This is an interview with Hartwin Dhoore (Duo Leana&Hartwin, Estbel, Trio Dhoore) from Belgium, who lives in Saaremaa and makes music with Leana Vapper-Dhoore.
Questions by Kadri
1. What inspires you to create music, what is your process? How does your music come to life?
I was lucky to grow up in the Flanders’ folk scene (Belgium). When I was a child, there wasn’t so much modern stuff going on. When I was older, there was Madingma, young guys playing. Time of Fluxus and Naragonia; my biggest inspirations. They make all of their music themselves and this style (that I like: saxophone, duo, and bagpipe).
I was 15-16 (years old), when I needed to be inspired. I was surrounded by nice modern folk bands already and you could go to Boomball (dance folk club happening in different towns of Belgium, www.boombal.be), young people went there. A super cool thing to do. This thing, in school, it’s not a cool thing to do. You want to play the electric guitar or something. Boombal saved accordion in my eyes.
As a child i was also playing chromatic accordion, I was not made for the music school or normal school. If things don´t inspire me, I am off. In adult life you can choose what you take or not take…it was not my world.
At age 15 I dropped out of music school. I went to summer school and collected to get enough money to buy a diatonic accordion myself. I played from CDs.
What I liked about folkmusic is that it´s low profile, people feel comfortable to approach it. It is close to people.
2. How did you meet with Leana?
When I was 20 years old, Leana had already been in Belgium for quite some time. A musician friend asked me if I want to come to Ethno Slovenia. And they told me: “If you want to go there, you have to call to Leana.”
She (Leana) was bringing people together, and organising a trip there. I called her; at that point she was babysitting in Gent, for Wim Clayes, who has 4 daughters. I didn’t go, but later we met at a music venue in Gent in a jam session. Folky people go there after concerts. Then we wanted to meet more. I was pretty amazed when I called her; I was really touched by her voice. A super-soft voice. I was emotionally touched, how breakable. I might have fallen in love just with Leana’s voice. It did something to me.
3. What is the difference between a hobby musician and a professional one?
You decide in your head if you are a hobby musician or a professional musician. It’s all in your head. There are no rules in life, you don’t have to have a degree, just start practicing and make a band, everything will come.
We are in the world with the internet. As much as there are people who say, it’s a bad idea to be a musician, there are also people who say it’s a good idea. If you have the time and the motivation, it’s not difficult.
4. What is music for you?
There are so many answers to this question. For me this definition has changed a lot in my life and it will keep changing. At this moment music is, first of all, something that connects people. And something we really need in life. We need to connect people. And I believe that everything you can use to make music, you should use it.
I was talking to a friend the other day and he was saying; it’s your duty to share your talent. It is not good to keep it to yourself. So music is my job, it brings people together and second: it’s a therapy for me. A very big healing process. For me it’s much stronger than yoga, it’s a meditation. If you really focus, then you slip out of your body. You don´t feel your physical body while playing music anymore. When I’m angry or sad, every emotion fits with playing music, makes you more happy, makes you happy when you are sad.
When I don’t know an answer to a question, I play and the right answer will come. So music for me is about connecting and healing people!
5. What kind of instruments do you play and why ?
I play the diatonic accordion and why? I don’t think I can give an exact reason why I took to this one, I have seen people play it. This instrument talks to me. I like it so much, because it’s like a transportable piano. And for me it’s more triggering than a chromatic accordion, because it’s a game to find out how to play the same line of music: I can play every tune in four possible ways; I can decide to add accents that make it more inspiring. With a chromatic accordion this is also possible, but you have to play it at a very high level.
If you play something new, it can be in a difficult key, but you find a way to play it, it has the feeling of a game.
Once in Ethno Flanders camp there was a guy from India with a very difficult tune. Me and my friend, we went with this Indian guy and we played all night to understand the tune and get it. In the end we managed to play it, but it was super hard.
One more reason: all the music I make, it rolls out. One of the main reasons is direct bases, harmonies. You can immediately combine a melody with bases.
6. What kind of musical groups do you play with and why?
I play in Estbel and Trio Dhoore and then Leana and I have a duo. I am actually in the process of making a new duo in Estonia. Mattis Leinmaa. If I want to live in this country, it’s important that I also make new contacts. Making a band with other Estonians will take me to new people.
For musicians it’s good to be in contact with different people. When I have enough to survive it is enough. But the real payment is the free access to meeting so many nice people in the world!
Trio Dhoore is the oldest band that I have: I am the middle brother. The guitar player is my youngest brother and the hurdy-curdy player is the eldest. We started at home when I was around 16 or 17 and we played in our own village at Kermis (an annual fair in The Low countries) in the Market place.
So it grew. We just toured in Austria and Germany. As a musician you can sometimes be angry at having so much work. I have done four years of office jobs, but now I fully understand how lucky I am to do what I like. If my children ever want to do something on their own in the future and be an artist, I would recommend that they do a shitty job for a while. In the three years of holding a regular job, I could actually buy good instruments, and for me it was a very logical step.
7. Where have you performed and where have your most interesting performances been?
I have performed in almost every country in Europe with my various projects. Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, as well as England, Ireland, and Scotland.
And also Canada.
One of the most interesting concerts was in Goderich, (Ontario, Canada), a village that was destroyed by a big tornado and built up again. The evening we arrived there was another small tornado and luckily only few houses went down; nobody died but it was pretty scary (for Flemish people). But the concerts in this village afterwards were very special, they had a very nice energy and people felt very united.
Another amazing concert was on the Shetland Islands (Scotland). We were touring there for six days, going to all of the small Islands and performing for the local farmers. It’s so beautiful there. Amazing.
8. What do you do with your free time and what brings you peace?
When I’m not performing I’m with Leana enjoying Saaremaa and playing Disc golf with friends. A sport I discovered in Estonia and connects me with new people. Estonians are not really talkers so it’s good to just play and be together without too many words!
9. What is your wish for today’s youth?
That they all find a deep inspiration that connects them with their true self inside. That they can discover their talents (everybody has talent), develop this and share it with the world to inspire others.
10. What is your wish/dream for the world? What could be different in the world?
To live united, in a world without war, a world with respect for everybody. People become truly happy when helping others, so we need to learn to give to others and just as much as taking from others. This needs to be in balance. Balance is the key word of a better world.