Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trumpeting his music

Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and his band, 'Gatecrash', impress a well-heeled audience with their jazz-pop repertoire

By Shevlin Sebastian

In Amsterdam, one day, Eric Vloeimans heard his friend, Sandip Bhattacharya play a tune on the tabla. “It was a haunting sound,” says Eric. “I was immediately attracted to the music.” Soon, he learnt to replicate the same sound on the trumpet. So, it was no surprise that when Eric and his band gave a performance at Kochi, organised by the CGH Earth group, he launched into the same song.

Interestingly, he did not know the name or its significance for the Indian psyche. Very haltingly, in heavily accented Dutch-English, he repeated what a guest told him, 'Sare Jahaan Se Accha'. Not surprisingly, the audience reserved the biggest applause for this intense rendering of the classic, famously sung by Lata Mangeshkar.

Eric was accompanied by his band, 'Gatecrash', which included Jeroen van Vliet on Fender Rhodes and keyboards, Gulli Gudmundsson on bass, electric basses and effects, and Jasper van Hulten on drums.

They began the recital with a song called 'Bolero', which had a slow beginning, then built up a solid tempo, before ending again on a soft note. On some songs, Eric dominated with the trumpet, while on others it was the keyboard and, sometimes, the bass. When he was not playing, the curly-haired Eric, wearing a multi-coloured shirt, pink trousers, and silver shoes, closed his eyes as if he was in a state of meditation.

Music is very spiritual,” he says. “It is something you cannot touch. It contains an energy of the heart. I play it with utmost sincerity. Every human being is connected to each other through the energy that is present in the Cosmos.”

Eric admits that he is not a believer in a God with a white beard. “There is so much of trouble in the world because of religions,” he says. “People go to war with each other saying, 'My God is better than your God.'”

Incidentally, Eric is one of Holland 's feted musicians, and has travelled all over the world, playing in front of diverse audiences. Occasionally, he has been taken aback by the reactions of the listeners.

People can be very enthusiastic in India,” he says. “In China, they are impolite and talk on the phone right in front of you. That can be unsettling. In South Korea, they shout and go crazy. In certain countries in Europe, like France, the audience can be snobbish, and will clap sparingly and show no emotion. But the Germans, who lead a regimented and disciplined life, are voluble at our concerts. As for the Kochi audience, they showed their enjoyment with good applause.”

One of the Kochi audience members was businessman Satish Pratap. “It is difficult for those who listen to jazz for the first time to connect with the music,” says Satish. “But Eric’s mix of jazz-pop made it very popular with the crowd. It was a classy performance.”

At Kochi, ‘Gatecrash’ had an unique experience. They played in front of mentally challenged children. “I was touched,” says Eric. “Most of the time, our audience comprises of people who are well-off. So, to play for the disadvantaged was a privilege.”

Eric, of course, leads a privileged life. “Music is my passion,” he says. “I work 24/7 and enjoy every moment.” Asked whether it is difficult to make ends meet, Eric says, with a smile, “I am not a millionaire, but I am earning well enough to pay the mortgage and have a comfortable life.”

But like all musicians they are losing money to rampant piracy and the menace of free downloads. “There are too many loopholes and the music industry does not have an answer on how to plug it,” says Eric. “In China, and many other countries, illegal downloading is commonplace. It is a sad situation for all artistes.”

It is the only moment in the interaction when his face droops. Otherwise, he is lively, sincere, and joyous all the time.

Just like his music.

(The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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