“Everything is essential, and everybody is essential” – states guitarist Estas Tonne whose music is so hauntingly beautiful, that one can hardly walk any other path than the one inward. YOGA AKTUELL sat down with the cosmopolitan musician in order to talk about the spirituality behind his music.
Everybody has a story, so my story in certain aspects may be the same as everybody elses. In the end it’s all just a story.
YOGA AKTUELL: You are originally from the Ukraine, and then grew up in Israel. Where is your home today?
Estas Tonne: Well, that’s the thing. I am originally from The Soviet Union, I never lived in Ukraine as an independent country. So when I left with my family to Israel, this was still a huge country called USSR. At the age of 15 I completely lost that sense of belonging to a certain country. And since then I never had that anymore. So I don’t have this concept of a country.
Your family lives in Israel now?
They live in Israel, as well as in different parts of the world, because the real family is not just the physical family, it’s a story. We moved to Israel due various facts. It took me 11 years to figure out, what I am doing with my life. From there I went to New York where I arrived one week after September 11. So one can imagine, what that kind of momentum was like.
What was New York all about for you?
My dear friend there gave me a guitar as a present and I started to play again. I had no idea what to play. So I was just wondering around and stopped doing anything else. I stopped looking for jobs and going to interviews. Even though I couldn’t get a proper job anyway, because I had no sort of diploma that could justify my skills. I wanted to make films. That was my first priority why I went to NY. Thus, I started to improvise on the streets, meeting people, jamming in the metro and in the parks. People started to come and give me some money because they thought that they felt something new. Though I was just doing it for myself. I was not doing an external thing, it was a monolog. And sometimes somebody would witness this monolog and would give me some Dollars. And I would ask them, „why did you do this?“, and they would answer „you just made us feel good“.
You said your playing is more like a monolog. What is your intention as a musician?
You know, the intention very often could come purely from the mind and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just that it would come from a certain stage of a moment, or being.
So let’s say, my intention right in the moment is this, and then my intention tomorrow would be already different. Some intentions change like moods, they are like weather. But for me it was more about the connection, which I experienced every time I touched this instrument. I could sit and play one chord for 30 minutes. So it had nothing to do with an external support by the audience, because there was no audience, there was just few people walking by or seeing it. But it was really just for myself, for this pure exploration. Then of course with years doing that, that brought all kind of ideas about, also the „Changing-the-World”-Mission, waking up and waking people up on the streets and all kind of stuff. So, there were many stages. And actually all of them are included in what it is today. But today I don’t see it like an outside thing anymore. It’s not like I have to do this, so the others will do that. I don’t have that concept in the moment. It is more like I am exploring my own madness – I would call it the “Creativity Madness”. And on the way it just happened, that I am sitting on stage doing that, so others can explore that as well.
In your opinion, how is music so capable of touching us in our deepest core? Because it has this capability to do that.
You know, our understanding of what music could be based on an individual experience. For somebody music is a beautiful song. For somebody else music would be sound. Somebody would say music is vibration. Somebody would say music is a memory or music is dream. So there are many different variations what we would actually mean by the name music. And I would say it’s all of it. It could be also the same as when you do Yoga. You know that state of mind, that state of being, when you don’t have that inner Chit Chat.
So, let’s say playing a concert like that or just sharing this music I would say, that’s kind of like the trip we are taking on, that we for some moments or for an extended period, for this 2 hours lets say, experience in this out-of-time-ness. Being kind of out of time. Simply Being. There is no personality, there is no worry, no projection for the future, but also music could be used as well as a dream. As a dream in potentiality, as well. But for this we don’t need a certain song, we could just sit in the field and we listen to the breeze, we can listen to the sound of the wind and we can just do the same thing.
Do you think this is your dharma in this life, the expression of your own truth, of your true being?
