Some people think that doing a job and being a kind of personality are two different things. Others believe in the fact and try to behave in the direction, that there is no difference between profession and private personality. Nguyên Lê would be one of the supporters of the last theory. His roots lie in the music of the vietnamese people and as he grew up in Paris he got in contact with parisian culture and music. After two records basing on the music of only one country, his latest CD is a mix of many cultural influences. Beside his trio there are numerous guests playing his compositions - a music full of deep feelings, interesting ideas and harmonically played tunes.
Before his concert at the Quasimodo in Berlin, Carina Prange talked to Nguyên Lê, who appeared so well-balanced as if the commotion in the club - some minutes before the concert - hadn´t been there.
Carina: You studied fine arts and philosophy - how did the idea come into your mind to play music?
Nguyên: In fact it was a kind of random choice. I like to say usually, that music has chosen me and I didn´t choose music. Because when I was younger, I was always painting or drawing all day - so everybody was sure, I´d once like to be a painter or something like that. My quest for music came very late and my choice for starting an instrument was more like a game. It was at school and we were with friends - discussing with friends - you know: "What are we going to do today?" And someone said: "Let´s make a band." And I said: "Yeah. And I will be the drummer." That was the beginning. And I started to play drums like that. And the next step was when I first touched an electric guitar - in fact of the guitar player of my band. I found that there was a kind of thinking dimension that I couldn´t have with the drums. And that was the beginning of my love-relation with the guitar.
Carina: Is there a relationship between your music and what you learned about philosophy?
Nguyên: I think, that there is always relation, but in fact that topic between the two worlds is still something very complex. Because when I was doing philosophy, I never succeeded to write or to speak well about art. I thought, philosophy was really something on itself and art another thing. So for me philosophy was more like a theory, something very abstract, something which was more like mathematics. And the music was just the contrary, it was a relationship with other people, it was a very emotional relation to the other musician I was being with. And there was really something special about the moments when you are playing music. I was always missing that dimension - this human dimension - in philosophy.
Carina: What about your vietnamesian roots - how much have they influenced the way you play the guitar or your view about music in general?
Nguyên: Of course it is very important for me, because I think - when you are an artist - one of your main goals (to me) is to create your own identity, to have your own language. One of the best ways to create that identity is to go back to what has shaped your personality. Of course this is the roots. So, for me it was Vietnam and also that kind of complex situation of being from vietnamese parents, but born in France. And that of course confuses in a way. At the same time I look for the roots and try to have a creative solution for the real world.
Carina: The latest record is called "Bakida" - what does the title express?
Nguyên: Bakida is - in fact it is the title of the song, of the melody which inspired me. It is a vietnamese melody - it is special, because it comes from some minority, a big minority in Vietnam. So they have a very special style and I wanted to honor the inspriration this music has given to me.
Carina: It is difficult today for young musicians to find an individual way to express themselves and there are so many different influences from other cultures and styles of music - what advice would you give them to get on their way?
Nguyên: I think, first: one thing you have to keep is the pleasure of love of music, because sometimes you go so much in practice of the instrument and then you get drowned in that practising. And I think, when you are practising, you are still doing music and so you should still keep the love of the music and the love of the music you are doing also. If you are just hating what you are doing, the notes you are playing, because you think you are too bad at it - I don´t think its a good way. - It is a matter of finding the good balance between what you want to be and what you are. And also I think you can do a lot of progress - may be - just in your soul. And sometimes the progress happens at a moment where you are not expecting it to happen. Sometimes you are working a lot and you are desperate because you cannot find the rhythm. But if you still just have some distance and go back to the simplicity of being human, than the progress comes back naturally.
Carina: Have you got a philosophy for life?
Nguyên: If you talk about music it has something to do with it. And of course I like asien philosophy, Taoism, Hinduism - and those philosophies show you that the goal is at not at the end of the way, the goal is the way. That means while you are shaping yourself while walking, while practicing an instrument you are - this is the truth, your truth, you are in. So sometimes it is the problem of the willing: Sometimes the willing is too heavy, then you miss the goal. Because the willing is also yourself, it´s your ego. And sometimes your ego is just a wall between yourself and yourself. So if you are just more natural and not waiting for the success, it flows. I think it can just go down from heaven.
CD: The Nguyên Lê Trio - "BAKIDA" (ACT 9275-2)
Nguyên Lê im Internet: www.fild.de
Act Music im Internet: www.actmusic.com
Photo: Lutz Voigtländer/ACT
Cover Art: "Heimito"