Food for Love

Food for Love

Its funny how fame brings with it some unwanted baggage. Western Classical music and the Gaza conflict may have nothing to do with each other...

Western classical music may be his work and passion,but noted Israeli pianist Gil Shohat also doubles up as a cultural spokesperson of his country

Its funny how fame brings with it some unwanted baggage. Western Classical music and the Gaza conflict may have nothing to do with each other,but reputed Israeli pianist Gil Shohat has a burden to bear — that of being a cultural ambassador of a country in conflict. “I will not talk about my political views explicitly. But I will only say that we don’t realize that culture is a great binder. If we were to invest our energies in propagating ties between countries in conflict,war would be not necessary,” says Shohat who was in the city to perform at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) last week.

His ideologies are also reflected in his performances,claims the musician who has to his credit nine symphonies,eight concerti for various instruments,two operas and a hefty bundle of choral,chamber and piano works that are performed all around the world. “Recently I performed in Delhi and I feel it was a poignant in more ways than one. I was a Jewish musician,who performed with a Muslim percussionist on the eve of a Hindu festival (Holi),” he beams.

Performing in India,is something Shohat looks forward to,warts notwithstanding. “Indian music lovers,at least those that I’ve come across,tend to be appreciative without being boisterous. There have been moments after a performance,when I felt that people didn’t really like my efforts,but later they would come up to me with some really interesting observations,” he says. There are few complains though. “I don’t want this to be misinterpreted,but I have problems with the quality of pianos that he had to play in some venues. It’s like expecting an Olympic runner to run in sandals,” he adds.


Indian music,however,fascinates Shohat. “I listen to Pandit Ravi Shankar all the time. Even Hindi film music is wonderful. I love the songs of Mughal-E-Aazam,” he says.

But it’s Western classical music that inspires him. “Music of greats like Beethoven and Bach is like food for me. I listen to them before is start work on my compositions,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean that Shohat is not familiar with contemporary Western music. A musician,feels the pianist,cannot afford to lock himself in an “ivory tower”. “It’s important to reach out to even those who are not really into classical music,” he claims. He has,in fact,experimented with popular music to make his work more contemporary. “I collaborated with an Israeli band to interpret the popular song,The Wall,by Pink Floyd,” he informs.

Shohat conducts lecture-performances in his home country. “These lectures are attended by people from various walks of life. Most of them have no prior knowledge in music,” he says. Efforts such as these probably explain why Western classical music is so popular in Israel. “Millions of tickets of classical music concerts are sold every year. Even theatre productions are very popular. There is more to my country than the war,” sums up Shohat.