One of classical music’s most promising guitar players, Miloš Karadaglic, is in the capital tomorrow for his UAE debut, as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Karadaglic, who was born in 1983, has consistently topped the classical music charts with his Spanish- and Latin American-inspired rhythms, and he was named Gramophone’s Young Artist of the Year in 2011 and Classic BRIT MasterCard Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2012. But his choice of music genre is unusual for someone from a small Eastern European country – far from Spain and Latin America, where his music has its roots.
When you were growing up, your homeland of Montenegro was affected by the Yugoslav and Kosovo wars. How did that influence you?
We had lots of trouble there when I was young, so that was tough. I remember that something was wrong, that some kids would not come to school. But luckily, I discovered music. I think that the impulse to play was stronger, because it allowed me to create a nice world for myself. It taught me that no matter what, music is able to take you to a different reality. If I had lived in a happy, prosperous country, maybe my attention would have wandered in a different direction.
How did you come to play the guitar?
When I was 8 years old, I heard about a free music school, so I asked my father to take me there for tests and they said I was very musical. I had no knowledge of classical music because my family never listened to it. I thought the guitar would be a cool choice – I wanted to be a rock star and I never imagined I would fall in love with the classical guitar. I got a scholarship to London’s Royal Academy of Music in 1998, when Montenegro was a country in big trouble, with closed borders, so moving to London was a shock, but it quickly became home.
Tell us how you came to own your guitar.
When I was a student, I was playing guitar on a cruise ship in the Amazon rainforest to earn money to buy a decent guitar. I got talking with this eccentric English gentleman, Paul Gillham, and it just happened that he was into classical music. He and his wife Jenny lent me their guitar on the condition that I would make a big career with it. If I did this, then I could keep it. So now it’s mine. The Gillhams became an inspiration in my life, they are like my family.
The guitar is a 2007 Greg Smallman worth US$30,000 (Dh110,000) – is that right?
Yes it’s very valuable, but the real value is beyond material because the instrument is almost like a part of me. That’s why I am very careful when I travel. The sound from it is rich, not as a guitar usually sounds.
Do you ever get stage fright?
When I was starting out, I did have a bit of stage fright. But now I get complete peace the moment I start playing. Because it’s a comfortable place, it’s a thing I know I am in charge of and it’s just me.
How is your latest album Latino Gold different from your previous albums, Mediterráneo and Latino?
My first two albums were about the repertoire of Mediterranean, Spanish and Latin American music that is really at the core of who I am as an artist. I used that repertoire to establish myself, then it was time for me to move from solo guitar to concertos. I will tour South America in 2015 and this is something I can’t wait for because my music really is part of that landscape – it’s all about rhythm and colour.
What’s your advice to aspiring young musicians?
I would tell aspiring musicians to just enjoy music. Inspiration for music comes from a place that is deep inside us, something you can just explore and allow it to take you to a different place – that place could be a concert hall or it could be playing for a bunch of friends.
How are you feeling about performing in the UAE?
I had always wanted to come to this part of the world, it’s very exciting. There are no limits here, it is quite extraordinary. The people here are so kind. And I would love to wear a kandura – I must buy one! They look so impressive.
• Miloš Karadaglic performs tomorrow at Emirates Palace at 8pm; doors open at 6.30pm. Tickets cost Dh150 from tickets.virginmegastore.me