Lockdown Music Stories: Veronika Harcsa Interview
Veronika Harcsa interview
“Our democratic society needs its unique and diverse cultural and media landscape in this historical situation, which was unimaginable until recently,” said German culture minister Monika Grütters. “The creative courage of creative people can help to overcome the crisis. We should seize every opportunity to create good things for the future. That is why the following applies: artists are not only indispensable but also vital, especially now”.
These lines, coming from the German government in March 2020, confirm my thoughts about the role of artists, especially now. This is why I was asking Veronika Harcsa, jazz singer and songwriter a few questions about the current situation. I was curious about how she was doing, what she was thinking, under lockdown?
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Veronika Harcsa interview
– How can musicians in Budapest now help society? How can bands, with their creative courage, point to a better future?
– ‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ – that’s a quote by Cesar A. Cruz, the Mexican poet. Nobody is comfortable today, we are all disturbed, and we all have anxiety. Music is a marvelous tool to soothe our minds, therefore musicians have a responsibility in times like these. Even though most artists are currently facing a series of event cancellations, it’s uplifting to see the multitude of home recordings and live music streams aiming to cheer up the lockdown crowd. It gives me a strong feeling of solidarity, collaboration, and hope.
– Do you get any extra inspiration from such a historic situation? Do you feel more motivated now? Does isolation change much in artistic work?
– I would love to say that this unique situation inspires me, but so far it hasn’t really been the case. On a conscious level I know that this is a great opportunity to dig deep into songwriting, but the daily cancellation of concerts and studio sessions, as well as not knowing the date when things will get back on track is a very demotivating cocktail. Due to the lockdown I cannot meet my colleagues, and jazz is a genre where tight rhythm is fundamental, so online rehearsing is not an option, technology is simply not there yet since there’s a slight audio delay on every online meeting platform. But I hate to sound so desperate, I did find things to work on, and I do learn to appreciate the circumstances that once seemed self-evident.
– How do you intend to (re)connect with your audience in these circumstances? What new tools and platforms you would think are going to help to achieve this?
– I believe that stories are what interest people, and we are sharing a very strong story now, affecting every one of us. I see the lockdown as a chance to connect with my audience through our shared story, and if this creates a stronger community, they will open up more to my music later on. Three weeks ago I took the positive quarantine challenge, meaning that I have to post daily about the positive aspects of living in lockdown. It’s often music or art-related, but I also share whatever comes to mind to keep my spirits high, the energy I get from doing sports, the beauties of spring, or eventually the joy of raising my wild sourdough. I share more of my daily life than I normally would, not because I intend to become a celebrity, but because I believe that this connection is what we all need now. Then it will transform itself into a musical connection.
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– What you would think the single biggest change is going to be in the world of music in Budapest once this crisis ends?
– There will be less mobility, fewer bands from abroad. It might even do good to the local scene in the long run, for those who survive the crisis.
– Is there any “Lockdown” piece of music produced recently that you can share with the readers?
– My poet friend János Lackfi called me the other day to say that he had re-written Leonard Cohen’s classic into a Quarantine-Hallelujah, asking me to sing it. In the recording I sit on our living room floor, as my hobby guitarist husband accompanies me. The song became very popular, reaching several hundred thousand people in a few days: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=238705737284328
– Is there any way for music lovers to support your work, and how?
– If they listen to my songs and subscribe to my channels, that’s strong support. They can leave a comment, that’s always encouraging. If they come to our concert once things get back to normal, that will be the real connection.
Listen to Veronika Harcsa: