The Swiss Embassy’s Counselor and Deputy Head of Mission Raoul Imbach uses more than just the functions of his office to build diplomatic ties around the world; he also turns to the power of music to strengthen them.
Before coming to the Philippines in August 2013, Imbach, whose career in the Foreign Service spans an impressive 30 years, found his penchant for composing music and singing as an effective tool for reaching out to Koreans during his posting in the Asian country.
One of his most successful projects there was to found the Swiss Cultural Fund, which helped bridge the apparent language and cultural barriers between the two nations.
“From experience, I found [the project]to be a very good way of helping develop cultural activities between Switzerland and Korea,” Imbach told The Manila Times in a one-on-one interview. “And I’m hoping to do the same here in the Philippines.”
The way the multi-talented diplomat pursues the cultural endeavor is to rally Swiss companies with investments in his country of posting to support the fund.
“We have limited budget within the embassy for cultural events,” he explained. “So [by enjoining private entities to donate], we build a small financial base that makes it easier to begin such activities.”
Imbach is currently in talks with some 10 to 15 Swiss companies in the Philippines to help establish the Swiss Cultural Fund of the Philippines. In turn, the embassy pledges to promote these enterprises in whatever projects the foundation produces, as well as lend its support to the companies’ corporate social responsibility efforts.
The Swiss born and raised Imbach just celebrated his 50th year as a singer/performer and 15th year as a composer. Within this period, he has released 11 albums, 10 of which contain his own compositions. His latest album, “Souvenir Made in USA,” was recorded in New York in the summer of 2014.
During a posting in Vietnam, Imbach formed a band called “The Wild Tortillas,” which backed him up for Rock and Roll and Latin music performances. He has kept the band name a very talented Filipino band, which now accompanies him in his shows in and around Manila.
Outside Europe, Imbach has held shows Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Korea. Here in the Philippines, he has performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in March 2014 as a featured act, and held a solo concert at the Rizal Park in June of the same year.
Just this February, Imbach and The Wild Tortillas performed as the opening act of the Claude Diallo Concert at the Rizal Park; as well as the two-night Philippine International Jazz Festival at Shangri-La Plaza Mall.
Proud of his band members, who will appear with him in a series of shows from March 20 to 28 at the Rizal Park, Imbach told The Manila Times that since forming in May 2014, the musicians have appeared in 13 concerts, including a show with top Filipino folk singer Freddie Aguilar.
Interested as ever in the musical scene in his country of posting, Imbach has met many Filipino artists in the past two years, and in fact has composed four Filipino songs already. These are titled “Binibini,” “Hello, Eto Ako,” “Too Young;” and “In a Dream Last Night.”
Moreover, he has also arranged a French version of Aguilar’s worldwide hit “Anak,” after several meetings with the singer.
Besides being a singer and composer, Imbach is also a Latin and rhythm dancer. During his postings in Costa Rica and Bolivia, he was part of a dance group Caporales San Miguel. A quick and voracious learner, he also became a teacher of Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and other modern Latin dances, and in fact, is remembered as the Father of Salsa in Vietnam.
Without a doubt, Imbach breaks away from the stereotypes of diplomats with his artistic way of reaching out to other nations. It should be established that he is not solely focused on cultural relationships and has ably dealt with issues as varied as trade, human rights, and the environment.
Moreover, he is also a man of diverse talents as Imbach is also a sportsman having been part of the Swiss Junior National Team for skiing; a restaurateur and chef at one time when he opened Le Chandelier in Bolivia as chef and co-owner; and a top executive through and through having worked with two major oil companies before joining the Swiss Foreign Service.
But of course, for a man who is passionate about music, Raoul Imbach is most proud and fulfilled in helping to build a world of harmony.