Saturday, June 14, 2008

Talking about tight

A few days back I posted about a guy by the name of Andriy Antonenko, aka Riffmaster. While I have had the opportunity to listen to recorded material that Andriy has put out, it was not until last night that I could really appreciate the level of talent of Riffmaster.

I have been kicking around in Ukraine for over nine years now and before coming here I listened to a lot of different music while in Canada, from the Powder Blues Band to RUSH, from ELP to Doug and the Slugs and from Three O'Clock Train to the Hoodoo Gurus not to mention all the classic rock of of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I also had the good fortune to kick around with various musicians who were talented as well as friends of mine. The likes of Jeff Smallwood, guitarist and backing vocals for Canadian Luba, Waymon Boone originally from Montreal who then left for NYC to form Splender with James Cruz, but now lead man with Sacremento-based Headrush, just to name a few.

Since I've been here I have become acquainted with a good number of musicians of many different genres of music, Taras Chubay, all the guys from Haydamaky and Mertviy Pivni, Korolivski Zaitsi, through Myroslav Levytsky Canadian Lionel Lodge and Dutchman Rens Newland and really the list goes on and on, but I can't remember everyone I have met, seen perform or had drinks with, but that just gives some idea of the depth of musical contacts I have.

Like mentioned above I met Andriy Antonenko not that long ago, and last night I went out to see Riffmaster perform at a place in the Obolon district called the Skyhall at the Dyvosvit recreational complex. What I heard was nothing short of amazing.

With Riffmaster on guitar, Victor Lukyanov on rhythm guitar, Oleksiy Kurbakov on acoustic bass and Dmytro Bida on drums, the guys put together a sound that was so tight it was evident that these guys have been around the block a couple of times. While I had been given a presentational CD back in February, the full sound of a live concert made the recording sound quite bland.

While the event may not have been heavily attended those who were there had an opportunity to hear a full rich sound that the four could produce together with Riffmaster's vocals. While at the current time Riffmaster only has two songs in the Ukrainian language, Misyats and Smysl he told me that he plans on writing more. A friend of mine and fellow blogger Pawlina on the Nash Holos told me she adores Misyats.

They opened up the show with the first track of their album Riffmaster Tony and followed up with the title track Beautiful Day.

If you ever have a chance on seeing these guys perform live, do it, you won't regret it.


  1. Maybe you should change the name of the blog to:

  2. Orest,

    While I've known you for a long time and haven't seen you in ages I am quite suprised at such a snide remark from you, even if it was meant as joke.

    I could have rejected its publication which would have been easy enough, but that would have been too simple. Simply just too Ukrainian...Ignore it!

    One problem that those of you who are living in the diaspora have, is understanding the complexity of the language issue in this country.

    The mere fact that Riffmaster even wrote two songs in Ukrainian is a good start and he should be encouraged. You don't make friends with a bull by waving a red cape in front of his nose.

    The music industry here in fact not only needs musicians who are patriotic and understand who they are but who are professional, something that lacks a great deal in all aspects of society in

    The level of proffessionalism and the depth of this musician's talent and creativity goes far beyond many musicians I have met anywhere, and unfortunately we bring language into the issue of patriotism. So it has taken him 17 years of Ukraine's indepedence to start to show some of his identity in his music, but at least it is scincere and honest. Because there are plenty of musicians and other's out there who don't give a damn about language or issues that are important to the diaspora and those who make a consciencious choice about the language they speak, and they won't even make an effort to speak Ukrainian, let alone make an effort to write songs in Ukrainian.

    Tell me something Orest, how much of your day is spent speaking Ukrainian with your Ukrainian Canadian friends? Be honest? Probably not much because you find it much easier to express yourself in English!

    So it was alright for me to post about a Kyiv-based band that plays Salsa and sings in Spanish, but not OK to cover Ukrainian's who are extremely talented are taking some time come around to discovering who they are?

    I have spent countless hours talking to this musician and other people like him about things that are much more painful than the language issue. How often have you sat with people who have lost large portions of their families because of the Holodomor, try it some day in any language it will be edifying.

  3. Vasyl,

    I will respond to your post in the order which you wrote it.

    You really do not know me whatsoever. We met when I was visiting Montreal back in '95 or '96, I can't remember exactly. I have not seen you since and have only spoken to you sporadically over the years.

    Yes you have every right to reject the post, but doing so because you disagree with what I have to say would eliminate the point of having people comment on your posts.

