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Hippie-Turned-Diplomat and Musician Walter J. Lindner Performs ‘Wind of Change’ for German Unity Day

Marking 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, musicians including flute veteran Rakesh Chaurasia and more join a fusion rendition of the Scorpions hit

Anurag Tagat Oct 03, 2020

German Ambassador to India and musician Walter J. Lindner in a still from the music video for 'Wind of Change.'

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Although he was based in Munich and just starting off with his first posting, Walter J. Lindner remembers a wave of strong emotions swept through Germany on the day the Berlin Wall came down on October 3rd, 1990.

Presently the German ambassador to India, Lindner says over a video call about the historic moment 30 years later, “Before it came down, no one could really believe it would happen. We knew that through baby steps we would make progress, but no way that the wall would come down and that the Cold War would end. It was a real movement of joy. We found out how history can change.”

Closer in Berlin, German rock/metal giants Scorpions performed to celebrate what became German Unity Day, going on to release “Wind of Change” in early 1991. The song became one of their greatest and most widely heard hit and Lindner recalls how the sentiment of it was connected to how the world was a better place.

Lindner – whose own path saw him start off as a hippie musician, study jazz in Austria, enroll at a conservatory and even go to Berklee College of Music in Boston – understood the power of the song. “The combination of the message and the simple chords were perfect. I thought it was a great piece of work,” he says of “Wind of Change.” The song is now adapted by Lindner – who helms production and arrangement duties, plus keys, guitar and bass – featuring Indian musicians for a fusion take that marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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One of the first orders of business was to seek permission from Scorpions. Lindner says that frontman Klaus Meine was quick to say yes and keen to hear this new version of the track. “When I sent him [Meine] the recorded song, he said it gave him goosebumps.” Meine offers an introduction in the music video to the rendition, which features bansuri veteran Rakesh Chaurasia and the classical music trio of Pandit Vikash Maharaj on sarod, Prabhash Maharaj on tabla and sitarist Abhishek Maharaj. Lindner adds, “I wanted to keep the rock characteristic side but add this Indian flavor to it and make it softer. I feel this is how it should sound in India – like the East-West version of it.”

The ambassador says he flipped through his contacts and his networks to bring in New Delhi’s Chetan Dominic Awasthi aka Chezin as lead vocalist on the song, alongside backing vocals from Vrnda Dhar (both of whom are associated with jazz-funk band The Revisit Project). In addition to delegating drum parts to New York-based Peter Retzlaff, backing vocalists on the song include New Delhi artists such as Renie Mathew, Akash Gadamsetty and Shambhavi Mishra. “I just got these people through my network. That’s how it works, right? Quincy Jones, when he does his thing… he just uses his notebook and calls 20 people. It’s the same principle. You have to open your notebooks and ask, ‘Whom do I call?’” Lindner says.

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The song is part of his new 19-track album A Journey’s Songbook, which is the sixth record released by Lindner. An ambassador in South Africa previously as well, Lindner says about the album, “I wanted to time travel from 40 years on – all the songs and music that influenced me – and redo those songs. It goes to jazz to soul, Indian music and a little bit of classic. It’s four decades and four continents.”

Stream ‘A Journey’s Songbook’ here.

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