Hello, everyone!

As I promised to bring you all two interviews this weekend, here is the second one... This time with Uruguayan artist German Bense that is sharing here a bit of his career story in Bossa Nova. Singing a music style more famous for its Brazilian contributors, German learned from the best, and played and sang with the best in Uruguay and Brazil.

German is always involved in many projects and never stops composing. It can happen in any place at any time, and he is always ready for his inspiration. Besides playing and singing, German also composes in many languages. Love and the many aspects of the woman nature are always main subjects of his compositions as it is always in all Bossa Nova...

Owner of a soft voice and lots of talent, German also has his compositions recorded by other artists. Recently it was Venezuelan artist Indira Briceño that recorded the song Barco sin Puerto which is becoming a new hit.

Since Bossa is one of the main musical styles in Brazil, it was a great opportunity for me to discuss a bit about its views in other countries. German knows a lot not only about music but the history behind it. For me, it was a great delight to interview him. I hope you also enjoy it as much as I did.

Bengal: Hi, German, thanks for taking the time to share a bit of your story with us today. Can you tell us how everything started?

German Bense: Thank you, Bengal! The beginning.. my family doesn't have tradition in music. Although my mother used to play the guitar as an amateur and my father the piano, the profession of musician was never welcome at home.. Many problems arised when I decided to become a professional musician. My definite relation with music begins when I started my lessons with the conductor Juan Lamas, and he is the one that taught me the jazz and bossa nova.

Bengal: Which instruments you play?

German: My instrument is the guitar but for many years I worked playing the electric bass. Besides these two, I studied piano but never acquired the necessary technique to play it professionally. Yet, the piano is a very important instrument for me. It is a wonderful tool specially when I prepare musical arrangements.

Bengal: You have many poetic compositions, when did you start to write? Do you have a formal training in music?

German: I started to write with my guitar when I was 20. At the age of 13, I started to study the piano at the Kölischer Conservatorium directed by the great Uruguayan concertist Luis Batlle Ibañez (brother of Jorge Batlle, former president of Uruguay). For a 13-year-old rebel kid, the rigid discipline of the conservatorium was too much and I stayed there for only 2 years. However, during these 2 years I discovered the instrument and learned a lot of theory.

Bengal: Why Bossa Nova? This is a very Brazilian style, so how come a Uruguayan artist ends up writing, playing and singing Bossa Nova?

German: My teacher of guitar and harmony, Juan Lamas, was the responsible for teaching me bossa nova. Qhen I started the lessons with him, Lamas was the biggest reference of Bossa Nova in Uruguay. He was friends of Vinicius de Moraes, Dick Farney, Leny Andrade, among others. In fact, he would go on tour with Vinicius de Moraes every time Vinicius would visit Rio de la Plata. And besides, Juan Lamas was one of the first South American musicians that played bossa nova in Europe, almost at the same time Sergio Mendes arrived in the 'old continent'. Juan Lamas wasn't a composer but saw in me the conditions for a composer, and he was the one encouraging me to write. Unfortunately, I wasn't writing much in the beginning of my career and the conductor passed away without knowing much of the work he inspired so much.

Bengal:: Part of your work is in Portuguese that isn't your native language. How many languages do you speak? Do you compose in all of them?

German: My main language is the Spanish, but I also speak Portuguese and English. I studied the Italian and the French at school but I forgot great part of them (specially French). I started composing in Spanish, but after the year 2000 - and I don't know the reason for that - I started to write the songs in English, and then in 2002, in Portuguese.

Bengal: You write and sing beautiful poems about love and about women. Are these your inspirations? How is the process of composing for you, do you follow a specific technique?

German: I think since the beginning, love and women are an indivisible part of bossa nova, and I'm not the exception, although I discuss other themes in my songs that might not be related to these topics, Herois Rabo de Palha, Our silent world. My process of composing usually starts with the melody. I always have with me an old tape recorder. When the muse comes, I mean, when the melody appears in my voice and guitar, I record. Sometime later I listen to all these precarious recordings and that's when the lyrics show up and the songs born. I can add lyrics sometimes to a music I recorded 2 or 3 years ago. Sometimes, I can write the full song within few hours, but that's not the usual. And besides, I have many melodies composed to the lyrics of other musical partners. I really enjoy to add music to lyrics that are not mine, it's a different challenge.

Bengal: How is the combo Uruguay and Bossa Nova? How is the reception of the Brazilian music in Uruguay?

