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Ivasyuk Pop Song Fest in Chernivtsi

 

The 8th International Festival of Young Pop Singers named after Volodymyr Ivasyuk was held July 11 through July 17 in the Western Ukrainian town of Chernivtsi. Within the framework of the Festival another songfest, Songs for Us to Sing, was launched.

 

It is not accidental that the Festival, which is, in fact, a contest as well, is held in Chernivtsi. The Festival bears the name of Volodymyr Ivasyuk who was born in Chernivtsi and lived there for many years. He was a talented composer, poet and translator. A graduate of a medical school, he was one of those people who seem to feel that they are not destined to live long and they do surprisingly much in a short lifespan allotted them.

Ivasyuk began writing music at the end of the 1960s, at the time when the thaw  a period of time under the premiership of Nikita Khrushchev when a cultural revival was not stamped out and even, to a certain extent, encouraged  was over and the cold winds again began to blow.

It was Ivasyuk who penned Chervona Ruta, the Ukrainian hit of the early 1970s which is still popular thirty years after it was performed for the first time. It is arguably one of the biggest hits in the history of Ukrainian popular music of the second half of the twentieth century.

Ivasyuk was a student of a medical school at the time when he wrote this song. Chervona Ruta was performed publicly for the first time on September 13 1970 when the young and practically unknown composer who had been invited to take part in a TV programme that was broadcast live, began to sing his new song while on the air. A teacher of a teachers training school, Olena Kuznetsova, joined him, and it turned out that the programme was broadcast all over the Soviet Union rather than only to Chernivtsi.

After the broadcast, a local communist party boss called the TV studio and expressed his indignation over the fact that someone totally unknown was allowed to sing a song of a doubtful ideological content, and what made the offence even graver was the fact that this someone was not even a member of the Union of Composers and did not have a higher musical education  and this at the time when there were so many respectable composers, members of the Union who were, of course, better qualified! But the culprits who had allowed such an unpardonable blunder to take place were never punished  hundreds of telephone calls and telegrams and letters began to come to Chernivtsi from all over the country with requests to play the song again, to have the words and notes published, to tell more about Ivasyuk. Chervona Ruta rose swiftly through the charts to become one of the most popular songs of 1970, and was performed live at the Moscow TV Studio Ostankino whose broadcasts were regularly watched all over the Soviet Union. In 1971, another of Ivasyuks songs, Vodohray, was again among the top best songs of the year.

Volodymyr Ivasyuk tragically died in 1979 in mysterious circumstances which were never clarified.

The Festival was initiated by Mykola Mozgovy, a notable Ukrainian composer who now heads the jury. The initiative was supported by Chernivtsis mayor, Mykola Fedoruk, who continues to give his support to the Festival.

The contest itself is held in several stages but at each stage performers must perform songs written by Ivasyuk. This year singers from 5 countries  Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine  took part. For the first time, in addition to individual performers, two bands from Ukraine participated in the contest. No Grand-Prix was awarded this time, with two singers from Moldova  Iryna Kostina and Olena Tryboy  winning the first and third places correspondingly. Nataliya Valevska from Ukraine was awarded the second place. A singer from Romania, Raluka Ciocarlan, shared the third place. Other prizes went to Vesta Kameneva from Belarus, Boika Schereva from Bulgaria, Nazar Savko from Ukraine and the band XXI Stolittya (21st Century).

Iryna Kostina, a singer from Moldova who won the first place, said: I feel honoured to have won a prize here in Ukraine. Ill participate in this contest whenever I can, and Id be happy to be invited not only as a singer but as a member of the jury. The Rumanian singer Raluka Ciocarlan said that she would want her songs to become as popular in Ukraine as they are in Rumania, and that the Festival in Chernivtsi was a good starting point.

The Ivasyuk Festival is much more than just another contest. Musicians, journalists and guests meet each other privately and at social functions and get-togethers, share their impressions and generally have a good time. The general opinion is that East European pop music should be made better known in the world of pop which is dominated by songs sung in English. A gala concert in which many budding and established pop stars took part (Nelly Ciabany from Moldova, Pascal and Sunai Chalakov from Bulgaria, Oleksandr Ponomaryov from Ukraine, Sofia Rotaru from Ukraine, and others), was held on the concluding day of the Festival and it convincingly showed that pop songs sung in Ukrainian and other East-European languages are no worse than current English-language pop songs are.

It was in Chernivtsi that Sofia Rotaru, one of the best known Ukrainian pop stars, began her singing career. Her late husband, Anatoly Yevdokimenko, who also doubled as a musician in his own right and his wifes producer, was born and raised in Chernivtsi. They began their rise to popularity in Chernivtsi back in the early 1970s. Ivasyuks song Chervona Ruta became Rotarus first major hit, becoming her trademark, and she continues to sing this song at her shows.

After the death of Anatoly Yevdokimeko whose loss was grieved both by his wife and Ukrainian music lovers, the street in Chernivtsi where he lived in his young years was renamed to honour him.

 

By Nataliya Rudnichenko

Photos by Vlad Chepurny

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