Friday, July 3, 2009

The morning after – the ShockolaD interview

I got up the next morning and I was still staying on Filetova, not to far away from where I had to be in about an hour, and as usual, for that district of L'viv I missed the time period when the hot water was turned on. Well it was after all Friday and I was still in L'viv, which is incidentally one of my favorite chill-out cities, so what did I have to complain about? Nothing at all!

I headed out the door and walked along Filetova toward Lychakivska Street. From their down towards where it joins the beginning of Vynnychenko Street. I walked by the Kabinet. This is a nice little cafe/bar which is also a hotbed of cultural activity at times. With poetry reading, book launches and the like, which often, incidentally are recorded and podcast. I passed the monument to Vyacheslav Chornovil and a few minutes later I walked across Fedoriv Square and past the monument of Fedoriv.

At the agreed upon time of 10:00, I walked through the heavy wooden doors at Dzyga and began to look around for two guys I had met the night before through Markian. One of them I was told was going to make sure I had the equipment in order that I could do an interview for radio with three of the members of ShockolaD that would be able to meet with me that day.

I walked into the first room and looked around. Then I glanced into the second room up the three steps to the right. I didn't notice anyone that looked familiar, so I turned around to walk out and then someone came running up behind me, and I could hear a somewhat familiar voice calling me, “Pane Vasyliu!” I turned around and there stood Yuriy Kucheryaviy, one of the guys I had met the previous evening sitting with Markian Ivashchyshyn after the ShockolaD show.

“Andriy should be here shortly, with everything we need for you to do this interview with ShockolaD,” said Yuriy, and just as he said so in walked Andriy Izdryk, a tall lanky figure with a satchel in one hand and a army surplus style back pack that would be suitable for a two to three day trip away from home. Andriy greeted me and sat down at the table next to me. First he unloaded his satchel, pulling out his laptop, then came the surprise. Out of his back pack he began to pull out a number of things, and as he was doing so in walked Anastasia Lytvynyuk, Dana Vynnytska and Ihor Hnydyn of ShockolaD. We all greeted one another, and Andriy handed Dana one microphone and then another, as I recall they were AKG's, not top of the line but better than anything I've seen anyone pull out of such a back pack before. But what followed was an even bigger surprise!

Andriy moved somethings away from his laptop and next to it he placed an eight-channel mixer. Within a few minutes he was ready to roll. Well not quite, there was still the matter of background music and the ventilation ducts in the back room of Dzyga. Yuriy got up and spoke to the administration about that and soon I was ready to start the interview with ShockolaD! But first we all decided that coffee would be a great start. After all it was only ten in the morning.

Once our coffee arrived and we checked the levels things got underway.

As a favour to my friend and fellow blogger Pawlina whom I recorded this interview for below is a translation and transcript of the interview which transpired, for her listeners.

Dear listeners of Nash Holos in Vancouver, not to long ago I was sitting with a musician friend of mine, Misko Barbara of Mertviy Piven'[Dead Rooster] in Kyiv and he told me about a girl, who's name is Dana. Dana sings with not such a new band from L'viv, but I think they still have a lot to do. And what I heard at a concert at the Jazz Club at Dzyga on Virmenska Street yesterday evening, that's to say Thursday, I liked a great deal. Dana maybe you could briefly tell our listeners how this project started and when it started?

