Australian composer and pianist Daniel Rojas specialises in Latin and tango music as well as improvisation. He draws from a broad musical palette that includes Latin American indigenous, folk, classical and popular traditions, and Western contemporary classical and jazz languages and techniques. Ahead of his tango quintet, La Luna Tango Ensemble’s performance at Sydney’s Camelot Lounge, Limelight gave him the 20 Questions treatment.

1. Who are your three favourite non-classical musicians?

Oscar Peterson, Shakira, Freddie Mercury

2. Top five composers?

Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, Bartók and Ginastera

3. The instrument you’ve always wanted to play but never have?

The contrabassoon

4. Three favourite pianists?

Krystian Zimerman, Claudio Arrau and Khatia Buniatishvili

5. If you weren’t a musician what would you be?

A TV evangelist… a politician… a circus acrobat… Nah! I can’t think of being anything else other than a musician!

6. Most embarrassing moment on stage?

Gosh, I’m embarrassed that I can’t think of any!

7. Most uplifting concert experience as an audience member?

Being present at Teresa Careño Concert Hall in Caracas to witness Silvestre Revueltas and Alberto Ginastera being performed by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela (note, this is the national orchestra, not the youthful “El Sistema” that has became so popular). Eduardo Mata conducted this orchestra for a number of years before his tragic death and his legacy is palpable.

Daniel RojasComposer and pianist Daniel Rojas.

8. Five historical musicians or composers you’d invite to dinner?

Hildegard von Bingen, Nadia Boulanger, Astor Piazzolla, Gustav Mahler and Béla Bartók

9. The last book you couldn’t put down?

Reza Aslan’s God, A Human History

10. Three guilty pleasures?

Oh dear! Here goes: Staying up really late to watch Evolution vs. Creation/Intelligent Design videos on YouTube. Swooning over every version of Besame Mucho I can find. Watching the same Minions (Despicable Me) or Kung Fu Panda videos… over and over and over again, and still laughing annoyingly loudly!

11. A record to be stranded on a desert island with?

Keith Jarred’s La Scala Concert

12. All-time favourite film?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

13. Your favourite place in the world?

Either the tropical jungles of Peru or San Francisco, depending on the weather and who’s there with me!

14. Your proudest moment on stage?

Performing my own piano concerto! That dialogue with the orchestra is purely divine!

15. Your favourite non-musical pass-time?

Chatting with my closest persons over a coffee in a calm and beautiful garden on a sunny day, without a worry in the world!

16. Three underrated composers?

Clara Schumann, Silvestre Revueltas, Dietrich Buxtehude

17. A piece of music you’d happily never hear again?

Pachelbel’s Canon in D along with its trillion variations, exegetic interpretations and crypto-earnest attempts!

18. A historical composer you’d like to commission?

Clara Schumann, a piano concerto

19. Best way to unwind after a performance?

I learnt this from my great friend, the Mexican musician Victor Valdes: “The after party, and then the after-after party!”

20. The most fun you’ve every had?

I can’t decide between either:

Traveling the south of Spain with my uncle stopping in every little town between Granada and Seville for tapas, wine, chat with locals and music!

Or: When barely out of college, traveling to the south of Chile with my brother, buying a bottle of local pisco (so naughty!), and running out of money! Happy times!

Either way, both were a long time ago and with close family members.


Daniel Rojas performs with his tango quintet La Luna Tango Ensemble at Sydney’s at Sydney’s Camelot Lounge on Sunday January 28 at 8pm

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