For the road

Flutist Tibi Golan embodies the wandering spirit.

May 11, 2010 22:28
4 minute read.
Tibi Golan (right)

Tibi Golan. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Bob Dylan may have sung about a musician’s peripatetic life in “Like a Rolling Stone” some 45 years ago, but Tibi Golan gets his itchy feet from a different source.

The 36-year-old flutist, who will front his quartet at the Suzanne Dellal Center’s Inbal Auditorium in Tel Aviv at 8:30 p.m. this Thursday, says he feeds heavily off the Gypsy culture, and not just in a musical sense. “The Gypsies say that as long as you are on the move you are alive,” he says. “I certainly go along with that. Anyway, I’ve been pretty hyperactive since I was a kid, and I like to move around.”

Golan has certainly led an interesting life to date, trying not to allow the dust to settle too much before moving on again. He was born in 1974, in a part of the former Yugoslavia that is now in Serbia, and grew up in a Zionistic family. He began playing the recorder at the age of eight and was soon taken under the wing of Gypsy musician and violin builder Lakatos Laszlo. “He didn’t just teach me how to play my instrument,” says Golan, “he gave me love of this music, which is far more important.”

It was also instrumental love at first sight. “As soon as I picked up the recorder I knew that was the instrument for me,” recalls Golan. “I’ve tried a few other wind instruments, like a saxophone, but when you’re a kid you don’t reason or wonder why you like something – you either do or you don’t.”

Before long, Golan – who was born Tibor Gyerman – was making great musical strides and began taking part in, and winning, music competitions all over Yugoslavia. By the age of 15 he had become a regular fixture at communal dance events, theaters and community centers, and also appeared on children’s radio shows. A year later war broke out in Yugoslavia and his family decamped to Hungary. In 1992 he made aliya, although he has been back and forth to Europe several times in the interim, spending three more years in Hungary and several years in Holland and touring Europe. He also taught Turkish ney – flute – at Bar Ilan University for a couple of years, performed with Jerusalemite Persian music singer Mureen Nehedar and formed the acclaimed cross-cultural Balakan group with Noam Chen, which appeared at the 1999 Israel Festival.

BESIDES INSTRUMENTAL dexterity and a love of Gypsy music, Golan also grew up with ever-widening cultural and musical horizons, the latter of which increased incrementally when he moved to Israel. “There is so much music in this country,” he says. “I think Israel is one of the most interesting and exciting places in the world in terms of the music people create and play here. There is something very exotic about it all, and I am very grateful to live and work here at this time.”

Part of Golan’s openness comes from his genre of choice. “Don’t forget that the gypsies passed through Turkey on their way to the Balkans and other places in Europe.” Therein, for Golan, lies a connection with this part of the world and Jewish liturgical music, as well as a few other cultural influences Golan has taken on board over the years.

“The Gypsies know maqams [Arabic or Turkish scales] and they learned and adopted a lot of the musical languages they picked up along the way. Later, [the founder of the modern state of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk banned Sufi music. So the Sufis went to synagogues to hear the Jews reciting piyutim (liturgical poems) that were based on exactly the same maqams. So it was the Jews who helped to preserve Sufi music.”

Many of Golan’s influences will, naturally, come to the fore at Thursday’s concert. He’ll be playing different kinds of gypsy music, including popular hits from various Emir Kusturica movies and some of his own compositions. But the show will also offer a more rounded entertainment package. “I’ll tell some humorous Gypsy tales in between the numbers, although I don’t want to distract the audience from the music too much. That’s what it’s really about – the music.”

More than anything, Golan tries to convey his emotions through his music. “Jimi Hendrix said it’s not hard to play, but it is hard to feel... I hope the audience gets some of what we feel through what we play.”

Tibi Golan will perform with accordionist Ariel Elyav, bass player Victor Ezus and percussionist Allan Elyav at the Inbal Auditorium of the Suzanne Dellal Center, Rehov Yehieli 6, Tel Aviv. For more information:

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