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Ruslana the pop singer: born to be wild

 

Ruslana made a splash sending waves of excited energy across the pop world and gracefully surfing these waves. She has become a major pop star and has not succumbed to the star-sickness, remaining as wild as she has ever been.

 

Ruslana Lyzhychko, the Ukrainian pop singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest last year with her Wild Dances, continues to live at a wild pace. She is never at rest; she is always on the move, meeting people, talking things over while she moves from place to place. Even while she is having a meal in a restaurant, she discusses new ideas that emerge in her head on the mobile phone. And ideas come into her head a dozen a minute, they boil over and inundate the whole space around her. This energetic woman of a small stature with a sunny smile on her lips, and the midriff fashionably bared, welcomes people, embraces friends, fires questions, makes requests that sound like orders, and signs autographs, all at the same time.

Ruslana was interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO, Senior Editor of Mizhnarodny Turyzm magazine.

 

At what point in your life you are now, at the time when you are giving this interview?

At a recent press conference which was devoted to my fund-raising concert that is to take place shortly before the Eurovision Song Contest in May this year, I explained that this concert was being organized jointly with the Chornobyl Children Fund, and that all the proceeds will be forwarded to health-improvement and rehabilitation centres in Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk. I think its high time rich people in Ukraine started contributing more to charity, the way it is done in the west. As far as I am concerned myself, charity is not just words  I pay regular visits to the education and rehabilitation centre Dzherelo in Lviv and help with what I can. Ive made friends with many of the children who stay at the centre, and they confide in me.

Ive more or less took stock of the general situation in this country and of my personal situation. My life has been very hectic since last years Eurovision contest in Istanbul, but things are gradually getting to be more organized. All in all the past twelve months have been very fruitful. Weve firmly established ourselves in the European show biz industry and now we must produce even more powerful material. We are ambitious and have enough potential to move forward. We are working for the future, and not just resting on the laurels. We have great ideas for new shows, new arrangements, new songs and costumes.

In other words, you continue to be as creative as ever.

Right. The main thing for me is not to succumb to pressure, and not to adjust to some stereotypes. Such attempts were made both in Europe and America by producers, but I staunchly defended my ideas at all the stages of work  in the recording studio and during filming of videos. Incidentally, my sticking to my guns generated much respect in the west.

Did your experience of winning last years Eurovision come in handy this year when this years contest was being organized?

Yes, it did. The whole team  about thirty people in all  that ensured last years victory was engaged in preparatory work for this years contest. They know whats to be done and how its be done. It is thanks to them that I won last year. I love all of them. Maybe their names are not well known, they keep a low profile but they have done a lot to make Ukraine better known in the world and to get its image improved. And there were no particularly great rewards that they reaped for their efforts.

The presidential election campaign and the Orange Revolution must have interfered with the preparations for the Eurovision contest, but evidently did not disrupt them.

There were some technical delays but all in all the Orange Revolution gave an ideal background for the Eurovision contest. It would have been a bad idea if the contest had been held in a country so little known in the world as Ukraine was before the Orange Revolution. Now, thanks to the revolution, Ukraine has become much better known as a big European independent country, with strong political aspirations and great historical traditions, and not just part of the former Soviet Union where the Chornobyl disaster occurred. Now, thanks to the changes that have taken place in Ukraine, it has become prestigious to hold the Eurovision Song Contest in this country!

What are the chances for Ukraine to win the contest again?

I do hope GreenJolly will do fine, and I wish them success, but there are many other strong contestants and  I do not want to make any predictions. Well see.

Were you invited to help GreenJolly in their preparations for the contest?

No, I was not. In fact, Ive never met them though I did sing their hit song, Together we are many, on Maydan. They do have a great potential but whether it is realized will depend on what happens when they appear on stage.

Lately, youve been travelling and touring a lot, giving press conferences and meeting people. What have you gained in these travels?

Two main things  experience and passing the loyalty test. Experience is not something that you can gain sitting at home. Ive learnt a lot of things about the world and its ways. In some countries Ive become quite well-known. In Turkey, for example, they gave me the Person of the Year Award which is usually given only to the Turks  and Im a foreigner. Also, in Turkey they welcomed me with a huge picture made of flowers which said, in letters made of flowers too, Ruslana, we love you! In Israel, Greece, and Cyprus I was given a very warm reception, and in Germany, Sweden and Belgium there are many Ruslana fan clubs. Ive established good relations with journalists and even with some officials. Ive been given presents; Ive received invitations to come to stay at resorts as a way of appreciation.