Dana Vynnytska:
In 2004 each of us was a student at the Musical Academy. When I say each of us, I'm talking about Ihor Hnydyn our drummer, Anastasia Lytvynyuk, pianist and me Dana Vynnytska. Then we were studying at the Musical Academy and for the first time we went to see the Jazz Bez Festival in L'viv. We were so enthralled by the music that we all started dreaming of how to try to start playing something similar. First Ihor got in touch with Nastya, and then I joined in and then at one time five years ago in 2004 in the month of June we met up and started to play the standard My Funny Valentine.
It looked something like this. We were playing sheet music, we weren't sure how to play, we were uncertain. We tried listening to things, we were searching, we tried to copy things tried to find our own thing, but we started with the standards. At first there were three of us, then we had one contra-bass player join us. Well the story with contra-bass and bass players was classical. The bass line did not hold its own under intellectual and emotional tension and then a new figure appeared, in August our saxophonist joined us with whom we are working with until this day and that is Volodya Urban. And this is how the group ShockolaD was born.
That same year we participated in the Jazz Bez as juniors, and at the festival at one of the jam sessions we heard some very interesting musicians from Poland. I have in mind Joachim Mansel, pianist; Aryk Skolyk drummer and Mikhail Baranski vocal. When conversing with them in a more intimate setting they told us that in Krakow there are international master classes which take place, called the International Summer Jazz Academy. And that summer we went to those master classes and understood a bit more, because up until that point we were contriving our bicycle, but because of such a good experiences and pleasant knowledge that we were able to obtain last year, in as much that the three of us, Ihor, Natya and myself received a stipend from the Polish Ministry of Culture, Gauda de Polonia, we were able to be in Warsaw and cooperate and study under legendary Polish musicians: Czeslaw Bartowski, drummer; Andrzey Godinski, piano and Janusz Szroma for vocals.

VP: This is an interesting story, but I noticed that your drummer works a lot with arrangements and writing of music. It sort of reminded me of something, like á la Phil Collins, as you know Phil Collins is a drummer but also writes music. How did this all come about, I think it would be interesting for our listeners, because it kind of rare, it rarely happens that the drummer takes care of arrangements?

Ihor Hnydyn: Well like Dana said earlier that we started from learn from traditional jazz music, but learning from this music you begin to understand that the more you swallow of that music, then the greater the space for development in traditional music. But in order that, but because there is so much traditional jazz music in the world, and in America they play so much of it, and we are very far from there, and we wanted to something of our own, and I started to try to write for the first time, because earlier I never considered myself seriously as a composer, but it was when I was in Ireland working and the yearning for Ukraine came out in music. It was the first time where I didn't know where to place my soul, and I began to sit behind the piano and in principle began to think about Ukraine, and quite simply Ukrainian motifs appeared which I had heard from the time I was little, in as much that I myself am from a village and everyone in our village sings or plays on an instrument, and I simply wanted that music, simply for those ethno motifs to grow into something that was bigger. And in principle we tried to do something, and our first album called Number One,which we recorded in Poland with Polish musicians, that came out as ethnic music.

VP: One thing that really impressed me last night was the arrangement of Shchedryk by Leontovych [ed. Known as Carol of the Bells] I really liked it.

Ihor Hnydyn: But that was Volodymyr Urban. That's our saxophonist, he wrote that ten years ago, and the music laid there until it found its performer.

It's a good thing that the performer was found.

Ihor Hnydyn: Yes!

VP: Like Dana said the other night at the concert, 'It's ours, everyone borrowed it from us. Over there the Americans borrowed it, the Japanese say it's theirs, but we all know that it is our own!'

Ihor Hnydyn:

Not something foreign. You said you were in Ireland. What would you say – Celtic music and let's say our Hutsul music, there are certain nuances, there is something particular about them both. Did you ever have that feeling?

Ihor Hnydyn: Yes at one time I really had the opportunity to experience the feeling of real Irish music, when I entered a small out-of-the-way town, but there were a lot of tourists there and I was walking by this pub and I entered it and there I heard.... I don't know what to call their – accordion, it was similar to a bayan, and there this guy was playing Irish music with a flute and guitarist. It really was something to survive through, because there was something incredible there, first of all it included their coloring, at one moment, and I heard so much jazz within, and ... and... in principle you really could compare it to our Hutsul kolomeyky or something similar when they start improvising, because improvisation is strength.

VP: Well we could say that jazz really is improvisation, an individual take some small nuances and begins to build something from it. Nastya I heard this a little last night in your role as pianist and you added something on the synthesizer that really reminded me of the beginning of the 1970s when they really started to make use of that technology. Could you please tell us a little about your vision of ShockolaD and jazz?

