I met with Serbian Ambassador to the UN Milan Milanovic in his Renaissance-style office overlooking Fifth Avenue. There were electric guitars, a powerful sound system, mural paintings of nymphs and golden stucco, and they all gave me a powerful first impression, and I instantly knew this interview would be very special.
Milan Milanovic is the Ambassador who is a rock-n-roll legend at the United Nations. He is a man who set a trend of live music in the conservative diplomatic society of New York.
Your Excellency, thank you for finding the time for this interview with InLove magazine. Please share with us what inspired you to create your band?
It all started from my conversation with Romanian Ambassador to the UN Simona Miculescu, especially when I learned of her relationship with music. She graduated from a music school, and I happened to be at her concert dedicated to the release of the new CD at the UN library. During this concert there was no live music, only recorded melodies, but nevertheless I truly admired Simona’s beautiful voice.
Some time later, Simona and I decided to create our own live band and perform at the same time the following year. At the UN, all important questions usually get resolved during receptions, and at one of the receptions in the Summer of 2014, one of my Ambassador-colleagues informed me about Ambassadors from South Korea and Denmark who happen to be great musicians. After that, the Danish Ambassador confirmed that he can play bass guitar and recommended a great drummer, the Ambassador from South Korea. That was a powerful sign, and the beginning of our live band was two weeks later.
As the band formed, and we all started to play together, it felt as if we all became one spirit, uniting us as musicians. We put together a great program and decided to surprise our Ambassadors-colleagues by playing on the boat cruise, which takes place every year, and is organized by the UN Secretary-General. It is always a day of relaxation before the high-level General Assembly takes place.
On September 4, 2014, we performed for the first time. It was amazing, with music and gorgeous views of stunning Manhattan! What a powerful cocktail!
Did you receive your doze of adrenalin? What was the reaction of the audience? How many people attended this cruise?
Of course, all of us did—our entire band and all the listeners! It was amazing and hilarious! Not one could ever imagine the reaction we received; that was truly rewarding!
Frankly speaking, more than 400 people attended, consisting of 193 Ambassadors with spouses, Ban Ki-Moon and some high-level staff from the Secretariat. The band was so well received by the diplomatic community, and we really got inspired. The next day we became instant celebrities at the Secretariat. (laughs)
Are you trying to tell me that you own this feeling now? Did you wake up the next morning knowing you are a real star?
Yes! All of us felt it! And yes, it was an instant success! I was extremely surprised to learn that for the last 27 years of my diplomatic career, I never experienced such satisfaction and amazing rush of excitement. This one particular day of our music debut on the boat felt truly satisfying. (laughs)
The core idea of the band comes from its name “UNRocks.” We love our style and are always ready to work with it. We strived to create not just a band, but a tradition. Every single one of us will have to leave NYC one day, but the band should continue its tradition, with the same name but new members. I sincerely hope it will happen.
Who composes the music for your band? Why did you choose rock-n-roll style? Why not jazz?
Myself, and Madam Simona Miculescu (our muse), my friend Virachai Plasai (Ambassador of Thailand), Ambassador of Denmark Ib Petersen, Ambassador MaheTupouniua of the Kingdom of Tonga and Ambassador Oh Joon of South Korea. Our band is open for new members, and the musical situation at the UN is quite difficult. Everyone plays politics, but not too many actually play music! (laughs)
Rock-n-Roll is eternal, directly connected to our youth, our history, and of course, the best memories. This music style keeps us young no matter how old we are. In addition, it is much easier to play rock-n-roll than jazz. And we always have an amplifier to hide our vocal and musical mistakes. (laughs)
As we know, Madame Miculescu was the tender soul of your band, what happened when she left?
Yes, she was, and we really miss her. It was not easy to find a lady-Ambassador who would have courage to join our band as a singer. And eventually we did, and I proposed to the US Ambassador for the UN Mrs. Samantha Power to join our band. She accepted and sang with us during second annual performance at the cruise.
I have a provocative question: Is there some similarity between music and diplomacy? Why do you feel music is a hundred times more successful in uniting people than diplomacy?
Diplomacy has boundaries, and they are usually composing interests for countries. Music doesn’t have limits or boundaries. Diplomacy doesn’t have so much soul as music. Diplomacy is compatible to art but it is also a reflection of policy. When there’s policy, there are always contradictions and controversy.
What does being in love mean to you?
It’s an essential feeling for every human being. You live fully only when you experience love and when you feel loved. Love moves everything. Love is the light. Light and love prevail, as our music, which is made with love.
Interview by Yegor Pyvovarov.
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