Montevideo native German Bense has been an active musician for many years , first playing jazz in his formative years and through the influence of his teacher growing to love and specialize in Bossa Nova.  German was able to answer a few questions for us about his career and his musical approach.
When I was 15 I had “some problems” to study in high school, especially I had some concentration troubles. Then, a dear friend (and exemplary student) told me: “Ger, I also sometimes lock me during study hours, then I play the violin (she was an excellent violinist), Why you not learn a musical instrument? You’ll feel well!” she told me. Before that, I had studied classical piano for 2 years in a prestigious Montevideo’s conservatory, but I couldn’t stand the rigid discipline imposed on me by the teachers, maybe it was too much for a 12 years kid.
However, what I learned of music theory during those 2 consevatory years was crucial for the future of my career. Continuing the story, I did listen to my friend: I told my mother about and she took me to study guitar at an institute of a friendly people, “el Centro Cultural Moderno” (Montevideo) and one day in 1979, I entered the classroom of the teacher Juan Lamas and said “good afternoon.”
What are my lasting memories and lessons of Juan Lamas? He taught me all about music, especially jazz, bossa and boleros. But he also taught me about artist human nature, from how to introduce public to how to negotiate my cachets. And all about the defense of the dignity of the artist who, many times, are socially despised. But perhaps the sentence that I most remember from him is the following: “You’ll never leave the music, the music will leave you”
Patetic. From many years ago, I have devoted to project my music outside borders, mainly Brazil and Argentina, for now.
True, for many years I have been a member of many bands and I also spent part of my career as a solo troubadour. I’m always learning, love learning, for that reason, all kinds of musical experiences have been (and are) very enriching for me. During my early years as musician I worked in a lot of bars, restaurants, show houses and so… In that times I played almost every night. I can say that that times it was a super intensive music course, but in the “real ground”. I think those were the most solid foundation on which I have built my career, although that times were less prominent times.
If I had to re-record the songs from that album would make it much better, but it doesn’t matter, each recording, each CD, each performance, are the living testimony of a moment in the life of an artist, and this is where is its true value, composers and performers evolve, change, seek new formulas, sometimes return to the old ones, etc .. the important thing is that each work is a photograph of a moment in the history of life. About the importance of “Después de todo” as well as my 2nd CD, “Chimera”, them received an acceptable recognition, but interestingly, many years after being published
The “old” marked a before and an after in my career, and, coincidentally, a before and an after in the history of univeral music. For the first time in the history of mankind, music could travel at nearly the speed of light through something called “cyberspace” (today “the cloud? ahaha) …and that radically changes my presence as a musician and composer in the world. Until then my music remained trapped within the borders of a small and unknown country. From overnight my music could be heard from all corners of the world with a single mouse click. And that’s not all: to my surprise, my music starts much to be accepted and valued in the most unexpected places in the world. Obviously, this fact rekindled the fire of my enthusiasm.
There are many sources that inspired me to write songs. There aren’t a “formula”, music begins to flow, the lyrics too … and although no formulas, I have an habit … often performing other tasks not associated with music, beginning to hum a tune, then I take the phone (or another elctronic device that I have available at the time) and record that tune. Thus I create a bank of melodies. And if I have nothing to record, I take a paper, trace a pentagram and just write. One day, with the necessary relax, I begin to listen and read everything that sometime sang, and in that way they were born many of my songs.
It’s a difficult question which should have a delicate response. Basically, there are two lines of thought that define the Bossa Nova
The first one claims that the Bossa Nova was musical movement was born in Rio de Janeiro in the 50s’. Until then I agree. But this line of thought also claims tha the history of the Bossa Nova ends at beginings of the 60s. No other musical expression, no other compositions will be accepted as Bossa Nova, the bossa nova was completed.
From my point of view, that it’s a very poor approach does nothing helps the Bossa Nova. Like it or not the old Bossa Nova intellectuals, Bossa Nova has become a universal musical genre: is the people throughout the world who decide (1), not them: protectionisms are bad, and cultural protectionism are worse.
And that is my line of thought: the Bossa Nova as an universal musical genre, like Jazz, like Tango. Be calm, no one will steal the “carioca” origin of the Bossa Nova, all the oposite, everyone will be forever grateful for this fact, but, in the other hand, no one who can, will stop compose new Bossa Nova songs, and yes, it also will bossa nova, sorry.
Perhaps the jazz ended in Dixieland? Perhaps the tango ended in Aníbal Troilo? Well, por the Bossa Nova applies the same rule.
Since my last performance in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, I’m in a temporally artistic stand-by. However, I intend to redo live shows in 2016. When? Where? really I don’t know yet. True to my philosophy of not making promises, but they do things, I know when the place and the time comes. Probably redo my live shows over the Internet, but for now I prefer to keep a watchful waiting.