And the second major gain  successful passing of the loyalty test. As an international star I could have an international set of star musicians and a corresponding backup group. There were many proposals made to this effect, but for me it was important to keep my own team together, to preserve our collective energy. We passed a tough test in Istanbul, both in the physical and psychological sense. Nobody complained. The people on my team were much more than performers and backers  they were indispensable. Im very sorry my husband, Oleksandr Ksenofontov who is also my producer, could not be with me in Istanbul  at that time he had a lot of things to attend to in Ukraine and could not join me.

Which music  apart of your own, of course  do you like best?

I like what is these days called ethnic music  folk music of Serbia, Turkey, Moldova, Rumania, Hungary puts me in a trance. But lately Ive begun listening to classical music too  after all, I was educated at a music conservatory! Verdis Requiem, Brahms Second Concerto for the Piano and Orchestra, Beethoven  but everybody likes him. And also I like hard rock, real hard.

Did you get to meet any celebrities, prominent figures or stars?

I did. Celine Dion was one of them. I met many stars in Las Vegas, at the awards presentation ceremony when I won the World Music Award as a pop singer who had sold the greatest number of CDs with her music outside her country. I got to meet high ranking officials too at all kinds of receptions. Ive struck up a warm friendship with Vytautas Landsbergis, the first president of independent Lithuania. He gave me a lot of good advice and was helpful in letting the west better understand what was going on in Ukraine I keep in touch with Volodymyr and Vitaly Klychko. Im their fan, and they are my fans.

What were your general impressions of Europe?

Europe seems to be too content and complacent. In America I felt a much greater wish for experiment, for new material to work with.

What kinds of things were you asked about on your visits to foreign countries?

All kinds of things about Ukraine  Ukrainian illegal immigrants; prostitutes, multi-vector foreign policies of the previous government The image of Ukraine was badly tarnished and I had to explain a lot. I had to be well prepared for press conferences and meetings. Everywhere I was expected to tell as much as possible about Ukraine. I was asked about the Ukrainian young people, their goals and aspirations, about my attitude to the Ukrainian prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, about my assessment of Yushchenko as president, and a lot of other things, but there were many things that I expected would be asked but were not  simply because people in the west still know very little about Ukraine. Most often I was asked, Tell us something  anything, about Ukraine. There were many words of encouragement. It was very nice to hear, You, Ukrainians, are so honest, persevering, friendly and generous

I did my best to project a positive image of Ukraine. I tried to be as close to the people as I could, in the physical sense, not hiding behind the backs of my bodyguards, but a couple of times things got real tough  I was nearly mobbed by fans who seemed to want to tear off pieces of my clothes to take away as souvenirs!

How does Ukraine look to you after all your travels?

I began to understand the Ukrainian mentality and psychology much better. And I saw how beautiful my country is. The Carpathians and the Crimea are the places which are not inferior in any way to the best resort areas in the world  as far as the natural conditions are concerned. We do have to greatly improve our tourist facilities and then well have millions of tourists coming I think my victory at the Eurovision Song Contest changed the attitude of Ukrainians to their own pop music. They saw that their songs are no worse than foreign pop songs, they are even better. Before 2004, many of our pop singers thought the only way to success lay through Moscow, but now they understand there are other ways.

Didnt you go to Moscow to perform?

Never, but my album Wild Dances is selling well there. The success at the Eurovision Song Contest was really a breakthrough. It gave us new ambitions and we know now that no goal is too ambitious.

You often repeat that you want to remain free, natural and wild. But dont all these tours and professional engagements encroach upon your freedom?

Ive chosen to be a pop singer and it means I have little of what maybe called free time. But by saying I want to remain wild I mean that I will remain what I am without betraying my principles.

Do you think youll preserve your wild image throughout your career?

Im a person who is experimenting and fantasizing all the time. The energy of the Carpathian folk culture and music gives me a great many ideas and it will take many albums to get these ideas implemented in music. And I think the spirit of Wild Dances, the spirit of freedom and naturalness will stay with me forever.

 

Photographs are from Ruslanas archives

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