Pavel Steidl interview part 1
When I spoke with Pavel Steidl, he had just arrived back at his Czech home after a flying visit to Brisbane, made solely for the purpose of working with Karin Schaupp on the repertoire for this 2013 tour.
‘This was the first time I’d played with her, but it didn’t feel like it,’ says Steidl. ‘We met for the first time about a decade ago in Darwin, at a big guitar festival. I heard her concert, she heard mine, and we both had the feeling that we have the same opinion about the way we make music. And when we are playing, I have the feeling that we don’t need to speak much about what to do; we’re on the same path. Karin has incredibly strong expression, and a very original personality which you can hear immediately when she starts to play. It’s fantastic.’
Though Schaupp is Australian and Steidl Czech, the two share certain biographical parallels. Steidl’s name reveals the German origins of his Czech family history; Schaupp was born in Germany. Schaupp left Germany with her family when she was eight years old, and has remained in Australia ever since. Steidl was granted political asylum in the Netherlands as a 26-year-old, a move which he describes as both unavoidable and traumatic.
‘It is a major decision to leave your home country and start somewhere else, but I needed the freedom. At home they were pushing me to join the Communist Party and collect information. I arrived with very weak English, but after a year I could speak Dutch. What I had to learn was that you could say what you really feel.’
In Czechoslovakia, where Steidl had begun his guitar career as a child bluegrass musician, he had come to see music as a means of expressing officially forbidden thoughts. ‘You discover that music is really language,’ he explains. ‘It’s language through which you can communicate with people on the whole planet. Music is really magic. It doesn’t come from the brain or the fingers. It comes from somewhere very deep, from the soul.’
Today, Steidl lives with his wife back in the rural area near Prague from which his happiest childhood memories stem, and regrets only that his busy touring schedule does not permit him more time at home.
Shirley Apthorp © 2012