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Elbphilharmonie Talk with Roman Bunka

Epitaph for Roman Bunka, one of the greats of World Music.

We would like to have published this interview in connection with another concert given by him at the Elbphilharmonie. But now the Elbphilharmonie Talk has turned unexpectedly into an epitaph for one of the leading Germans in the realm of world music. Roman Bunka died in Munich on Sunday, 12 June 2022, from an illness that had only been discovered a little while before.

The »Elbphilharmonie Talk« with him brings to life the colourful and intense music scene of the 70s, 80s and 90s and the boundless spirit of adventure that people like Roman Bunka brought to music and friendships across national and cultural boundaries. Right up to the end, he travelled the world with curiosity and an open mind, and this enriched his music and his personality alike.

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Roman Bunka only appeared once at the Elbphilharmonie, together with the Trio Orientación in September 2021 as part of Harbour Front Sounds, the concert section of Hamburg's annual literature festival. Daniel Speck read from his novel »Jaffa Road«, and Roman Bunka sat quietly in the corner of the Recital Hall stage, listening to the writer and getting ready to play; when he did so, he was immediately absorbed in the sound of his oud and that of the other musicians.

But of course Bunka already knew Hamburg from many other appearances  over the years. In the mid-70s, for example, he played in the Malersaal of the Schauspielhaus theatre together with legendary Munich world-music band Embryo, where he was one of the leading protagonists. Later, he appeared regularly in the Fabrik, sometimes on the guitar, but more and more often on the Arab lute oud, the mother of all lutes and guitars (»al’oud« is the etymological root of the word lute). He was one of the very few Western musicians to achieve true mastery on the oud.

In his outward appearance, Roman Bunka recalled the mystic Krishnamurti: gaunt, with a spiritual look in his eyes, clear features, and his good head of grey hair piled up into an unconventional hairdo. There could be no doubt that this was a man who had lived a lot and seen a lot of the world. A quiet, modest and very relaxed guy. Just short of 70 at the time, he was cool enough to give us a detailed interview after the soundcheck, just an hour before the concert.

Text: Tom R. Schulz, last updated: 15.06.2022

Foto: Thomas J. Krebs

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