The word for Estas Tonne is international.
The self-described spiritual guitarist, stopping in Olympia Wednesday on his first United States tour, is internationally known, thanks to a series of viral videos. “The Song of the Golden Dragon,” his most popular, has been watched more than a half billion times.
It’s not just his fame that’s international, though. Born in the Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union and spending his teen years in Israel, Tonne (whose name is pronounced “eh-STOSS toe-NAY”) has for the past couple of decades been wandering the globe, guitar in hand, visiting India, Mexico, the U.S., South America and much of Europe.
“Since I was a kid, I could never stop moving, even though I lived in one country at the time,” he told the Olympian. “It is my way to connect, to explore, to experiment, to touch different cultures.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Olympian
“It is expansion that happens. Soul expansion. Being expansion happens when we travel.”
That seems to have expanded his music, which his website describes as a combination of classical, Flamenco, Latin and electronic.
After studying guitar from the ages of 8 to 15, Tonne took a break for several years. When he began playing again, he said, he did it his own way. “I would play something, and I would feel it,” he said. “It was like a search, and it is still ongoing.”
He’s made his way through many countries as a street musician, winning audiences over with long tracks — and, perhaps, with his long tresses. Fans often comment on his resemblance to Jesus, at least as he’s commonly depicted in European art.
“The Song of the Golden Dragon,” posted in 2012, he plays for a large and enthralled crowd, and while there’s no telling how staged this particular event was, Tonne began his musical career as a street musician before playing yoga festivals and, later, large European cathedrals.
Now he’s touring the United States for the first time, with upcoming shows including one at Benaroya Hall in Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
It’s quite a level of success for someone who says his music is about self-expression, not money. He gives away his music on his website, estastonne.com.
“Music isn’t a career to me,” he said. “It’s life.
On stage as on the streets, he plays not a series of songs but one long journey. If that surprises his audiences, he said, so much the better.
“When a person doesn’t know what they came for and then they experience a two-hour trip, not a 5-minute song and then a story after each one how the song was born, it is a trip,” he said. “It is about having no expectations. It is all about life and experiences.
“I’m not a musician; I’m music,” he added.
Tonne, whose native tongue is Russian, is fond of making such grand-sounding pronouncements.
His fans sometimes make such pronouncements, too — particularly about his looks, which often draw comparisons to those of the art-history version of Jesus.
As one clever YouTube commentator put it, “So … this is what 2019 years of practice looks like.”
What: The street musician-turned-YouTube sensation stops at the Washington Center on his first U.S. tour.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
More information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org, estastonne.com
Listen: The Song of the Golden Dragon,” Tonne’s most popular video, is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gphiFVVtUI.