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Vollenweider still hits all the right notes

The "power of hope" is at the heart of Andreas Vollenweider's latest album (SP)

Andreas Vollenweider, Zurich's most famous harpist, looks back at 25 years as a musician and tells swissinfo about his inspiration and success.

Vollenweider has a new CD out and the soundtrack to a DVD is nominated at this year's Grammy Awards, but he prefers to concentrate on something he considers more important: love and compassion.

The 53-year-old, who has sold more than 15 million albums around the world, is mostly an instrumentalist, although he has collaborated with famous voices such as Luciano Pavarotti, Bobby McFerrin and Bryan Adams.

swissinfo: How did you feel when you finished "The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider," the DVD that looks back at 25 years in the music business?

Andreas Vollenweider: It was interesting to look back at the first years, when we didn't know what would happen. We were rather innocent and adventurous. Twenty-five years later, we are a lot more cautious – and more mature!

swissinfo: What hasn't changed?

A.V.: My capacity to marvel at things. My curiosity. My passion to question myself.

swissinfo: You've travelled all over the world. Why do you still live in Switzerland?

A.V.: Because that's where my friends and family are. I could live elsewhere if they were prepared to follow me. But there's little likelihood that they will go with me to Timbuktu or wherever. I am not tied physically to Switzerland.

swissinfo: You have been nominated for another Grammy. Is that important for you?

A.V.: It's not really important for me. If I didn't know what I do has an impact on people, I'd be blind and stupid. My reward is my closeness with my public and the friendship I have received from people all over the world.

But I know the world doesn't work that way. A lot of people, especially in the media, need some kind of validation that a project is worthy of their attention. But that doesn't play a role in the relationship between the public and me. Let's just say that it's a game we have to play and that I don't mind joining in.

swissinfo: You are usually categorised as a New Age musician. Does that mean anything to you?

A.V.: There never was such a category. I wonder what is "new" in the "age". I am a nomad, wandering between worlds, styles, people and culture. That's where I live. I don't want to be pigeonholed.

swissinfo: On your latest record, Midnight Clear, you worked again with Carly Simon.

A.V.: We met in the early 1980s, became good friends and have worked together on a number of occasions. This time we went a bit further than before – it was a beautiful experience, especially because of her philosophical maturity.

swissinfo: One of the other aspects of this record is its adaptations of old melodies, some of them dating back to the Middle Ages. Why did you do this?

A.V.: It's the first time I've used other people's melodies. At the beginning, the album's theme was the power of hope. I believe that hope is one of the most important dimensions of our lives, especially now. Many people lose hope, and that's not good because we lose "warriors" who could help make a better world. And this is something that concerns everyone.

We have the means to make this a better world. One of our tools is compassion: understanding the other person and feeling what they feel – it's unique to us and no other creature can do that. The other tool is simply love. With compassion and love, we can change the world.

swissinfo-interview: Bernard Léchot

Andreas Vollenweider

Andreas Vollenweider was born on October 4, 1953 in Zurich. His father was an organist.

He began playing the harp in 1975 and later designed an electric version. His first album was released in 1979.

He has since played in many of the world's most prestigious concert venues and recorded 14 albums, selling more than 15 million copies.

He has been awarded two Grammys, one for his album "Down to the Moon" and another for his career.

The soundtrack for his DVD "The Magical Journey of Andreas Vollenweider", released last September, has been nominated for a Grammy in the category "Best New Age" album. The winner will be announced on February 11 in Los Angeles.

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