Skrypka, that’s quite a musical last name. Did your family genes determine your musical fate? Are your little Skrypkas (four children) also musical?
A talent for singing runs in my family. The same goes for my wife’s family. Our children have a musical predisposition: our eight-year-old son has already announced that he wants to become an artist. I did not think of any such things at his age. My eldest son plays piano, as well as the eldest daughter. The younger daughter is still little and likes dancing. Thus, it can turn into quite a creative dynasty. The fact that natural inclinations run in their genes is undeniable. And if the talents are God-given, they should be spotted and developed.
How did you become an artist?
I realized my parents’ dream. They were not able to realize their talents, but I managed to do so. However, they did not want me to become an artist. They wanted me to become an engineer. My dad had a nice voice, but he was sent to Tajikistan for work and decided to marry a Ukrainian before leaving. He met my mom, invited her out on a date, and sang throughout the night. My mom fell in love with him, and they got married, then returned to Tajikistan together.
I also did not want to be an artist. I was dreaming of becoming a scientist. I worked as an engineer developing devices. The first Soviet GPS-Luna is my invention. But the majority of work was tedious and lacked creativity. I realized that I wanted to become a professional musician, and I already had experience: VV band existed since 1987. In 1990 I began my professional music career.
You are a poet, composer, musician, and theater and movie actor. Which one of these roles do you feel is the strongest?
I am a Gemini, and Gemini are versatile. Thus, I enjoy working in various directions and changing them often. First and foremost, I am a composer and a performer, I write lyrics. However, I am also interested in employing myself as a mass event director, as a person connecting many other people, even as an ideologist. I feel trends, which direction it makes sense to move in, what interest is leading out there. For example, when I launched the Dream Land folks festival, wearing traditional embroidered shirts, singing Ukrainian songs, I was not so popular back then, twelve years ago it was perceived as a bit eccentric.
Do you call yourself a trendsetter in Ukraine?
It’s not that I invented this trend: simply I just felt this tendency. As they say, artists and poets feel certain things. For example, VV always cooperated with the army. We shot our first military music video back in 2002, and reinvented this video again in 2004. Eight years ago I organized a massive project – “Heroic Song Festival” (Editor’s note: This festival introduced the audience to the poorly researched and, until recently, deliberately silenced powerful layer of Ukrainian victorious songs from the Middle Ages to modern times. Marching songs were successfully combined with lyrical ones.) This was never allowed on the radio, and is still not allowed today. It made me feel like Ukraine’s future was in its military power. This was the demand at the time, and it turned out to be true.
It is very interesting, you have a degree in physics, and Svyatoslav Vakarchuk is a physicist as well. You are both superb lyricists. Is this some kind of pattern?
Freddie Mercury (Editor’s note: graduated from Polytechnic Institute in England) was my colleague in my studies. Creative work and the sciences are all connected. Music resembles mathematics, because a song or a melody can be converted into numbers. I use my math ability in my creative work. For example, when I begin a concert, I am already calculating how the concert will continue, and when it will end. It is a thought process. I think we all need to be intelligent and progress in our creative work, and science helps to develop our intelligence.
In Kyiv, you oversee the renovation of Andriyivskyy Descent, the most ancient street in Ukraine’s capital. How do you envision the future of this street? Will matryoshkas remain its main attribute? Will you be able to recreate the atmosphere of this artistic Montmartre, so familiar to you, but in Ukrainian style?
To be honest, the Andriyivskyy Descent project is so far one of the projects I was not able to get off the ground. One of the ideas was to get rid of these matryoshkas, but it did not work out. Even Kerry (Editor’s note: the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry) picked out matryoshka during his visit to Kyiv. However, I was very pleased that he chose to have dinner at my restaurant “Kanapa” (Editor’s note: restaurant “Kanapa” is considered to be one of the most sophisticated restaurants in Ukraine. On the one hand, it represents traditional Ukrainian cuisine from every region all over Ukraine, and on the other hand, its chef has his own modern take on Ukrainian cuisine.)
I think that if I managed to create successful projects, festivals and the Ukrainian restaurant, it can be done on the level of an urban development, on the street. I feel that if we manage to create such a Dream Street, then this wave of ideology can be taken further. However, we recently faced the conservatism of the current system: many requirements include permits and cooperation with the authorities. Unregulated trade is very challenging as well. However, our first victory is the fact that Andriyivskyy Descent was finally closed to traffic in July 2016. Certain progress takes place, but not at the pace we had been hoping for. Nevertheless, I look into the future with optimism. In cooperation with the city council we plan interesting large-scale projects: we organized Kyiv Day, as well as New Years on Sofiyska Square.
Please tell us about your Dream Land project.
Dream Land is a summertime folk festival, founded in Kyiv 12 years ago, and grown into my civic activity, a certain ideology, and philosophy of life. In addition to the summer festival, we have already held evening get-togethers, a winter fest, other projects related to jazz and baroque music. We organized similar festivals abroad as well, in England (London 2013), Russia (Perm, Urengoy 2010-2011); we also brought our “Vechornytsi” evening get-togethers to France and the U.S. We have toured Ukraine as well, with a wonderful festival dedicated to City Day, which took place in Lviv.
Did you hold Ukrainian festivals in Russia as well? How did people perceive them there?
There are a lot of Ukrainians there; hence, the festivals were met with great warmth.
Was your audience Ukrainian, or did Russians also attend?
The two largest projects we did in Russia were the Dream Land festivals in Perm and Urengoy. Urengoy can be considered a Ukrainian city altogether: I think around 80% of the population is Ukrainian. Ukrainian is spoken on the streets. The Perm audience was more Russian. The festival lasted for two days, we did the evening get-togethers, and I sang as well.
This is not your first time at Soyuzivka. In your opinion, are there enough festivals of this manner in Ukraine, I mean, with such Ukrainian spirit?
There is number of festivals in Ukraine. As an artist, I enjoy the festival atmosphere overall. The more, the better, because festivals unite, entertain and inspire people. The quality of the festival depends on the artists’ and the festival organizers’ professionalism and on their creative energy. The more energy and love we invest into our activity, the more beautiful it will turn out.
What are your creative plans when it comes to the U.S.?
I would like to visit the U.S. more often, because there is demand. I dream of doing large-scale projects like festivals, late-night gatherings; projects that unite people, that demonstrate the fact that Ukrainian art and music are interesting and of the high quality. An enormous number of artists in Ukraine are creating very interesting, competitive products. Art should be created on the level of music, fashion, movies, paintings; festivals should be organized and all of this should be brought to showcase in the U.S.
And the final question, what does it mean for you to be InLove?
The Bible says that in the beginning was the Word, and in my opinion, this word is Love. Everything begins with love, continues through love, and ends in love. This is why I keep wishing for myself and to others for everything we do to do in the state of love, in the state of infatuation. And if there is something we don’t like or don’t agree with, the best decision is to simply not do it. This way, with time, we will feel and notice that everything we do in life is filled with love. The best things we can do are the ones done in the state of love. That’s why it is a great motto: to be InLove. I wish all the magazine readers to be in love. Love yourselves, love the Universe, and then everything will be wonderful!
Orysia Soroka, Valentyna Tabaka.
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