetzel from the Goethe Institute Cairo says to us as he collects us from the airport.

Before the assassination at Luxor in 1998, these Culture Days had occurred regularly. The new beginning should now also forge the first to the outside - no event for an elite circle, but a meeting between cultures with a large impact.

"Artists," says Hubert's manager Hage Hein, "can explain how it is: going away and still being at home." Do you need any further definition? Or does it rather need "artists" to be capable of such openness? "Many are not," says Hage, "but fortunately there is Hubert..."

As he, "the one with the saffron" then steps onto the stage, there wait not 7,000 but a good 15,000 - a vast sea of people. Scarcely one and a half hours are played, then Mohamed Mounir takes over. In the meantime both of them prove, with their joint presence on the stage, just how easy it can be to forge links between such different cultures - if people will only have it.

"Ma'a as-salam" Hubert von Goisern calls out to the crowd: "Auf Wiedersehen". Or, somewhat more sloppily translated: "Tschüß". "Peace be with you" would also be a perfectly adequate translation... along with many others.

To West Africa on Sunday

Egypt was just the beginning, on Sunday Hubert von Goisern and his musicians are heading further towards West Africa. They will be there for three weeks and will play concerts on Cape Verde, in Dakar and in Burkina Faso.

Jodleiri Huidiridi

Stuttgarter Zeitung 18th March 2002

Goethe makes it possible: Hubert von Goisern in Egypt

There is really no reason that speaks well for Assiut. The city lies an arduous six hours by car from Cairo up the Nile, has no sights worth mentioning and also otherwise presents itself very dismally. If need be, cultural life happens in the 60,000 student university campus, a centre of the extensive concrete area built in the 90s, which has two approaches from the north and south which are guarded by the military. Here, where there has been conflict between Copts and Muslims for decades, where at the beginning of the 90s the debates made the headlines and today most Egyptians are still convinced that the city is one of, if not the, stronghold of fundamentalism, one simply does not want anything to happen.

At least no foreigners or even tourists should be involved. There these people are strongly escorted along the street and are sent for walks through the city with soldiers as accompanying protection. But exactly because nothing really speaks well for this city, it speaks unbelievably well for it, to therefore accept it. So the originators at the Goethe Institute in Cairo saw and see it, who together with the diplomatic embassies from Switzerland, Austria and the Federal Republic as well as the Assiut University invited this week to the local Culture Days. And so it happened that a couple of days ago, the Egyptian pop star Mohamed Mounir and the Austrian alpine world musician Hubert von Goisern stood together on the stage in the Nile Theatre in front of almost 15,000 people.

But in order. Since one with the Goethe Institute Inter Nationes, as it is so beautifully called, had reconstructed and at the moment more and more people understand that a dialogue between the culture very probably brings something, the employees can again turn towards specialist work. Indeed the 128 institutes in the 76 represented regions with their 1,300 colleagues still need a bit more money, but on the other hand: it could be worse, it also even gone worse. Because the linguistic further education at the Goethe Institutes is not everything and one sees oneself as a culture agent, running through the programme reading, lectures, theatre performances, concerts, film presentations or workshops. Things like this at the Culture Days in Assiut, which one wants to totally hold deliberately in the neglected province. The relationship between Europe and Egypt is lectured on, Tom Tykwers cinema sensation Lola rennt was shown, a photo exhibition was opened - or just, as the high point, so to speak, an open air concert was organised. But how come for Heaven's sake, did the Goethe Institute in overall charge come to the Austrian musician, Hubert von Goisern of all people?

Of course that is interesting. It is namely a wonderful example of how the dialogue between such different cultures like those of Arabic and Western European world can work. Since Hubert von Goisern had developed from his Alpinkatzen image a long time ago, since he has recorded two albums with West African and Tibetan music and had proved again and again that in his music he is very open-minded to other cultures, to the planners at the Goethe Institute, he justifiably seemed to be Mr Right. And how do things stand with Mohamed Mounir? He grew up in Aswan - and shows that one can also have success outside Cairo. His pop-orientated music has unmistakable roots in the most different genres of Arabic and African music. And his lyrics are without exception political and social, in which Mounir sees himself as the spokesperson of the cultural and religious mutuality of the Orient and Occident.

As far the two artists, who had not met until a few hours before the concert, if it had been awkward, then they would have completed their appearances one after the other and would have gone home again.

But both knew that it is not a normal concert, that it is above all about a meeting - and for that you must just meet. So they met before the concert in a hotel room in order to warm-up a bit, to get a feeling for it, how it is to play music with each other. Faster than they thought, the two found a common key, not just in a musical respect. One was enthusiastic about the Styrian accordion, the other about the open-mindedness of the great Egyptian pop star who should later introduce him on stage and play two songs together with him. And because it was so great, they are working on another joint appearance in Vienna - this autumn.

And how did the audience react who neither understood Hubert von Goisern's language nor his music and who only really came for Mohamed Mounir? Naturally they did not cheer and shriek like they did for Mounir. But with about half the Austrian's songs it is clear that it does not have to be so important: rhythms, melodies and vocals go down well, the lyrics are then not so important - something which is to be seen with the song Heast as nit. Whether Arab or European, nobody has any idea what the refrain "Huidiei jodleiri huidiei" signifies and still people are touched at this point. A potential with which the Goethe Institute organisers can work.

More than twice as many people came to the concert as expected; it clicked between both the audience and the artist as well as between the two artists, despite the immense contingent of soldiers and armed security forces there was no incident. That ought to encourage more mutual events of this kind!