    What other problems do us "diasporans" have??? How condescending!
    Do you have Ukrainian citizenship??
    I guess anybody not living in Ukraine is totally clueless and cannot have their opinions on what is going on in Ukraine.

    Should I be astounded that RiffMaster wrote two songs in Ukrainian? If he is more happy performing in his native Russian, all the power to him. But I for one will not be listening to him.

    There are plenty of astounding musicians in Ukraine who know who they are and what they are trying to accomplish. As long as I have been visiting your blog I have seen no mention of them.

    For those musicians who don't give a damn about language, then I won't give a damn about them. Its my choice and I choose not to listen to Russian music.

    Vasyl, my Ukrainian is absolutely fluent. People in Ukraine constantly make comments to me where I learned to speak such Ukrainian considering that I am from Canada. I can speak the affluent language and I also can talk the gutter talk with the kids. It would be nice to speak Ukrainian with my "Ukrainian Canadian" friends, but most of them cannot speak Ukrainian worth a shit. My complete family comes from Ukraine. Starting with my parents, wife, daughter, brother-in-law, mother-in-law. Besides speaking English at my place of employment the rest of my time is spent speaking Ukrainian. Maybe I should talk to the CEO and have the workplace language changed to Ukrainian. Would that satisfy you?

    I do not understand what the Holodomor has to do with this conversation. You are mixing issues and confusing the matter at hand.

    I am totally miffed by your attitude.
    If you are not with me, you are against me.

  4. Vasyl, I think you are doing a wonderful job building a network of musicians in Ukraine ... and encouraging them to reclaim their Ukrainian roots.

    In that sense, today's Ukrainians actually have more in common with diaspora descendants of the 1st and 2nd waves of immigration to Canada than with more recent arrivals of the 3rd and 4th waves who speak Ukrainian fluently.

    It's unfortunate that many of the latter "waves" look down on those who did not have the good fortune to grow up steeped in Ukrainian culture and speaking the language... whether it was in Canada or Ukraine that they grew up.

    But, oh well. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to do what they feel is best.

    Personally, I think you're wise to make so many friends in the biz, Vasyl. Keep it up ... razom nas bahato!

  5. Orest, I think the point Vasyl was making is that many Ukrainians became assimilated into the dominant russified mainstream for the sake of sheer survival, like many Ukrainian Canadians became assimilated and lost touch with their roots.

    As a child, I spoke only Ukrainian because my Baba was my babysitter. Then when I was old enough to go out and play with the neighbourhood kids and learn English, my parents decided not to speak Ukrainian in the home for fear that I and my siblings would grow up with "an accent" and be ridiculed in school and not be able to get a decent job.

    Of the 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, probably the vast majority have a similar story to mine. And the Canadian government didn't starve a quarter of us to death.

    It takes time to build up the confidence and self-esteem to identify with a culture that has been under attack as long as Ukrainian has been. Whether in Ukraine or the diaspora, relatively few of us are fortunate enough to have grown up in a Ukrainian oasis like yours, much less now live in one as well.

    Some changes are made gradually, especially when those trying it are fragile. So isn't it better to encourage and support them, rather than criticize and discourage them?

  6. Orest,

    Everyone has the right to their opinion, and as mature adults we can also agree to disagree! There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is pretty normal.

    But now to answer you in the same order in which you answered me.

    You are right! We actually only met in Montreal in the early to mid 1990s, but I do remember that the reason we met had to do with internal community politics of the Ukrainian community in the diaspora. In fact at that time we were reading from the same page! Just like I don't know you, you know as little about me! So there we are even.

    Orest because you consider my statement as condescending I feel sorry for you. Pawlina, may have clarified what I wanted to say, but to add to that Orest, remember the Internment of Ukrainians in Canada? Do you know how many of the first and second waves of immigration changed their family names in order not to be austrocized? Survival!

    No Orest, I am not a Ukrainian citizen, but a Canadian who was brought up to be tolerant. By a mother who was second generation Irish and third generation Scottish, and a Ukrainian father who was separated from his family due to a very tragic thing called war.

    Regarding your knowledge of Ukrainian, that too was not meant as a slight against you, but as you said, I don't know you. But you had the good fortune of growing up in an environment that did serve as your "oasis" as Pawlina put it. Not everyone, did but it doesn't make them any less Ukrainian.

    Orest you don't have to be astounded by the fact that Riffmaster wrote two songs in Ukrainian, you should be encouraged that he is coming out of his shell.

