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Golden Voice plus Passion
The Ukrainian pop singer ZLATA OGNEVICH has won the right to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest 2013. I hope, says Marysya GOROBETS who interviewed the singer for WU Magazine, that her musicality and verve will bring her victory at the contest, thus contributing to making Ukraine and her native Crimea a bit better known in the world.
I met Zlata Ognevich shortly after she had won the Ukrainian competition to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Malmo, Sweden, in May 2013. She was open and relaxed, and well disposed to the interviewer. She talked about her family, her native Crimea, and, of course her musical tastes. I felt that if not for her being pressed for time, we could have talked for much longer.
— Is Zlata Ognevich your stage name?
— Yes, it is.
— Why did you choose to make it sound with a Balkan ring?
— It was a collective search of my team and me. There is indeed a bit of the Balkans in my blood — hence Zlata (this Slavic word has associations with “gold”), and “Ognevych” should suggests my fiery nature (the Slavic root “ogn” suggests “fire” – ed.).
— Could you say a few words about your parents, your ethnic background?
— My mother hails from Eastern Russia — she came to live in Kryvyi Rih, in Ukraine, with her mother, so that is my grandmother who was originally from Western Ukraine. On my father’s side among my ancestors were Italians and Serbs. Quite a fiery mixture. My grandfather on my father’s side is from the south of Ukraine — his grandfather was an Italian. It’d be fun to get in touch with my relatives abroad.
— Is your gift of singing, you think, connected with your Italian ancestry? On the other hand, Ukrainians are people who love singing as well.
— I know that my paternal grandmother had a nice coloratura soprano and she was even invited to come to Kyiv to study at the music conservatory and sing in a famous choir— but she refused saying that she wanted to devote herself to her family. I think it was her gift of singing that I inherited. I heard it’s said that those who are of a mixed ethnicity are usually talented. If it’s true, then my gift may have come to me from Italians, Ukrainians and Serbs.
— Your parents live in the Crimea, don’t they? How often do you visit them?
— Yes, they live in the Crimea, and the last time I went to see them was in the summer of 2012. I went with a friend of mine — we had a nice time in the Crimea. Such a respite from the urban pressures of Kyiv!
— Which traits, you think, have you inherited from your parents?
— It’s hard for me to judge… My father is strict but supportive. He likes order in everything, and my mother is a creatively gifted and romantic person.
— How long had you lived in the Crimea before you moved to other places?
— I spent fifteen years of my life in the Crimea. I grew up there, I discovered my music talent there. When you live among the mountains, when you look at the sea, when you watch storms, you feel and admire the power and might of the nature.
There are several places in the Crimea that I love. I know many Crimean legends. I even took some of our guests on guided tours. At a place called Mellas, there is a very curiously shaped mountain — Mount Dragon which does look like a winged dragon. Not far from Simferopol, in the mountains, there are caves. My favorite cave is called Emine Bayir Khosar which in the Tartar language means “Girl’s Headscarf”. There is an underground river that flows through the cave. Being there makes your fantasy fly. Mount Sokil, not far from the town of Novy Svit, is on the top of my favorite places’ list. I like to climb to the very top of the mountain and stay there for some time looking at the world below me, enjoying the views that open up from there — distant sea, meandering roads. To go there is best at the end of summer when the herbs are particularly fragrant. And after a rain, the climb through the sea of grass is something magical…
— You’d make a good tourist agent promoting the beauties of the Crimea! Oh, I remembered — you’ve been chosen to be “the face of Crimea”! What does such a title entail?
— To promote the Crimea! To talk about it to the mass media, to take part in photo sessions devoted to the Crimea with its gorgeous landscapes as the background.
The Crimea attracts not only by its southern coats beaches — here are mountains to explore! Hikes, living in tents, bicycling! There is a great tourist potential in the Crimea. But of course services must be improved. The current minister of tourism in the Crimea Oleksandr Liev is doing a lot to develop the tourist business. I help with whatever I can.
— Which dishes of the Crimean or Ukrainian cuisine would you advise foreigners to try?
— Oh, there are too many dishes to choose from! From among the Crimean dishes I would probably suggest lagman — a sort of soup with noodles and minced meat and potatoes. And from the Ukrainian dishes — varenyky (stuffed dumplings) stuffed with sour cherries and served with thick sour cream!
— In which languages do you sing your songs?
— Italian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Russian, Georgian and French. There is one thing which I sing in Thai. Incidentally, Thailand is a country where I go quite often.
— Do you like it there?
— I sure do! I’ve been to many places abroad but I like Thailand best. I love their cuisine — dishes are very hot, they put fire into your blood. The sea is always warm and clean, seafood is delicious, and the people are always smiling.
— Is there a place where you’ve not been yet but would like to go to?