Maybe, though I wouldn’t name it this way, but maybe it has something to do with that … When I go on stage I do know certain things of course, but how they would come out every time, I have no idea. How the whole journey will glue itself, I have no idea. Even though I know certain directions, I know where I am going, but I have no idea how along the way all of that will happen. That’s the first thing. Second thing: Let’s say, if I will be playing with other musicians we wouldn’t do any rehearsals. I will bring all those musicians on stage and we would do what we feel and they will come with me along the way. So let’s say, I am kind of driving this train, but I trust completely in the passengers, in those co-drivers and I completely trust in the journey. So again: We have no idea what will happen along the way. And this happens every single time, because I know that if I would prepare certain things to exactness of it I will never be able to do it, because I wouldn’t feel true to this moment. Because in this moment, my rhythm is slightly different than yesterday, my breath today is slightly different than yesterday, my body might be feeling also very different than yesterday, so how can I reproduce that sameness, if I am slightly different today. So the only way for me to be true to this momentum is to really feel the rhythm, the melody that comes, all of a sudden, as it is today. There would be all the certain repetition but there would be all these variations of it. So I am trying to kind of catch that different state every time and to be true to it. So can we call it Dharma? Maybe. (laughs)
The only way for me to be true to this momentum is to really feel the rhythm, the melody that comes, all of a sudden, as it is today.
Do you do any spiritual rituals or practices other than playing the guitar for your inner peace and joy, to calm yourself?
What I just described, isn’t it already something? But of course when I am off stage it’s a different being. And I see a tremendous difference between the one who sits on stage and the one who is talking to you right now. And actually that is my reference point to the truth, to the purity, the complete honesty to what it is in the moment. Whatever will be said in the concerts I have no idea. This is nothing I can prepare or write and then reproduce. This is a pure expression of this momentum every story that comes around every variation of it. It’s a pure moment. So, to keep that up and to kind of try to get closer to that every day, that’s more like a challenge for myself. So I do breathing exercises and move my body and stretch and switch off my phone very often and just sit quietly. So, these are my moments. All of us need them. A walk in the nature. Sit just quietly close to the water, this is a nice meditation.
When do you think you will be back on stage? And then, will it be a completely different Estas?
I keep track of every recording that was done through years just for the sake of self observation. So I have recordings for 18 years, pretty much from the beginning when I was just picking the guitar on the streets or sitting in the room when I lived in NY. I have recordings of all of it. And I did and I do see the evolution of all of that. It’s almost like if I could replay all of it on a big screen, I would go: “wow, this little thing came from there, or this came from there”. And I cannot even say “this came from me”, because there are so many humans involved in it, but also places and locations and meetings and experiences and emotions and stories, which actually became this music. So whatever it was and whatever it is today – this is not over. (laughs)
I do definitely see, that when I take proper time, then some new door of perception opens up. For me actually the song Internal Flight was not just a beautiful track. It was really inner digging, when I spent many months alone. And then one day all of a sudden somebody invited me to play and they created a beautiful setting. I sat there and I played 2,5 hours this one track. I had not even an idea that I could do that until that moment, but there was tremendous preparation and exploration that took place before that expression to happen. So right now I am again on a trip, on that self exploration deepening momentum and what it will be, maybe we need to come back to that conversation in a year from now.
I will keep an eye on what’s going on with you. And once more back to “Internal Flight”: I think for many people it was not just a musical track, it is really a meditation, for me at least.
You know, I had this interesting moment, when Internal Flight came out, when it was already recorded and delivered to the world, I was sitting alone in the mountains somewhere in Osttirol and I was looking in the sky, in the fields and trees, I was staying in a beautiful house, really remote, no neighbors, nobody was around and I was kind of saying to myself: “Well, now actually: if I need to die tomorrow, I am done!” and then I started cracking up. I had a really good laugh about that (laughs) because I realized that this is just a beautiful little hill and there are more mountains to climb. So, this was some sort of a chapter, that was, in exploration still, though I felt like, with it, I can go. But now I see of course there are more and more possibilities, more and more things to share and to explore and this is probably where I am at the moment and we will see where the trail leads. But I do feel certain chapters closed in the moment. So maybe it would be a book right now, maybe a film, maybe it would be new variations of something maybe the whole presentation will change as well. But I do feel that I arrived to a certain closure. And when there is closure, there is opening for something else. So this is where we are.
I am looking forward to whatever is coming next. Thank you very much for this talk!