The transportive music of Thibault Cauvin

ONE can glean from the impassioned face of Thibault Cauvin that he is lost in his world. Or is it even his?

Either way, the eyes fool the audience into thinking that the French classic guitarist is in his chair, cradling his tilted guitar, with a stage light beaming on his face, because he is not. Cauvin is in someplace else, and he wants to invite the audience over.

“When I’m playing the guitar, it’s like I’m taken by the music and my fingers,” said the 34-year-old multiawarded music phenom.

The statement was evident during a short stop to the country last week, when Cauvin graced the third edition of Les Jeudis culturels, or Cultural Thursdays. A joint effort by the Embassy of France to the Philippines and the Alliance Française de Manille, the free monthly cultural rendezvous celebrates French art de vivre and highlights cultural collaboration between France and the Philippines through various art forms.

In a recent guesting at BusinessMirror’s Coffee Club, Ambassador of the French Republic to the Philippines Nicolas Galey underscored the important role of art activities in a globalized world to bring nations together.

Previous editions of Cultural Thursdays featured performances from French-trained South African saxophonist Adam Campbell and Filipina pianist Mariel Ilusorio, as well as a tribute concert to the late French singer Chales Aznavour, featuring French jazz musician Eric Soulard and Filipino singers Christine Carlos, Nyko Maca and Marvin Gayramon.

Cauvin, nicknamed “The Little Prince of the Six Strings,” was born to a family of musicians, saying, “I speak French because I was born in France, and I speak guitar because I was born by a guitarist.”

Cauvin studied classical guitar at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux in France and, later, at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris, where he graduated with honors. At the age of 20, he became the only guitarist to win 36 recognitions from major international guitar competitions, 13 of which were top awards.

For his run at Cultural Thursdays, Cauvin performed seven songs from his 10th album, titled Cities II, which attempts to capture into eponymously titled songs the energy of a certain place.

In the song “Berlin,” for example, the guitarist strives to translate into music the German capital’s mix of powerful façade, underlying poetry of softness, and the electronic party scene that takes over its nights.

The result is a soulful fusion of the Berlin’s three different faces that is heavy on mechanical staleness on the intro and extro, flanking the ingenious reimagination of electric club music through string scratches and body taps. At the ripest moments, Cauvin manages to trickle in romantic plucking that reveals the city’s softer sides.

He explained that the quirky technique of guitar taps, scratches and knocks is his way of exploring the limits of the instrument. “I really like to find new sounds that guitars can make beyond the notes,” Cauvin said.

Meanwhile, in “Istanbul,” the musician turns narrative.

“The song is about a young man who left the big city for the mountains to become a shepherd, but a lot of things happen in the mountains,” Cauvin said. “See what happens next.”

He proceeded to play a dramatic melody that suggests an eventful transition in the young man’s life. But as the song went deeper, the strumming came in and grew heavier and heavier, conjuring unpleasant scenarios that befell the character. It was unclear, however, if the young man found a resolution, as Cauvin left the song open for interpretation.

Cultural Thursdays ( will have its fourth edition this month at Alliance Française de Manille on 209 Nicanor Garcia Street, Makati City. Lined up next is a tribute to internationally acclaimed, recently departed French composer Michel Legrand.


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