    Now regarding plenty of astounding musicians in Ukraine, I beg to differ. There are plenty of extremely talented people who have managed to capture their respective audiences, but this doesn't make them astounding from a musical perspective. From a business and marketing perspective maybe, but not necessarily musically. If you have really taken the time to analyze what is going on in the Ukrainian market, you would understand this. I spend most of my time analyzing what is going on in this market, and at times I have tried to share my observations with readers. The fact that I don't mention musicians you consider astounding is really of no concequence.

    Orest, while you grew up in an "oasis" as described by Pawlina, I on the otherhand was not as fortunate. I was picked on in Ukrainian school, because my peers would get flack from their parents because I was better than they were. How would your parents have liked it if Marko, who's mother was Italian or German got all the best virshi for the different sviata our hormady would hold?

    Like you, I too have been complemented on my knowledge of the Ukrainian language, given I only spoke it with my father, who passed away very suddenly when I was 16 years of age. I knew neither of my paternal grandparents. All I knew of Dido Ivan and Babtsia Yulia are my father's recollection of them and from letters we received, that as you may remember were censored, and it was such letters that I also learnt of their deaths many months after the fact. I met a distant relative of my father's who spent years in the Gulag when I was about 9 or 10. I first met my father's sisters when I was 13 years old, and the fact that they even managed to get a "zahran passport" at that time is a story in and of itself, the reasons for which I learnt about 5 years ago from my cousin in my father's village.

    Orest like you I had no "oasis", but later on in life, even before the Soviet Union began to crumble, I chose a more difficult path. To improve my language skills, to be involved in the community at many different levels, both locally and nationally and even internationally. I, like you and many others have invested both time and money in our respective communities. Orest, it would have been much easier for me to assimilate! Think about it just for a moment.

    Those not living in Ukraine are entitled to their opinions, but there are many, who are misguided in their opinions, just like many people here are misguided in their opinions about the West. No, Orest not you, you just happen to have a different opinion than I do, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Orest, there are times when issues get confused, particularly when any one of us who cares about Ukraine is emotionally attached to what is being discussed. The fact that I brought the Holodomor up was a thought which was not completed. People like Riffmaster and many others who have been coming out of their shells, have been starting to talk about the loses their families suffered during that terrible period of our people's history. I meet these people quite often, and yes I converse with them in Ukrainian, not Russian; but while I know that foreign language in principle I do not speak it on the territory of Ukraine. Yes there are zhloby who only speak Russian to me, in most cases these conversations don't last too long. And yes there are musicians who sing in that foreign language, and yes there are Ukrainians who have participated in the ESC not in Ukrainian but in English I don't see you knocking them. Those who are really musicians are not interested in the ESC and its politics, except those who need such a platform to give their careers a boost.

    Now the fact that you are miffed, is not my problem. We all get miffed sometimes... You will get over it! I hope!

    Orest, I have read off the same page as you before, and I hope we do again some time soon. But your "if you're not with me you're against me attitude" isn't going to help you much, nor our communities in North America, nor in Ukraine.

  7. All I can add to this Vasyl is BRAVO!!! I have read previous comments by Orest on UkrBroadcasters and he has made comments that seems a trite ridiculous. I would not waste my time and efforts on trying to reply to someone who to me seems negative. We need more Pawlina's around, some one who doesn't speak very much Ukrainian, but who is more Ukrainian that many people I know.

  8. Voice a comment and be called trite and negative.

    Not everyone has the same opinions and attitudes!

    The comment was meant to be in jest.

    Ukrainians really need to get a sense of humour. Seriously.

  9. Orest,

    While not all Ukrainians have a sense of humour most of us do, but not enough of us.

    I'm really glad we have different opinions, because if we didn't the world would be an awfully boring place.

    Regarding that someone called you trite and negative, must have touched a nerve somewhere Orest, and must have a grain of truth in it. In many cases a Ukrainian's worst enemy is himself. [I say that in jest of course!]

  10. Since this blog is really called uaMuzik, I leave you all with the words from Simon and Garfunkel's - "The Boxer" and we are not talking about the Klitchko brother's.

    "I am just a poor boy and my story's seldom told
    Ive squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
    All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
    And disregards the rest, hmmmm

    In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
    And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
    til he cried out in his anger and his shame
    I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
    Yes he still remains."

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. one more story

  13. Kasia,

    I had a good laugh at that!



  14. Back on topic now... I just wanted to thank you, Vasyl, for acquainting me with Riffmaster. He is an amazing musician and a great guy.

    And, if he winds up setting a trend for popularizing the Ukrainian language amongst his fellow musicians, how wonderful is that!