Q&A with Croatian harmonica player Tomislav Goluban - burst with energy, passion, humor and real music

“Before fans used to come to concerts to listen to the music, to enjoy themselves, to spend time with friends and to have a memorable experience. Nowadays more and more people are coming to hang out with their smartphones, to just take pictures and videos of artists as a token, “look I was there, “instead of enjoying the live performance; especially the younger fans.”

Tomislav Goluban: Chicago Rambler

After a 20-year music career and 10 studio albums, the proverb “The older – the crazier” definitely applies to Croatian harmonica player Tomislav “Little Pigeon” Goluban, whose songs and performances burst with energy, passion, humor and above all, fantastic music. Goluban has been playing harp since 1997, inspired by old school masters such as Sonny Terry, Slim Harpo, Paul Butterfield, Gary Primich, Kim Wilson and Joe Filisko to name just a few. Performing solo/duo and with a band, Goluban has played in the U.S. and across many European countries at festivals and events such as the Notodden Blues Festival (Norway), Amal’s Blues Festival (Sweden), Blues sur Seine (France) and International Blues Challenge (USA). Singer songwriter and harmonica master, Tomislav Goluban made a journey to the source to record an album of authentic blues music in the Windy City for his tenth new studio album, “Chicago Rambler” (2019). Goluban enlisted the skills of prominent figures in the Chicago blues scene, led by acclaimed producer and guitarist Eric Noden to collaborate with him on 11 new songs written for the project.

Looking back at his discography reveals delta, country & Chicago blues, zydeco, rock ‘n’ roll and world music. He’s been recording his music in a wide span from raw delta duo sound to the full instrumental arrangement with 20 musicians playing one song. In the period from 2005 to 2019 Tomislav has: published ten studio albums and three maxi singles, won four Croatian top discography awards “Porin” (the equivalent of a Grammy in Croatia), won three “Croatian Musicians Union” awards “Status,” performed in 20 countries in two continents (Europe and the USA), won 4th place at World Harmonica Championship in Germany 2005, is the sole Croatian endorsee of the world’s finest and most famous harmonica manufacturer “Hohner,” was the first Croatian representative at International Blues Challenge, Memphis, USA in 2009 & returned in 2017, was one of the founders and the first president of the “Croatian Blues Forces” association, developed an educational music program called “The harmonica in Blues” which is presented to the pupils of elementary and high schools all over Croatia.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

I've learned how I want to spend my life and the things I want to do to be happy. If I'm fulfilled and satisfied with my life, then people around me will be happy to. My wife says that blues and my harmonicas are my only true love, so let's believe her!

What were the reasons that you started harmonica's researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?

After I heard Sonny Terry's record “Wizard of the Harmonica,” everything changed. I went to the store, bought a harmonica and started blowing, for lack of a better word. Two years later, my late grandfather told me that he used to play it 50 years ago, mainly folk music. Maybe there is something in the blood that is bigger than oneself.

Until now (2019) I've recorded ten studio albums, combination of Croatian traditional music, instrumentals, fusion, Delta, Chicago and Rock Blues. Each album has a story and there is a big difference between them; it's more about the music than genre per se. Of course, the harmonica and blues are two things which all of them have in common, but I try to experiment with everything else and to bring forth diverse sounds.

"Croatian blues scene is still very young but is becoming stronger and bigger every day. This year in Memphis we received a KBA Award for our blues society (Croatian Blues Forces) and I think it is a great tool and acknowledgment, which will aid in further promoting blues music in our country."

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

In 2001 in Germany I met Mr. Joe Filisko and my life changed that day. He is my mentor, friend and inspiration to this very day. "Learn to listen" is advice No. 1 I have received and this wisdom of his I value greatly.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

There are a lot but one that comes to mind, also from 2001, is being on the stage with the late Chris Jones. He was playing his guitar and sang. I did not know how to properly say to him that I wanted to sing a song beside just playing harmonica because his voice was absolutely fabulous. So, I came on the stage and said to him "Mr. Jones, you can rest your voice now.” He stopped and I was met with silence. He looked at me then he looked at the audience and said that he had never heard of a more decent way to shut up. Of course, everybody was giggling, and we had a great time on stage. But I think that the most important thing is to have delightful musicians around you and then every note and second become valuable memories.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Before fans used to come to concerts to listen to the music, to enjoy themselves, to spend time with friends and to have a memorable experience. Nowadays more and more people are coming to hang out with their smartphones, to just take pictures and videos of artists as a token, “look I was there, “instead of enjoying the live performance; especially the younger fans.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would destroy MP3s and the possibility of listening to music through small earphones.

"I've learned how I want to spend my life and the things I want to do to be happy. If I'm fulfilled and satisfied with my life, then people around me will be happy to. My wife says that blues and my harmonicas are my only true love, so let's believe her!"

What touched (emotionally) you from Croatian blues scene? What characterize the local scene and circuits?

Croatian blues scene is still very young but is becoming stronger and bigger every day. This year in Memphis we received a KBA Award for our blues society (Croatian Blues Forces) and I think it is a great tool and acknowledgment, which will aid in further promoting blues music in our country.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

I feel like it had more impact on issues in the last century than it does today.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would really like to grab a coffee with Nikola Tesla.

Tomislav Goluban - Home

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