Until the weekend the Austrian musician and Arab musicians tried every possible and impossible thing in workshops, a flugelhorn combining with an Afghan flute, accompanied by the oud, the Arabic short-necked lute. And perhaps you just simply see that there on the other side, that of the Arabs, that of the Europeans, are completely normal people. One is then completely certain that one has reached the point where one talks so happily of dialogue of cultures and the two way street. And since six months ago this should be especially important. At least very many people speak of it. Fortunately some also do something about it.

A yodeller in the desert: Hubert von Goisern in Egypt

Pipeline 15th March 2002 | Text: Antje Glück
Mohammed Mounir and Hubert von Goisern

Cairo/Assiut (dpa) - Exhausted and sweaty, Hubert von Goisern stands in the Assiut University Guesthouse in upper Egypt. The folk rocker from Austria and his five band members just have their first appearance in the Orient behind them. "For me it was a historic event and I am grateful that I could be there," said Hubert von Goisern thoughtfully.

Only fraction of the 15,000 concert guests - mostly students - felt prompted to dance by his yodels and accordion improvisations. But nevertheless many of the listeners had an open ear for the foreign sounds from the alpine country. "I thought the music was great, but I did not understand the songs," said 20 year old Ahmed after the concert. He and his friend Mahmud were especially taken with the singer's accordion. The flute solo in the African song Akipenda also impressed them.

The organisers of the Culture Days of German speaking areas in Assiut - the Goethe Institute Cairo, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German, Austrian and Swiss embassies - had scarcely hoped for more than a "first mutual sniffing out". For Assiut was regarded as the stronghold of the Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt. After several terror attacks in the 90s, there had scarcely been any foreign visitors to the city, which lies 380km south of Cairo.

Also during the culture days, in which this week - apart from music - theatre, lectures and films were also offered, the Egyptians were concerned about the safety of the foreign guests. The security forces put an escort alongside each German who stayed outside the university grounds. "I knew that this city was a centre of violence. For this reason, an appearance here is much more exciting than a concert in Cairo," said von Goisern.

It is above all heated at the Egyptian/Austrian concert on Tuesday evening when the Egyptian superstar Mohamed Mounir steps onto the stage. The audience push so heavily on every side that the police have to make a free path for Hubert von Goisern with batons, so the Austrian could play two songs together with Mohamed Mounir. "If one is not familiar with the way the security forces treat the audience, it can give you a shock," said Hubert von Goisern later.

The Egyptian fans took the actions of the police calmly and the duet was a complete success. As von Goisern seized the accordion and then also yodelled to Mounir's rousing Nubian rhythms, the Egyptian masses enthusiastically celebrated him. The two musicians obviously had fun together. "See, music is a mutual language which we can all understand, that is much better than war and blood," Mounir called to his fans.

15,000 enthusiastic students cheer Mohamed Mounir & Hubert von Goisern in Assiut

Goethe Institute 14th March 2002 | Photos: © Alex Schütz

As the high point of the Culture Days in Assiut, the Cairo/Alexandria Goethe Institute organised a joint concert with Hubert von Goisern and Mohamed Mounir. Von Goisern, one of the most successful rock exports from Austria, became known in the 90s through his individual alpine rock sound. With his band the Original Alpinkatzen, he successful blended traditional Austrian music elements with modern rock. In 1999 (sic) the formation broke up and von Goisern dedicated himself completely to world music and let these exotic sounds pour into his music. One of his numerous journeys through the world led von Goisern now to Middle Egypt where he met the Egyptian pop star Mohamed Mounir.

In front of 15,000 spectators in Upper Egypt: Hubert von Goisern meets Mohamed Mounir

Goethe Institute 14th March 2002

On Tuesday evening more than 15,000 people cheered the two singers Hubert von Goisern and Mohamed Mounir at the last concert of the Culture Days organised by the Goethe Institute Inter Nationes in Assiut, Upper Egypt. "I admit I had weak knees when it was ready and I went on stage. The feeling of happiness was even greater when I felt the delight and affection which was shown for me by everyone," with these words Hubert von Goisern described his impressions after the concert in the Nile Theatre.

The musical meeting of the most popular Egyptian pop star Mohamed Mounir and the Austrian musician and singer Hubert von Goisern was rated as a definite sign against cultural narrow-mindedness. The place of the concert, the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut, attained a sad fame in the 90s as the centre of violent Islamic Fundamentalism. "I am grateful for this meeting with the country, the city, the people, the culture, with Mohamed Mounir and his musicians. I am grateful for the links the Goethe Institute has forged," said an enthusiastic Hubert von Goisern.

This evening (14th March) the Austrian songwriter is meeting in Cairo together with Egyptian musicians, the band Downtown, the oud player Nasseer Shama and the violinist Abdou Dagir. A further appearance of the alpine pop artist is planned for October 2002 at the Modern Folk Festival in Cairo.

Folk musician Hubert von Goisern presents new album in Egypt

dpa 13th March 2002

Hubert von GoisernCairo/Assiut: With experimental folk music and Austrian language jokes, the musician Hubert von Goisern inspired 15,000 Egyptian concert visitors on Tuesday evening.

Songs like A Neia Tag (A New Day) and Afrika were cheered in the Upper Austrian city of Assiut despite the language difference. The four hour concert was provided for by the 49 year old Austrian together with the popular Egyptian pop singer Mohamed Mounir. Both singers sing about both homeland and origin as well as foreign parts in their songs.

Mind you, the alpine rocker was not completely satisfied with his concert appearance: "I felt out of place for long stretches," said von Goisern after the concert. His new album is hitherto nameless and should probably be released this year. Von Goisern will now continue his tour through West Africa.