Story of a Belgian doctor and musician
From doing an internship in western Africa to becoming a safe and sound protocol practitioner
Interview by Kristina Petkova, edited by Scott Green, photos by Vincent Wilkin
As some would say, a rather unassuming man he was. Well, this man recently moved to Plovdiv, nobody there really knows him, but oh boy, does he have a story to tell. Maybe some of us will get to meet him and hear his tales from around the world.
Vincent is this unassuming man, he has spent the majority of his adult life being a doctor and musician, not only bringing the human body back into health and unity but harmonizing it with music too. As a student in medical college, he had the opportunity to do an internship in Burkina Faso, a small country on the western side of Africa bordered by Mali to the northwest, and Ghana to the south.
“When I landed there, I immediately fell in love with this continent. The intense heat, the smell, and the color of the earth, the food, the energy, and above all the music, all that impressed me a lot, to say the least.” he said, also noting that he witnessed some of the harshest conditions in his life “but it made me see the world from a different point of view, and it never left me. This helped me to always put things in perspective”
Upon his return to Belgium, his love for African music turned into an obsession. He discovered the traditional African harp known as the “kora,” and compiled all the recordings of this instrument he could find. A year after his return to Belgium, he went on another internship but to Mali this time and he brought back a kora with him.
“I kept playing with Senegalese musicians in Belgium, who told me I should take it to a professional level as my ability to learn was really good according to them,” Vincent noted. Because of this, and after he graduated medical college he went back and forth to Mali for the following two years to learn the kora more intensely.
It was at this point that he became interested in Indian music, especially of the classical kind. He traveled to India multiple times and learned the strictness of southern Indian classical music, his teacher also taught him to sing.
“I also discovered the Indian film industry and met the top music directors, who impressed me a lot with the quality of their productions. Most people in Western Europe that I know look down upon Indian movies, which is ignorant, to say the least, as there are so many excellent actors, directors, and musicians! It's a whole world that is worth discovering and I'm happy that I'm in touch with a lot of people working in this field.”
Vincent says that for him music has to build a bridge between different fields “In Africa, music is still very much connected to traditional ceremonies and telling stories from the past. In southern India, classical music is still very much connected to temples and worship. In Indian movies, music is entirely part of the script and gives life to the story and characters. In the traditional dance field I was playing for, music is what brings people together and keeps traditions alive, linking us to the past and our ancestors. All that to say, music has a purpose that goes far beyond "entertainment", and it is in my humble opinion greatly overlooked by our consumerist society.”
He notes that music isn’t the most lucrative venture out there, so he had to find another source of income. This he found when one of his friends who is a surgeon asked if he’d be interested in training under his guidance, which he did until recently.
As for why he chose Bulgaria, Plovdiv to be more exact, he notes that firstly he wanted to leave Belgium and he says that the reasons may not make sense to everyone, but they do to him. This is what counts, isn’t it?
“The way Bulgarians keep their traditions and history alive. I feel that a country that doesn't preserve its memories is a rootless tree that can be taken over by anything. This is not the case for Bulgarians. Then when I started digging into the history of the Bulgars, the Bogomils, the Hadjuks and so many other historical facts, I felt attracted to visit this country, learn its language and writing and learn from local historians.”
Being a lover of music and dance, he was obviously attracted by the traditional songs and moves of the Bulgarian nation. He also said of the Bulgarian landscape and nature, how everywhere is so gorgeous is what caught his eye too. “Now I chose Plovdiv because I knew it was a cultural city surrounded by mountains,” he said in ending.
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