Music and cartography: when two passions meet

Hi guys,

Today I am going to present you Robert, a Romanian Blues singer/songwriter who I met during the European Blues Challenge 2017 (Horsens, Denmark) in which he participated together with 20 other contestants. Unfortunately, he didn’t win, but his performance was remarkable.

Hi, Robert, what are your studies?

I studied geography and cartography at the University of Bucharest, and after that, I studied GIS (Geographical Informational Systems) (as master degree studies), and right now I am a cartographer and a musician too. I perform as a musician only for passion because I really love the art of music and at this moment I can't afford to have a living from it, since the income is not enough, maybe because of the gender which I play. You know, I'm singing ‘old time blues’ which is not so common nowadays. 

When your passion for music did, started?

In 2009 while I was listening to ‘Jazz & Blues A La Carte’ show on the national radio broadcaster, they were playing an ‘old time blues tune.’ I heard this singer who played this different kind of blues and that fascinated me. At that time, I was learning to play harmonica, and I went to my teacher and told him about my discovery, and I was surprised when he said to me that the singer from the radio show was Vali Sir Blues Racila, which is a Romanian blues singer. Right now, I am considering Vali Sir Blues Racila as my untold mentor. During one of his concerts in Bucharest, I was introduced to him, by my harmonica teacher. Since then, I started to play the guitar more and more, I study more about the blues, about the roots of this music, developed my guitar technique and this is the beginning of Southernman Robbie, the blues preacher. 

What about your artist name what is its story?

I was born, and I lived in a small southwestern Romanian town, where people know each other. In the first year of guitar studies, I get into a youngsters band, and we were playing folk music. After a year I left the band, and I established a new band in high school with some friends. The problem was that they never played a musical instrument, but they wanted to learn so badly so I teach them as much as I could. There was Dan D. (bass guitar), Cristi 'Al mic' (drums, percussion), Catalin (guitar). I was playing the lead guitar and vocals. I changed my name from Robi to Uncle Robbie from the South. I choose this name because I was and I still am an uncle with a lot of great-nephews (from my brothers and sisters), so I was like 'our southern uncle' for them. I had changed my name to Southernman Robbie when I moved to Bucharest, and I felt that I need to make a change since I change the music style that I was playing.

What happened after you discovered old blues?

In the first year, I was only going to concerts, learning and listening to a lot of music and one of the receipts that were useful for me was to understand what other musicians do. I also went to Vali Racila for a second time, and I played for him a tune that I learned and he was pleased to hear it telling me that I'm following the right way, and that was a huge compliment coming from such a great artist.

In 2011, I left Bucharest, and I moved to Vienna to change my life, looking for a better future for me as a musician. I started to play blues, and I also had the chance to meet the most significant blues musician in Austria, Mr. Al Cook, I contacted him by email, and he replied quite fast, and he was happy to meet me. We met at one of the best blues bars from Vienna, named Louisiana Blues Bar. I listened to his music, and we talk about our music, about how he started to play the blues. He invited me to his gigs not only to listen but also to play, and each time, he presented me as his friend from Romania. I played the blues for a while in Vienna, but life wasn't as I expected to be, so I moved to Northern Germany, and I started to work as a shipbuilder. I lived there for a while, and during the day time, I was building ships, working hard and on the night time I was playing the blues for the shipyard workers. 

How did you find about the Blues challenge?

After I made my first album, which is signed with an Independent Label, I promote it. While I was traveling to promote it, I attended the first edition of the ‘Focsani Blues Festival.’ There I met again, my good friend Vali Sir Blues Racial and while we were having a conversation, a man approached us. That man, was AG Weinberger, a well-known Romanian blues musician. He told me about the blues challenge, about the competition and he proposes me to be the Romanian representative for this year's edition. It wasn’t easy because it cost me a lot of money to come to Denmark, but in the end, I made it, and I am so proud because I did it.

Why did you choose to leave Germany?

It is not that easy to live in a foreign country and more than that, I really like to be free. The freedom I was looking for, it was actually, right in front of me, back my home, so that's why I decided to go back my home and to preach the blues in there.

What are your dreams?

I have a lot of dreams, but one of the most important ones is to move and live in the countryside, to get closer to Mother Nature.

So, you don’t want to work as a musician?

Of course, I want to do that, but right now I can't afford to do such a thing, but I'm working hard to change this. Often I joke with my gal, and I say to her that we have to win in the lottery and buy a house in the countryside, but the funniest thing is that we never buy a lottery ticket. I believe we should start doing that (LOL).

What advice would you give to young people that want to follow their passions?

I am not that wise to give advice, but what I can say to them is to be themselves and to believe in themselves. They can do whatever they want to, as soon as they believe in that thing. So break a leg!

just in case he will become famous, I already have a selfie :)

Hope you liked the interview and feel free to contact Robert, he is a great singer and an awesome person. I want to leave you with one of his songs and wish you a great day :)

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