Gast Waltzing: a symphony of colours
Gast Waltzing, who in 2016 became the first Luxembourger to win a Grammy Award, is undoubtedly the most famous composer and conductor in Luxembourg. A man for whom music is a world of colours, he resembles the Luxembourg he was born in: talented and eclectic. A trumpeter, composer and conductor, he happily moves from jazz to philharmonic orchestra, passing through film music and African rhythms. For him, a score is more than just a succession of notes.
What is the process that makes the instruments speak to you?
Everyone has their own method, but I can talk about mine. It's a question of colours, you have to have the melody in your head first, then you have to copy it. While some creators lean over a piano keyboard, I let the colours of the notes mix in my head. When I conduct the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, whose musicians are extremely well educated and highly trained, the harmony becomes obvious to everyone. Together we try to make colours, to bring out the things that are essential for everyone at that moment.
"For me, with music, there are no borders. You can understand each other anywhere.”
How did the project with Angélique Kidjo come about?
It cost me about seven years of my life. I already knew Angélique when I was in Brussels. She was also there and was just starting her career. I really liked what she was doing. When I met her, I told her I would like to do African music with her, and she said, "You're crazy, it's not possible, it's never going to work.” I proposed a first concert in Luxembourg, because it's a country where no international critics come, so if it doesn't work out, it doesn't matter; I'll be the one who gets the brunt of it in Luxembourg, but it won't affect her career. The result of all this? A Grammy Award in 2016 in the category "Best World Music Album" with a lot of emotions when I went on stage. That evening, I wanted to talk about Luxembourg because, culturally speaking, we’re not really on the map.
How can we make Luxembourg's talents better known?
This is a difficult question. On my first visits to countries, I am regularly invited to embassies, which invite the press for the occasion, for example in London with my jazz band Largo. That was exceptional, because not many people can get into an embassy. It's not like in Luxembourg, where you can be invited easily. It would be a good start to invite an artist or a sportsman to the embassies, instead of staying within our own scene. It seems complicated to promote them. But times are changing and today in Luxembourg we know that communication is becoming a major issue. If you want to have a drink and listen to good jazz in Luxembourg, in addition to the international programme of the Rockal and the Philarmonic, I recommend these two nuggets: the jazz evenings at the Atelier Windsor and at Le Bovary.
What would you improve in Luxembourg if you could ?
Everything is very easy here: wherever you play music, people love it. You can earn money playing an instrument at a level that would never be good enough in other countries. On the public side, Pierre Werner and Erna Hennicot-Schoepges had a clear understanding and vision for culture but today we tend to copy what other countries do. www.kulturlx.lu is a good example. I feel that we are missing opportunities. The only advice I can share is that very hard work and travelling abroad always work. We need to help promising young talents to leave the country in order to learn with the best in Paris for example. At the highest level, the “Everyone must win” approach does not work.