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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Expats > Onderhoude | Interviews > Jong expats | Young Expats

Young Expats: Ammiel Bushakevitz on Leipzig, Germany

Imke van Heerden - 2009-11-04

Where are you living at present and what are you doing there? Is the grass truly greener on the other side?

I am currently living in Leipzig, Germany. I am a classical pianist and am completing the degree Diplom Instrumental Korrepetitor at the Mendelssohn Academy here. This Academy (the full German name is the Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy") is the only institution which offers this exact degree, which is one of the reasons I have chosen to study in Leipzig. My degree combines solo piano and chamber music. I am also studying conducting.

Why did you leave South Africa?

Germany is the birthplace of the vast majority of the music that I study and perform. The area around Leipzig has the highest proportion of musicians per capita in the world, something which is, of course, very stimulating to an artist. Almost all South African classical pianists have studied overseas - it is necessary to expand one's horizon, to receive top international training, and to have a global perspective.

Will you return to South Africa someday?

The future career of a musician is a very uncertain thing, as I am sure most musicians would agree. I am not sure where I will finally settle, but South Africa is a wonderful country and I know I will often return to it, if not necessarily permanently.

What about South Africa puts a smile on your face, and what makes you cry?

South Africa has been described as the world in one country, and I think this is true in many ways: geographically, culturally, politically and musically. The many faces of South Africa are what fascinate me about the nation. All countries, like families, have problems to varying degrees. As to what makes me smile and cry: now that I am in Europe I smile nostalgically when I think of the reckless spontaneity of minibus drivers - but I definitely did not smile when I experienced their driving first-hand back in South Africa!

What do you miss most about South Africa?

Perhaps strangely, I miss the South African climate most. It is winter now in Europe and every day is grey, bleak, cold and wet. Weather has a distinct effect on the psyche and can influence moods. During my studies in Pretoria I learned to love the sudden thunderstorm, the abrupt weather changes, and even the summer heat.

How do people (especially the locals) react when they hear you're from South Africa?

The first thing most people say is that they really want to go to the Football World Cup! Strangely, some people think that South Africa (and Africa in general) is still a wild place where tribal wars and lion hunts form the headlines.

Do you have a favourite hangout in Leipzig?

Most definitely: my Übzimmer (practice room). I am still in awe at the fact that I can practise for hours a day on a Steinway concert grand piano, and I basically live in the practice room. Other than that, Leipzig's Gewandhaus is one of the most famous concert halls in the world, and I am fortunate to be able to hear and see some of the world's top artists perform there.

You can invite one or more South African musicians to perform there in concert. Who do you choose?

For one, Kwaito is quite hip in Germany, something which surprised me. I think that Germans would love to hear traditional or ethnic South African music. Alternatively, the music of Stefans Grové, Peter Klatzow, Hendrik Hofmeyr and Kevin Volans would definitely excite the musical connoisseurs here.

Would you encourage South Africans visit Leipzig on holiday?

Most certainly. Leipzig is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany and offers tourists a very wide palette of experiences. It is also one of the most central cities in Europe.

You're stranded on an island. You have rescued three South African items from the sinking ship. What are they?

Koeksisters, vuvuzelas and Casper de Vries.

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