Annastasiya Lytvynyuk:
For me ShockolaD in principle now is the embodiment somehow of all my musical views, musical impressions and there I can express myself as a musician in the first place; and... well what is jazz, well that's very... we could sit and talk about it day and night and we could still do not know if we could to come to a complete explanation. But for me personally, it is music, at the given moment, music with such freedom that you can put in anything you want, in principle, because jazz as understanding, because now time has extreme expanses, it can be the ethnos that we personally put into ShokolaD, and it could be academic music or avantgarde music, we can put in anything possible. Regarding piano jazz or regarding my personal improvisations. Right now I am searching for myself searching for my own personal style, even though it is difficult for a young person to do, but thanks to the fact that I had an opportunity to study in Poland, now I am trying to find some of my own personal things that would become recognizable, and I hope that in a certain time I will be able to accomplish this.

VP: Dana actually we met last Sunday at the 20th anniversary concert of Mertviy Piven, and Misko was not mistaken when he told me about your voice. I heard it last Sunday, and I heard it last night. You as a singer have to give something to your audience, and I can see it in the audience, when each individual plays their role but somehow it all comes together as a general work. There were a few times where I would say, 'Dana just a little bit louder, just a wee bit so I could hear you better!' I have it all written down and maybe we can share ideas. What are your next plans for ShockolaD, lets say in the next little... let's say during the summer, because summer is a period which will always exist?

Dana Vynnytska: Thank you for your warm words, now when we are talking about when I sing very quietly, well its because silence is also very strong music and I want to edify the audience so that they also hear that silence. Well regarding our plans with ShockolaD, we are now working on arrangements and texts of works of Polish and Ukrainian authors. Now in particular, in this album POKOSY there is a bonus track which include the song to the text of the poem by Juliusz Slowatski Maty do syna [ed. Mother to son], and now we are completing the composition Rym [ed. Rome] and this summer we plan on putting out,... on creating compositions to the verse of Juliusz Slowatski and we are trying to add the texts of Ihor Bohdan Antonych. Right now we are on a road where we are searching for different poets that inspire us and we are now trying to find that place were there is a crossover between the word, music and improvisation.

VP: Well I would like to thank you all very much that we all got together this early. I remember earlier on Annastasia said, 'Oh my head isn't working yet, but maybe if we have a bit of coffee, everything will work fine!' Because I think that when our listeners in Vancouver will hear the music, listen to the compositions from this disc they will somehow be enthused! I would like to thank you all for your time and I think we will meet again not only on air but maybe our listeners will be here in L'viv and will be able to walk in some place, or maybe somehow sometime we will take you to Canada so that our listeners could hear you and I wish you all the success, prosperity and creativity.

Dana Vynnytska: Thank you very much, and we are our part would like to tell all your listeners that sooner or later we will visit you; [laughs] and we would like to wish them all the very best and more pleasant experiences from Ukrainian music.

So there you have it folks... I think we all went through about two coffees each that morning during the interview. But given that Andriy had his whole kit out and running, remember there was an eight channel mixer, microphones, laptop there on the table, so Yuriy, as a literary critic decided to also hit ShockolaD with a barrage of questions for one of the many projects that these to guys are working on.

Buy the time we were wrapping everything up we realized it was nearly twelve-thirty... Oh how time flies when you are having a great time.

In any case, I chatted with Ihor some more that day, and Markian Ivashchyshyn gave me to the OK to try to organize a second evening for ShockolaD to present their new CD Pokosy in Kyiv. A few hours later as I was going to meet a fellow Rotarian at his office in L'viv, I made a call to Fedir the head honcho at Kupidon in Kyiv.

“Vasyl, what ever it is you want to do, its fine by me,” said Fedir.

After having coffee at Genna's office and chatting about the possibility of getting some things from their Rotary Clubs in L'viv for our Charity Ball, he offered to drop me off where ever need be. I told him Dzyga, as I still had to finalize a few things for ShockolaD. I walked into the back room, where we had done the interview to find Markian and a few others sitting at a table, amongst them VlodKaufman. They were discussing some project, but they invited me to join them, after they finalized some of their matters, I finalized things with Markian regarding ShockolaD and then we just made small talk. I understood that there was a long standing conflict over work done by VlodKaufman for Fedir at Kupidon, but Markian said that if I can work things out with Fedir for ShockolaD, then it would be great. “Vasyliu, as you know, just how much room is there in Baraban, anyway!” God it was good to be in L'viv!

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