Published: 30th November 2019
Auf Wiedersehen, Indien: Joe Koster and his musical contributions to the city of Hyderabad
Joe Koster, the musician who has been nurturing the Western musical scene in Hyderabad, is bidding farewell to the city. We catch up with him for a chat
Today, I learnt a new phrase in German, Ein lachendes und ein weinendes auge, meaning 'leaving with a tear in one eye and a smile in the other'. This is the same phrase Swiss national Joe Koster uses to describe his feelings when it comes to leaving the city of Hyderabad, which he has called home for 17 years, and saying goodbye to what he started, Hyderabad Western Music Foundation. Through the foundation, he has nurtured many young and budding musicians and has many other achievements to his credit. As the city is grateful for his contributions to the Western music scene, we catch up to talk about being a teacher and his future plans. Excerpts:
1. We know that you came to Hyderabad through a Swiss NGO and then, decided to stay on. But what really encouraged you to settle here?
I discovered, somewhere in 2007, that Hyderabad had a musical life of its own and there were many musicians, singers and instrumentalists who loved and played Western music. Just before this discovery of Western music in Hyderabad, I was contemplating leaving the Swiss NGO that I represented and going back home to Switzerland, but the door to music wonderfully opened and a new 'mission of music' was born.
Joe Koster and his students | (Pic: Joe Koster)
2. We believe that Hyderabad Western Music Foundation has been a blessing for youngsters and you truly have helped nurture many of them.
It was a logical outcome that parents/students wanted to connect for learning. And there is nothing better in the world than sharing what you know, with passion and love. It has been a sheer blessing to teach youngsters in town, which I will miss greatly.
3. Not just playing an instrument or singing, but what can listening to good music do for the growth of a child?
Music can create an identity, develop self-esteem, further discipline and teamwork, convey a sense of the unseen world, teach truth, provide peace and joy and is probably the best life-companion.
4. Please share some of your fondest memories of the city.
There are too many — from food to music to people to cultural and language clashes to interesting religious and philosophical talks about God and the world and so on. I could probably write a book with just the content from the thousands of pages in my dairies.
5. What would you say about the Western music scene in Hyderabad currently?
There has been a lot of progress in the past 10 years. New initiatives, new organisations are there…which might mean also more competition. One can only hope that the live performance part will be weighted more and the commercial less. The art of music also should be valued properly so that people see the value of paying to listen and see a performance, and the ‘free, free-concerts’ approach might hopefully end soon.
Joe Koster with Deccan Voices | (Pic: Joe Koster)
6. What does the future look like?
Enjoying time with my family, life, Switzerland...more learning, further studies/teaching music and other disciplines.
7. What would be your final message?
A word of gratitude. We would like to wish and thank all the members of all the organisations and groups that we have been a part of — Fellow members, trustees of the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation and its pillars Alliance Française and Goethe-Zentrum. We remember with happiness our collaborations with Vidyaranya High School, Secunderabad Club, Musée Musical, Lamakaan, Festival Choristers, Deccan Voices, Jazz for Joy, Jazzed Friends, HPS and ISH. We had some wonderful times! Fond memories of the events and people will remain with me as my wife Ines as we return.
Their farewell concert with the Deccan Voices will be held on December 8, at Vidyaranya High School. It will start at 11 am, under the banner of the new organisation — Hyderabad Western Music Academy
Achievements he is most proud of:
As a teacher, what would you say has been one of your most significant contributions?
- The many events we conducted have surely helped to raise the understanding and appreciation for Western Music (mainly Classical and Jazz music).
- Creating platforms for local talents via students concerts, World Music Day and other events.
- Forming different new groups like Hyderabad Youth Ensemble.
- Coaching/conducting the Deccan Voices.
-Organizing festivals (Piano; Jazz).
- Encouraging other music institutes to make music more public (not just training students for exams within the four walls in order to get 'a paper')
To reach out to him, you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org