Roman IAGUPOV: “Tectonic changes are taking place in the world”

The 12th International festival Koktebel Jazz has finished in Kyiv


This year the geography of the forum has changed: it began in Zatoka near Odesa (because the temporary annexation of the Crimea by Putin’s regime has crossed the possibility to work for the Ukrainian project), and continued in September 19 through 21 in Kyiv culture-education center Master Class with the project Voloshin Jazz Week End. It was supervised by Oleksii Kohan. Apart from Ukrainian ensembles, the event featured Tonbruket from Sweden, Polish Fortuna Electric, and British Julia Biel. There were also Serbians from Majamisty Trio, Czech Jiri Slupka Sverak, Italians Shine, and Austrian David six’ Matador: an absolutely international participation.

At the final evening the Ukrainian block sounded in a real jazz way: Samba Kolo, Natalia Lebedeva Trio, and Kostiantyn Ionenko Quintet. I will   mark Ionenko, a graduate of the Kharkiv Conservatoire, a talented composer and multi bassist. His music is quite complicated for perception; it is modern and complicated due to its language and fully meets the concept of the “new history of Ukrainian jazz,” claimed in the booklet.

British Julia Biel plays a bit the piano and guitar, sings in a somewhat half-childish manner, and does not improvise at all. The polite audience listened, but many people left the hall. In the final there was a set of Swedish quartet Tonbruket. The band was created five years ago. Contrabass player and leader Dan Berglund, guitar player Johan Lindstrom, keyboard player and violinist Martin Hederos, and drummer Andreas Werliin came to the band from different ensembles and created their own style based on modern jazz, psychedelic rock, and a bit of new folk. The music is recorded at the Munich-based label Act, which is attentive to Swedish jazz, ranking high in the world jazz hierarchy. The energy went off-scale, the skilful manipulating with attention did not let one relax; it was pleasant to be in full subordination. It was a real triumph of modern European jazz. Our musicians were listening to the guests together with the impressed audience.

The president of Koktebel Jazz Lilia Mlinarych told The Day that long before the project of the festival was launched, she received a proposal to stay on the former territory under the aegis of Russia. She and her team refused. That is why in Koktebel to spite Ukraine the pseudo festival Koktebel Jazz Party was held, which changed just a bit the name of the Ukrainian music brand. It was used by the odious Moscow TV host Dmitry Kiselyov, who recalled that namely he stood in Koktebel Jazz. Several years ago he gave the wheel to Lilia Mlinarych. Now Kiselyov is showing “great and light” politicized feeling to jazz. Incidentally, the organizers sent an invitation to Western artistes on behalf of the Ukrainian festival Koktebel Jazz, violating the right of Ukrainians for the brand registered in Ukraine, Russia, and the West, and confusing the participants and guests of the forum. Incidentally, Mlinarych and her team received an offer to hold such festival in Slovakia next year.

One of the headliners of the festival, members of Moldovan band Zdob Si Zdub trumpeter Valeriu Mazilu and frontman-vocalist Roman Iagupov who performed in Zatoka, answered the questions of The Day.

Zdob Si Zdub is strong in Moldovan beats and melodies. You improvise a lot. There is a clear influence of jazz rock.

V.M.: “We’re a folk-rock band. We take a folklore melody and try to make it more interesting, using a different style. Our music director, bassist Mihai Gincu makes the arrangement. Improvisation is typical of various directions: folklore, rock, jazz, otherwise there can’t be any live music, the audience won’t take any interest.”

But the improvisation which was recorded stops being an improvisation. However, the scores to jazz improvisations have the right for existence, because students and amateurs have something to learn from.

V.M.: “In Moldova jazz is taught in conservatoire as well. However, I graduated from the conservatoire as an academic trumpeter. But modern means of communication allow one to easily get to know various nationalities and style directions of performers. After a profound training based on the Soviet music education which is still applied on vast territories, the musician can find and study French or American brass, guitar, or piano performing school. At the moment the possibilities are broad: recordings, YouTube, notes, backing tracks – you only have to learn.”

Roman, you move excellently and improvise a lot. But the band’s performance has elements of a show. Who works on the stage choreography?

R.Ia.: “Over the time of our band’s existence we have changed many directions. At the beginning of our career we performed the alternative music of the 1990s, fusion, oriented at Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and ‘heavy bands.’ At the same time we listened to classical music, Queen, blues – many different styles. We didn’t create any shows; neither did we work with a director or a choreographer. We did not have a specialist on light. The fact that we grew up in the former USSR prevented us from doing everything consciously, but we chose many things intuitively. Sometimes the result is excellent, but sometimes we clash at one another on the stage. We work intuitively; we developed and interbred our music ourselves. Sometimes we broke through a concrete wall, combined incompatible things, and as a result we created a mix of our own.”

Your country seeks to Europe. Moldova has replaced the Cyrillic alphabet with Latin script.

R.Ia.: “Now tectonic changes are taking place in the world: big countries swallow small ones. In its turn other peoples and territories split from them. There are so many international villages and families in the world, love does not know borders. The rest is manipulations of monstrous politicians. Our band is multinational, and yesterday’s jazz was born based on the unity of the opposite things.”


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