Dorion de Gobeo – interview and tune

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My name is Dorion de Gobeo. I am Canadian, born in Manitoba and raised in the mountains of British Columbia. At the age of 10 I started playing classical violin but I gave up after a couple of years due to lack of interest. The classical approach to music almost dissuaded me from doing anything musical in my life. Luckily, I picked up the guitar when I was 15 and had fun with it. My step dad was a good finger-style guitarist and taught me some classic Beatles and Led Zeppelin. As a teenager I mostly listened to classic rock and folk. When O Brother Where Art Thou came out, the soundtrack quickly became one of my favorites. I remember especially loving the Big Rock Candy Mountain and the Norman Blake tunes. Around the same time, I came into contact with Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and I listened to that extensively.

My mother was always a source of new musical and cultural influences. She was a piano and voice teacher herself but also studied world dance and ran a studio in Manitoba. As a family activity, we all picked up arabic drumming and played regularly until I moved away from home at the age of 18 to go to university. For the next 5 years I studied Systems Design Engineering at the Univeristy of Waterloo. University was difficult for me. It was sort of like my experience playing classical violin. The rigid structure, the pre-decided learning material, it really had an authoritarian feel to it. I used to procrastinate doing my coursework heavily. About a year before I graduated, I decided on a whim that I would buy myself a banjo. I browsed Ebay and dropped $500 on a Gold Tone resonator banjo without ever going into a music store to try a single banjo out. It was a musical revelation for me! I just had so much fun with it. And seeing as my coursework was pretty dull, I would spend as much time as I could playing banjo. I liked bluegrass banjo and I tried my hand at it but the teaching resources online presented songs as a rigid series of different rolls that you had to memorize. This is not how I wanted to spend my spare time. I hate memorizing! I do not make an effort to memorize anything. I listened to the songs I liked, and if I liked them enough, I eventually heard them enough to just internalise them. No memorization required!

Hearing the banjo being played on Doc Watson’s version of Shady Grove gave me my first inspiration to play clawhammer. I followed Patrick Costello’s YouTube tutorials for a couple of weeks and then I stopped ‘learning’ and just played. Joining the banjo hangout had a real effect on my playing and is a continuing source of inspiration. At first I only listened to the clean, clear professional sounds of commercial music but I now I almost prefer the dirty, screechy amateurs!

After university, I needed a job so I taught myself how to program and landed my first job in Montreal. It didn’t go so well. So I took some more time off to learn to program better. I fell in love with a German girl and learned the language. We lived together in Montreal briefly before I made plans to move with her to Germany. We broke up just before I was to move, but I moved there anyways. I thought, if I made the effort to learn the language, I might as well use it. Now I have been living in Cologne for some years. I have even found a healthy community of Old Time players in the area and we have regular jam sessions. Something crazy happened, I started playing violin again, well this time fiddle.

I have made arrangements for a more relaxed work schedule and am looking forward to doing some composition. I even inherited a Casio keyboard with tons of great 80’s and 90’s synth sounds. I am not dedicated to any genre but I will be spending a good deal of time composing in the Old Time style (without the Casio). I’ll be spending time exploring 2 finger and minstrel style banjo and there is plenty of fiddling to be done too.

I hope my future musical development will occur naturally just by pursuing my interests and having fun.

Have a listen to me on the Banjo Hangout

Here is playlist of some of the music I like

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