In November 1989, the Berlin wall — which separated West Germany from East Germany — came down, paving the way for German reunification almost a year later on October 3. Behind where the wall stood, at Brandenburg Gate, Klaus Maine, the frontman of the German rock band The Scorpions, took to the stage and sang his recently composed power ballad, Winds of Change. Little did he know his song would become the anthem for the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Wall, and a soundtrack for political and cultural revolution for times to come.
Thirty years later, the song has found an Indian version as German musician and the country ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner, has collaborated with a slew of Indian artistes to present the ‘Indian’ Winds of Change.
“I live in India and I am a musician and I wondered what we could do. To play a piece quintessentially Western, I needed Indian classical musicians who were exposed to Western music,” says Lindner, who roped in vocalist Chetan Dominic Awasthi aka Chezin, flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, sarod player Pt Vikash Maharaj, New York-based drummer Peter Retzlaff, and tabla player Prabhash Maharaj for the song.
The seminal whistle has been replaced by Chaurasia’s flute and the interludes with various Indian instruments. The song was put together in July and August by Lindner, who also played the synth and the guitar.
Lindner recorded the song in his home studio, which he created at his official residence at Shantipath in Delhi by tearing down a wall between two rooms. The studio also impressed Chaurasia when he visited the German consulate last year. “I didn’t know many details of the story, but I went with the emotion of the song. I have improvised and put in a piece which is not there in the original song,” said Mumbai-based Chaurasia.
Lindner was a young musician in Munich and on the verge of beginning his diplomatic career when the wall fell. “Even though we kept a little hope, we thought it would last for eternity. The song, for me, symbolises the exact moment that the wall came down. Nelson Mandela had rid Africa of apartheid, the Cold War had ended and the Wall being torn apart — the future had never looked brighter. It was going to be a better world for our children and this dream came through in the song,” says Lindner, who adds that he does not want to burden the song with political messages.
“But the message remains relevant. Confrontation, conflicts, Covid, we need hope. If the Berlin Wall can come down, any conflict can be solved,” says Lindner, who steers clear of his comments on Indian political matters.
Lindner’s interest in music was triggered by Indian music in the June of 1971, by Pt Ravi Shankar and the iconic Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden for relief for the 1,00,000 refugees pouring into West Bengal from East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Lindner was 14 and noticed how music worked as a counterculture. “It was a game-changer and a door opener, not only for music but also travelling,” says Lindner, who collected some money by driving taxis and trucks and playing music in an orchestra.
His first visit to India was when he was 20. He went back and embarked upon a diplomatic career.
The German ambassador also believes that in 2020, diplomacy cannot be “just cocktail parties and receptions and secretive meetings behind closed doors”. “For India and China issues, maybe you need closed doors but for most countries, you need sympathy for each other,” says Lindner.
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