Johann Sebastian Bach once said, "It is easy to play any musical instrument: All you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself"; but many will agree that this is easier said than done! However, when Denis Novato, a Slovene musician and arguably one of the world's best artist on the diatonic accordion, played his instrument, it all seemed so simple, perfect and musical that one could not help but agree with Bach's quote.
Performing at the India International Centre during a special evening of Slovenian culture, organised by the Embassy of Slovenia as part of the celebrations pertaining to the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Slovenia and India, Novato held his audience in awe. Beginning his career way back in 1988, he has won more than 20 international competitions, was awarded the title 'World Champion' on the diatonic accordion twice (1996 and 1999) and has composed since more than 50 original songs.
"This year, Slovenia and India are celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations. For this special occasion, we wanted to give the Indian audience a little taste of the rich Slovenian culture. We are, indeed, delighted to have Denis Novato on stage, in New Delhi, to share his talent and the Slovenian folk musical tradition with the Indian audiences," said Ambassador of Slovenia Jozef Drofenik on the occasion.
Novato says, "Since childhood, I have grown up with Slovenian folk music and as a member of the Slovenian ethnic minority community in the neighbouring Italy, maintaining our tradition was paramount. Though this form of music was not popular amongst the youth when I was growing up, things have been changing lately, which makes me both happy and proud." He adds, "The biggest challenge for me in my 30 yearlong-career has been the creation of my own compositions, because I do not want to be only known as a performer, but also as a composer. I do not want to adhere to only existing folk and instrumental music but look for inspiration towards other styles too."
The response of the audience, which was both positive and enthusiastic, came as a bit of a surprise to the artist. He explains "I did not expect much, as I knew that this instrument is practically unknown to Indian audiences. But to my surprise, the performance was received with a lot of openness and appreciation. I was, indeed, very pleased when the programme finished, and the audience requested for additional songs to be played. This is the kind of a reaction one very much looks forward to as a performer."
Being on his first performance in India, how did he manage the weather? Novato answers with a smile, "I really love it here despite the heat and I look forward to my performance in Mumbai and Chennai too."
Any future plans with regard to projects in India? "This is my first time in the South Asia region. Part of my role as a musician from Slovenia is also to showcase my country's tradition. The accordion is very closely connected with the Slovenian culture and is also our national music instrument. This makes me, actually, proud to be an "ambassador" of the diatonic accordion. If another chance arises, I would be delighted to come back and share this instrument with the generous Indian audiences."
"I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we are from. Everyone loves music." So said Billy Joel, and so say all of us.