De retour de Chine

(Interview en Anglais)
Olivier Milchberg, traditional creative musician


  • How would you define yourself as a musician ?

I would say : I’m a multidisciplinary musician (and multidisciplinary artist). I played a lot of traditional (folk) music from south America, Europe, and the middle east. I learned a lot in studying music with roots (with a soul). But traditional music doesn’t mean it’s stuck in a form from the past and doesn’t move anymore, it’s the opposite. It’s like a language that evolves constantly with new words, new expressions.
In many cultures, traditional music has the purpose of bringing people together, helping people to understand each other or fall in love… it’s a social and spiritual purpose. I think music is useful and necessary, when it carries noble causes.

  • What is your background ?

I didn’t go to a music school… I just had piano and guitar lessons, but I would say : to learn music you need two things : time (years of practice), and good musicians to play with. I learned playing with my father and with many great musicians. First you learn from others, then others learn from you…
One important aspect of the music I play is improvisation. It’s the opportunity to give what you feel at a particular moment. It involves confidence and surrender. It works when you take risks, and it fails when you are scared or hide yourself.

  • What are the instruments you play and why so many?

When I first joined my father’s band “Los Incas”, I started with percussion and second guitar. Then I got more confidence and became first guitarist. The same occurred with flutes (pan pipes, kenas). I started with easy second parts, and finally became flute soloist. That was my school. When you play on stage, you learn much more then just playing the right notes… you learn confidence, you learn to express the right emotion.
At the age of 22 I moved to the south of France and met traditional french musicians, who played fiddle and accordion. The instrument that was fitting the best with them was the Irish bouzouki, so I started to play it. Our name was “Passe Montagne”, we used to play mainly for folk dance festivals in France and Italy.
The bouzouki became one of my favorite instruments. It can play many different styles of music! Then I started my oriental music journey. I met some musicians from Irak, Iran, Palestine, Greece, Turkey, and became impassioned by that music with strong roots. We founded the band “Pecheurs de Perles”, oriental-world-fusion. I was playing bouzouki, Turkish Cura Saz, Turkish banjo, Ney, Kaval, percussions, even double bass. I became also artistic director and producer. We did 3 cds and international tours for 10 years.
Then recently I moved to China for 4 years, joining Cirque du Soleil’s first resident show in Asia, “Zaia”.
I was playing all my ethnic instruments, plus electric guitar.

  • Wow! Did you learn Chinese music?

No… I think I will just stay with the different music that influences me.
I’m impassioned mainly by greek and turkish music. But I will not pretend to play as native musicians from those countries! It just influences my music, as a performer and composer. Classical music influences me too, it’s part of my roots.

  • Do you have composition projects?

When I was teenager, my best friend was my piano, and my way to face difficulties of life was music composition. I never stopped composing.
All the experiences as a musician performing worldwide and with so many kind of musicians has given me a lot of sources of inspiration.
I have many projects of music creation with musicians, singers, for dance, for theater, for movies. As a composer, arranger, performer, artistic director or producer.
One of my tools is the computer, and I use it a lot for creation. At first, I started to record music on tapes, editing with scissors… I enjoy so much what we can do today.

  • So why a multidisciplinary artist? What else do you do?

I mean sometimes I think about the visual aspect of a project, I work on the video of a song, I write the presentation of an album. My work includes many artistic aspects.
I like editing videos in the way I edit audio, with a rhythm related to the music. There is a lot to do in this field.

  • What did you receive from 4 years living in China?

I received so many things. I’m not the same… I seriously grew up!
It’s good to be home in France for a while. But I feel I could go to live anywhere now, where some artistic projects need me.

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