— Oh, there are quite a few of such places. I’ve seen a documentary called Baraka that takes you to many parts of the world — and India is one of the places I’d love to go to.
— Do you believe in reincarnation? If so — what do you think you were in your previous lives?
— Reincarnation? Well, probably I was, in one of my reincarnations, connected with art. I often dream of art galleries. Or I could have been a designer or an architect. I like fancy buildings and fancy interiors too… I sort of believe that your soul chooses, before birth, the parents who will bring the soul into this world.
— But in this life you are a singer! Was it the first time that you took part in the competition for being chosen to represent your country at the Eurovision song contest?
— No, it was the third time. The two previous times were not without some problems and I had my doubts whether I should take part in such a competition again. I was not sure we’d be able to get everything right but my fears proved to be groundless. We had enough time to prepare well for the competition which was held at the Pershy Kanal TV station. Even though we were not sure we would get a massive support of the viewers but we did! We were ahead of other competitors by quite a wide margin.
— There are certain requirements one must meet to take part in Eurovision contests — have you done everything that is needed in this respect?
— Yes, we have. Among other things we did, we invited people to come up with ideas about videos and anything else, and we had loads of suggestions.
— What is your Eurovision song about?
— It’s called “Gravity”. This song has an interesting musical and poetic message which suggests that in the present-day world girls carry a heavy burden and balance between femininity and being strong. I sing about us being like butterflies that flutter above the blade of a sword and are attracted by the light. What I sing about is close to my heart.
— Do you think that it’s what really is happening in your life? Do you accept it?
— There are things in life that I do not like but then I understand that not everything in life happens the way we want it to happen — but I accept that. Not every one of those who you are to work with is to your liking but I try to look for positive things in order not hurt people’s feelings.
— I understand that you work hard.
— There are days when I have to work a lot almost without sleep — filming, interviews and again filming. Sometimes I feel like I am a robot rather than a human being.
— Are you planning any promo tours to make your Eurasian song better known?
— Yes, I am planning to tour some European countries and post-soviet countries as well. I’ll have the song played by radio stations. In March, the song will be officially released as a studio recording. It will have an unusual introduction and it will have other things in it that will make it easily recognizable.
— Your producer Mykhailo Nekrasov was the one who helped Ruslana (the Ukrainian pop singer who won the Eurovision song contest in 2004 – ed.). Does it give you an extra bit of hope that you’ll be as successful?
— We are working hard to win. I’m geared to do my best on the Eurovision stage. But there are a lot of unexpected things that happen at Eurovision song contests. But we shall do our absolute best — and will keep our fingers crossed.
Mykhailo Nekrasov is a talented producer. He knows how to create an atmosphere of friendly relations among the people involved. Some producers look upon the singers as pieces of material to be used and then to be thrown away. But Nekrasov is different — he makes me want to sing, and when I sing I know who I am singing for. He is a good composer too — and he is prepared to work night and day to get exactly what I need. We both are perfectionists and that sometimes creates problems. We have disagreements but we always find compromises. I’m grateful to him for showing me the way. Sometimes I put too much emphasis on the vocals and he reminds me that I want to be a musician among vocalists — and that’s what I’m trying to achieve.
— Could you elaborate on that?
— There are many of those who are fine vocalists but the number of true musicians among them is much smaller. I think that Sting and Adele are such musicians among the vocalists.
— What do you think of the latest trends in pop music? The internet does a lot to promote them — what do you think of Lana Del Ray, for example?
— I think that Adele is the singer of yesterday, of today and of tomorrow. Lana Del Ray is cool but she seems to be hardly more than a passing rage. Both Sting and Adele are above the fashion of today and that is why I find them so attractive.
— Do you follow the high fashion trends in clothes?
— I do not follow the high fashion trends very closely and may not know the name of the designer of the latest haute couture show. But I like Balmain a lot, and I worked with such Ukrainian fashion designers as Olesya Telizhenko Viktoriya Nekrasova. I like Lilya Poustovit’s designs and I would like to work with her.
— And who is designing your dress for the Eurovision song contest shows?
— Anzhela Lysytsya has been working on it but there’s still no final design. I think it will be a dress which will not be too traditional or too feminine. It should be not glamorous but trendy, youthful, it should reflect my mood.
— Which advantages over other participants do you think you may have?
— I do not want to talk about it now — I don’t want to listen to potential competitors sing, I do not want to compare, but I do hope that the singer Zlata Ognevich will be noticed and appreciated at the Eurovision song contest shows as a singer who upholds the high standards of world music.
— You will represent Ukraine — what, in your opinion, should attract foreign tourists to our country?
— I think it’s the sincerity and naturalness. People of Ukraine are hospitable, friendly, our food is natural and delicious and the country itself is big and beautiful.
— I know we’ll win!