Do you know the lyrics to the song Lost in Music? “Lost in music, caught in trap, no turning back.” Well, it is the opposite of that for Sebastian. Music is the only true home he has.
Hailing from Cali in Colombia, he has been living in Sydney now for seven months. Since Covid-19 hit his life has gone into a tailspin. Unable to return to Colombia, Sebastian’s musical studies and ability to perform have been disrupted entirely. He has been left battling to live in Sydney as a temporary visa holder who is not entitled to benefits of any kind, stitching together patches of income from part-time tutoring at different music schools.
He and many fellow overseas students have been coming to Addi Road over the last four months to pick up emergency food hampers and find a sense of community and reassurance here. They’ve also began to create some solidarity as a group, fighting back against sudden poverty, the threat of homelessness, and intensifying issues like loneliness and depression, not to mention a very basic and urgent need for food to help them get by.
Prior to moving to Sydney, Sebastian had lived and studied in Finland and then Italy where he completed a Masters degree in music. It took a lot for his family to get him such honours. “In my whole life of 27 years I have only ever been on two holidays anywhere with my family. Because it is too expensive. We cannot afford.”
Sebastian’s father is a guitarist and Colombian folk musician. His older sister plays the saxophone. His mother loves music but does not play. “My mother is my mother,” Sebastian says with real feeling, as if that too might be a music all its own.
The family worked hard to support their son’s exceptional talents. And out into the world he has gone. A rare bird from Cali. His degree in Italy focussed on his first love, the clarinet, and how it works within an orchestra, he says. He came to Australia to continue his studies.
His favourite composer is Brahms. Sebastian explains how “something like Brahms’ First Sonata for Clarinet and Piano is not difficult. It is easy to play. But Brahms is a really deep composer, a really deep person. It is not only the notes. There are many feelings in Brahms, many feelings. If you know his life, Brahms is a sad person because of his problems. It is about romance. He was in love the wife of his maestro Schumann, a really complicated situation. “
Being a clarinet player poses other challenges to interpreting Brahms that come from the instrument itself. Sebastian says that playing something like Mozart, the clarinet sounds good and feels good. With Brahms the simple is not so simple: “You must play Brahms another way. The sound has to be what they say in Italy … ‘peneprante’.”
Sebastian tries to find an English word to explain this. Translations yield up “searching, piercing, keen, poignant”. But Sebastian expresses it another way: “It is like you have to go inside your skin. And go more inside the music.”
He laughs. “This is the object of every musician, of course. Not just to play the notes. That is the easy part if you have talent. But to explore the notes, the concept, the real music. Only some people can reach this object. This is the difference between a musician and an artist. Now this my objective in this part of my life. To go inside the music. It is why I came here.”
In some ways Sebastian’s plans have been knocked sideways by the new circumstances that Covid-19 has laid down. His dream of music is now partnered with a need for food and security and simply surviving as best he can. “This is a new thing for me,” he says matter-of-factly. But he is also very frank. “I think my relationship with my friends in the past was really superficial. With Brahms I began to realise I needed to be more deep in life and to live in a more correct way. Now, here today, with all that has happened, I am with you. I am really with you. I really want to listen to you. Before I wasn’t inside the conversation. Now for me this conversation is important. And this I think is because of Brahms and learning from all that has happened how to play Brahms better.”
“It has brought another sense to my life,” Sebastian says. “Right now I feel that Brahms and this community [at Addi Road] break me free into some other feeling. I was here alone. This community help me. But it is about a lot more than food. I can see that Brahms and this community bring into my life the same things. They change my life. They make me go deep with people. They make me go deep into the music.”
– Mark Mordue
- Every Saturday morning from 10am to 12 midday, international students have organised a ‘Solidarity Club’ at Addi Road in Hut 1. They pick up their food hampers, hang out and talk and share their stories.
- As well as performing classical music on the clarinet, Sebastian has a rock ‘n’ roll band called La Boheme, who combine covers of Pink Floyd and Beatles with some original songs and Latin-influenced material.