Salsa, Jazz & Balkan Suite
October 15, 2003

The bassist and composer Branko Arnšek.
When Branko Arnšek is traveling in Moscow or St. Petersburg, people on the street recognize him
and pull out a note and a pen to get an autograph. But also in many other parts of the world, the renowned jazz bassist and "salsa king" is known and sought after.
Arnšek, who came to Germany as a first-generation immigrant from Celje in Slovenia, brought the connection to music to the new country: "My father had a dance ensemble, I had a tape recorder and of course I could memorize all my hits", says Arnšek and laughs. Bravely he tormented himself through various piano lessons, but really did not jump over the radio operator. "But at the age of fifteen I found jazz and remembered the piano again." Unfortunately - or luckily? - the waiting list for piano lessons in the music school was much too long. There were free places on the bass. Bingo!
Nevertheless, Branko Arnšek tried to get a solid training as a glass painter. "But I quickly realized that music was what I really wanted to do." With his studies at the University of Bern, the stronghold of jazz music, Arnšek began a stressful time: studying as a musician, studying and beyond that Managing the balancing act between family and vocation.
Almost at the same time, the versatile autodidact learned perfect Spanish, wandered through the former Yugoslavia on foot ("to find out where I came from") and founded the first salsa ensemble in and around Stuttgart more than 20 years ago. Wawanxo called it, and the Cuban rhythms quickly pulled people off their seats. "In the restaurant Locanda people danced on the tables and in front of the restaurant and blocked the parking lot", Arnšek recalls one of the first performances. With the CD The White Diamonds with his Modern Jazz Ensemble, to which musicians like Vladimir Bolschakoff belong, the salsa soon became the first real jazz success.
Since these early years, there is nothing musically that Branko Arnsek would not have tried. He attracts music projects with international artists such as tabla musician Udaj Mazumdar, plays in the Sinti jazz band Zigeli Winter Quintet, performs sessions with Plattenpapst Jöak and performs with, among others, the Serbian pianist Rade Soric and the Croatian saxophonist Drazen Drenski.
Branko Arnšek always remains faithful to his first love, jazz: "For today's music, jazz is the best common denominator of all musical genres and the best theory I have ever seen." The jazz tearoom, the Arnsek, became famous in Stuttgart Supported by cross-flute star chef Vincent Klink, he started with some musicians. In an unconventional atmosphere - for example in a piano shop - the jazz musicians and their audience meet here for a spontaneous jazz festival on a small scale. "We go on stage without knowing what we're going to play," says Arnšek, describing the experimental nature of such projects. It's about experimenting with the freedom to make music as art. "
In order to be able to support young artists of all musical, experimental and cultural directions, he has also founded the association Musicians Network. And true to the motto: "Music is art, but in the second instance it can of course also develop a commercial business," he has his own record company: 59music - where the number 59 stands for Arnšek's year of birth.
The passionate bassist and composer never seems to lack new projects and ideas. He is currently writing a Balkan suite for orchestra and teaching as a lecturer at the Musikschule Stuttgart. And listening to him tell with enthusiasm about Siberian overtone singing, Japanese gongs, and Arabic natural sound, you understand why he had to become a musician.
Incidentally, Branko Arnšek recently got married as well - and, how could it be otherwise, his wife is also a musician. And not just any, but THE Cuban singer, Yaqueline Castellanos, the "Great Lady of the Son". Yaqueline has long been a star in her homeland and has stormed the hit parades in Miami, San Francisco and New York with the title Como me ha insultado. For some CDs, legends such as the recently deceased Compay Segundo have made the backing music. Under the band name Tokame Branko Arnšek and her work on a common CD.
Enough work for a whole decade, one would think, but Branko Arnšek would not be a thoroughbred musician, if he had not already had a desire for the time after: "Playing bass in an Arab ensemble - that's it!"
Nina Blazon, Interculture Stuttgart, 10/2003