After about twenty albums and the same amount of years, the band Cusco has succeeded in reaching a well-merited position in the international panorama of the alternative musics with a peculiar style whose most successful trend is the one based on the folk roots of South America to embark on the paths near to pop and classical symphonism.

Although several artists have collaborated with Cusco both as composers and performers, the basic nucleus is formed around the duo integrated by Michael Holm and Christian Schultze, both having long recording trajectories, and being well known in the world of the alternative musics. From both, Michael Holm can be defined as the "alma mater" of Cusco, due to the fact that his degree of involvement in the project of Cusco is the highest.


Michael Holm became interested in music since he was a child. The family environment was certainly adequate, since his father and four brothers and sisters constituted a sort of family orchestra playing the piano, the violin, the flute and other instruments. From that time, Holm recalls with a special feeling the role of flutist that in that sextet he was assigned, and he told me once that the presence of the flute in the albums by Cusco is to a great extent due to his pleasant, precocious experience as a flutist.

With this background it is not surprising that the young Michael would waste no time to initiate his own professional career as a musician. He did so in 1963, at age twenty, as a singer and songwriter.

Several years would have to pass until the Cusco project arose. For fifteen years, Holm worked his path into the musical world, becoming a successful professional musician, devoted to diverse musical tasks, including that of production.


In 1978, Holm experienced what would lead him to the creation of Cusco. That year he travelled throughout South America. The contact with the culture, the peoples, the landscapes, deeply impressed the musician, exciting him and providing him with strong doses of inspiration. The human side of the inhabitants of the places he visited was, in a special manner, a decisive factor: "The peoples treated us in such a friendly, warm way, that I believe that the feeling of warmth in the music by Cusco is a reflection of the great friendship and the good heart these people welcomed us with".

Until 1979, Holm had mostly been in charge of the production of numerous releases. Then, his desire to explore new musical aspects by means of synthesizers, led him to plan the production of his own compositions, either solo or with the collaboration of other musicians. The experience lived the previous year in south America determined to a great extent the stylistic orientation of his initiative.

Holm counted with Rainer Pietsch, Kristian Schultze and other artists for the project. He had been in contact with Schultze since 1976, the year when the creation of a sort of embryo of what Cusco was to be can be placed. The music, composed by Holm and several of these musicians, integrated "Desert Island", the first album of the band.
Despite all the success that Holm had had with his pop productions, he faced many difficulties to release the album. He only found a small Japanese label interested in the project. Under this one the CD was released. It harvested enough success to guarantee the continued releases by Cusco. The two next albums also had in Japan their main means of diffussion.

In 1986, another modest label, this time in North America, became interested in Cusco. The same phenomenon that had occurred in Japan was repeated in the United States. Cusco became a famous name, a synonym of alternative music that at the same time turned out to be available for a wide audience.

This success meant an important impulse for Cusco, although Holm points out the fact that "This did not influenced the way we developed our style". Another curious aspect about the international acceptance of the band is, as Holm remarked to me, the fact that Europe and most specially Germany, are the two places where the difussion of their music is most scarce. It looks like an obvious case of those that underline the truth in the saying that "No one is a prophet in his own land", that is, artists are usually valued more outside their country than in their homeland.


Holm describes his personal artistic goals as well as those of the band with these words: "We intend to improve ourselves by creating romantic melodies and warm sounds that constitute acoustic brush strokes to paint images". With respect to this "visual" capacity present in the compositions by Cusco, Holm is convinced that "the style by Cusco is specially suitable for the creation of movie soundtracks".

Cusco, through Holm and the other musicians that collaborate in the project, utilize a wide variety of instruments in the performance of their music. Nevertheless, Holm's preferences are mostly directed, as he admitted some time ago, towards the keyboards, the guitar and the percussion. These are the instruments he works most comfortably with, and the ones that provide greater possibilities for expression to the musical ideas usually present in Cusco.

Before the question of whether he is aware that other stylistic influences, apart from the South American one, are present as well in the music by Cusco, Holm admits that it is so, and he does not hide the fact that the most important ones are classical music and German folklore, together with pop, rock, and even Techno.

In one occasion I asked him about the contributions to Cusco's style that have been made on the part of the musicians who have collaborated together with him and Schultze. Holm pointed out the work by Johan Daansen (guitar), Curt Cress (percussion), and the Symphonic Orchestra and Choir of the State Opera of Munich, stating that: "their performing styles are very well adjusted to my artistic concept of Cusco".

(By J.M.)

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