Q&A with Yanni
What’s On got to speak to the prolific Greek musician ahead of his concerts here in Abu Dhabi on September 29 and 30 at the du Forum. Read on to find out what he thinks about the creative process, who he’d like to collaborate with in the future and just what if feels like to have a pet panda.
Tell us about your show. What’s on offer?
People can expect a very different show. Some people have seen me in Dubai and Sharjah a couple of years ago, but this is a completely different concert. It’s approximately two and a half hours long and people can expect to see and hear a lot of the old favourite songs, a lot of the new favourite songs and a lot of the middle favourite songs. I’m going through my 35-year career and I’m playing a lot of songs.
What was the inspiration behind the new album, Sensuous Chill?
It’s actually a very unusual album for me. I’ve never made another CD like this. It’s meant to put you in a mood and hold you there. It’s not a demanding album; it’s supposed to be chill. You just put it on and let it play.
Which other musicians would you like to collaborate with and why?
One of the voices that I like is Bono from U2. He would be amazing to work with.
Your work is hard to define. How would you describe your music, in your own words?
I have a hard time too. I just call it music, because that’s what I do – I write music. When I write a song I completely surrender, I don’t write specific to style. I surrender to the music and the music tells me what it wants to be. There are no rules. The best way to really understand what I do is to see the concert, then people get it.
How do you get inspired to create music?
I don’t want to spill the beans on this one! Very briefly, it is a process of surrender. You don’t grasp at it. It’s like a butterfly of your own free will landing on your hand. You surrender to it. You close your eyes and it comes to you. It’s almost a form of meditation but it is not meditation. It is complete surrender, you let the music take over and the music will move you. I have perfect pitch and I really hear the notes, I hear all of it. It plays all at once.
You taught yourself how to play piano as a small child. How did you manage that?
I loved music so much. I just didn’t like to take lessons! [Laughs] I would hear music on the radio or in the movies and I would want to repeat it when I was home, but we didn’t have a turntable or tape recorder. So I was at the piano bench. It must have been around the age of seven when I realised I could recognise the chords and notes.
How does it feel to own a pet panda?
[Laughs] I wouldn’t call her a pet! I named her Santorini and she lives in Chengdu, China. Pandas are extremely endangered species, so no one gets to take a panda home. [Laughs] It was a great honour that was given to me by the Chinese people, in fact no other human being has had this honour. They allowed me to adopt her and they gave me adoption papers. It’s symbolic and it’s an honour.
You’ve played in some amazing venues, including the Taj Mahal, the Burj Khalifa and the Acropolis. Any particular favourites?
They are all very special and one-of-a-kind. The Burj Khalifa was unbelievable – there’s not a place around the world like that. It was amazing. The Taj Mahal, there’s only one in the world. Not to forget the Acropolis in Greece. It keeps going on and on and on.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be entrusted with the jewels of these different countries. All these monuments mentioned are the jewels of these nations; they don’t just let anyone play there.
Any other big sites on your list you’d like to perform at?
There are many requests from all over the world. These concerts are very difficult to put together, it takes at least a couple of years in planning. It’s not so simple. And you want to be sure you don’t damage or harm to the structures. Especially when you’re playing with ancient monuments in proximity. Like in the case of the Acropolis, I was very nervous about everything. I’ll tell you something, “oops” is not my favourite word. [Laughs]
Is this the first time you’ll be in the capital?
It is my very first time to Abu Dhabi. We’ve come very close to it, but never managed to get to it. So far we made it to Dubai and Sharjah but Abu Dhabi escaped us. This time, we made it. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I will have a couple of days to explore the city and have some fun.
September 29, 30
du Forum, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, 7.30pm, Dhs495 to Dhs1,295. Tel: (02) 5098000. Taxi: du Forum. thinkflash.ae