German: Since the end of the 60's in Uruguay, a new musical wave heavily influenced by bossa nova and MPB [Brazilian Popular Music] was born. The responsible for this wonderful fusion between bossa and the candombe [Afro-Uruguayan music] was the great Uruguayan composer Eduardo Mateo. Since I started to compose till the beginning of the 90's I was part of this wave. The only difference to the majority of my Uruguayan colleagues is that I've discovered Bossa Nova before meeting Mateo's body of work. As I said, I've met MPB through my master Juan Lamas. Thus, the influence of bossa in my music comes directly from the sources. Of course, I appreciate Mateo's work and learned a lot from it, but my background, specially from the harmony point of view comes directly from bossa nova. For you to have an idea of the influence of bossa nova in the Uruguayan music, I'll tell you a tale. Sometime ago, I was looking for some of my old arrangements that I recorded on tape. I was listening to the songs when I found a treasure. It was Jorge Drexler and I singing with two guitars to a potpurri of bossa in a home recording session, preparing some of the shows we did together in the beginning of the 90's. He starts singing Morena Boca de Ouro with a wonderful beat of bossa and a perfect pronounciation of Portuguese, then I sing Vivo Sonhando and finaly we sing together Jacinta, a nice samba by Eduardo Mateo.

Bengal: And how is the market for a Uruguayan artist singing Bossa in Uruguay and in Brazil? Nowaways, do you think the market for Bossa Nova is more opened or not?

German: In Uruguay, the market for Bossa Nova is definately non-existent. Decades ago in my country, Bossa Nova was listented to and highly appreciated, but this tradition is lost. While in Brazil, things are not so easy for the Bossa Nova artists, but I just can talk about it based on the references some of my Brazilian colleagues said. Curious enough, Bossa Nova nowadays has a great audience in Europe, maybe much bigger than in the majority of South American countries.

Bengal: You have performed many times in Argentina, though. How is the reception there?

German: Argentina, together with Chile, are the countries where Bossa Nova is more appreciated in the continent. Although, having my music online since the year 2000, it was just a matter of time to be contacted to play out there. And that's how it happened. In the end of 2005, I was invited to be part of this Yahoo! discussion group Bossanovaenargentina [in Spanish]. Rosana Teladi, the founder and moderator of the group is also the organizer of the Encontros de Bossa Nova em Argentina, annual event in Buenos Aires that started back in 2005. And in April 2006 was the first time I played in Argentina. Since then, I keep playing and continue to be linked to the bossa nova movement in Argentina, much more linked there than to the musical movements in my own country.

Bengal: Which are your influences, German? You played with many known names of Bossa Nova. How these partnerships start?

German: Tom Jobim, João Gilberto and Chico Buarque are my main musical references. About my partnerships, I already mentioned Drexler, and.... the thing is that I played with many of these known names when nobody was known actually... [laughing]

Bengal: Which was the most significant moment of your career so far?

German: I have many significant moments and it would be difficult to highlight one, but I think the most important moment of my career didn't pass yet, and I think it will be when I finally can play for the first time my Bossa Nova in Brazil.

Bengal: Tells us about the albums you participated and the works you have. Which is the difference from your last work, Love song in vain, to the others?

German: I participated as a guitar and bass player in many works with Uruguayan musicians, and it was sometime ago. I have 5 published albums - Después de todo and Quimera are Uruguayan Popular Music (1989-1990), Opus bossa nova (2001), Deafinados como eu (2002) and Love song in vain (2005). The biggest difference of my lastest work to the previous ones is the more jazzistic style in relation to the arrangements and the interpretation of the songs.

Bengal: I think it's very interesting that you publish the parts of your music online. How is the reception it has?

German: I think that to publish the parts, and everything related to the songs, is very important in the projection of an artist, specially in the case of the independent artist as myself. The internet allows today many ways to reach not only the general public, but also other artists, and I think everyone should use this technology as a very positive tool. The reception of my audience is very good indeed. Remember that many of the "famous" artists are selling their songbooks - I offer mine as a gift... ;)

Bengal: You mentioned the Bossa Nova artists singing in Europe. Do you know Aline de Lima's work?

German: Yes! Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, but I know her through MySpace. It would be nice to have her on tour in South America, and even nicer if one day she could sing one of my songs.

Bengal: Thanks for this interview, German. It was a pleasure to talk to you. Anything else you want to share with us?

German:: I always thank Brazil and its musicians for the fact they created Bossa Nova. This year in Brazil, Bossa Nova is celebrating its 50 years of life as it is. It would be really nice if we could do all that is possible, specially here in South America, to revive the style, and show the beauty and the poetry of this music to the new generations of the world. It would be nice that the events celebrating the 50 years would be organized in a way to bring together the Bossa Nova artists of all latitudes to create a new releasing platform so this music can continue conquering the hearts of many people for more 50, 100, 200 years more!

For more information on German Bense, check the links below:

German Bense's Official Website
German Bense's MySpace
German's music in the voice of Indira Briceño


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