Recently, the singer came to Den-TV studio for recording of a new program. The first part of the program is already available for viewing on our website. Here is an extended version of the conversation that took place at the studio.
Jamala, please, tell us about your new video U Oseni Tvoi Hlaza (Fall Has Your Eyes).
“This video is different from all the previous ones. The director and author of the idea is Viktor Vilks, known for his unconventional vision. He worked with Zemfira, B-2, and Mummi Trol. After all, I like the fact that the video turned out to be non-straightforward, it doesn’t rely only on the lyrics. Some will see elements from Tim Burton films in it, others – Alice in Wonderland, and there will still be those who will come up with something of their own.”
In two episodes you are dancing tango quite professionally. Did you dance before or did you take dance classes?
“When I was six I briefly attended ballroom dancing classes. And for the video the dance was set by a professional choreographer Oleksandr Kamniev. I am very proud that I performed all the elements without a double. I get a lot of positive feedback exactly for this part of the video.”
Jamala, you supported Ukrainian athletes – Viacheslav Uzelkov and Volodymyr Klitschko, performing the national anthem in the ring. What did it mean for you?
“Initially, there was no difference for me about WHERE to sing the anthem. WHAT I was singing was more important for me. I knew and was aware at every moment that I was performing the anthem. This is something that unites people, this is what unites the nation. This is something that every person, who considers himself to be a Ukrainian, must know and love. So I took it very seriously. I wanted to cry every second because I was aware of what each word meant. People say that our anthem is aggressive, written in surzhyk (mixed Russian-Ukrainian dialect), and unkind – I put it all aside. I took the notes, took the lyrics and I got a desire to feel it in a new way. I decided to take it from a philosophical point of view: it’s a folk song. Yes, it has the author of lyrics and music, but it has to be performed by people anyway. I decided to make it sound truly lyrical. One line in one tone, another in a different tone – the way I would have performed it for my family, since it has been associated with much pathos. If you’d start asking all the people in this building, probably, not all of them know the lyrics by heart. And it’s not good. There is something that pushes people away. That’s why I wanted to sing it with all my heart.
“The first time, I did not really care about the place where I was singing. But the second time I was sure aware that I was singing in the heart of Russia and Vladimir Putin was present there (even though the TV cameras did not show him). Crimean Tatar singer performing Ukrainian anthem in Moscow. I don’t know, how much strength one would need to cope with the feeling. I am not Ukrainian by nationality, but I am a Ukrainian citizen. I must sing ‘…Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate shall smile once more.’ I felt a mixed feeling of fear, anxiety, and super-patriotism.”
You once said that you want to record an international album of folk music so that it would not be perceived as a CD with wedding songs. Why is this happening and what can be done about it?
“I really want our nation to be European. Although we keep saying that we want to be a part of Europe, but first we must change our mentality. We have stopped at some point and there is no self-development. Of course, there are people who can’t afford self-education. But saying ‘I don’t know that’ in a time when the world is open does not indicate very high intelligence. Why our people are less educated? That’s because we are moving further away from Europe, where it has always been easier, since they never had Soviet regime and other obstacles that we had. They have constantly been evolving, and they never lagged. Things were more difficult in our part of the world, because at some point we had very rapid growth – in poetry, in literature, and in music, and then it all stopped. Now we have to catch up. We became ‘light’ and not-thinking. It is easier for us to swallow something obvious, when there is no need to reflect upon it, than to go to a theater or watch some good film. This makes me sad. We now live by reposting information and hitting ‘likes’ – our life pretty much depends on it. Thus, puppies and kittens are more important than a new book. Everybody’s sharing in social networks but no one has an opinion of their own.
“Roughly speaking, if opera is replaced by operetta in the world opera houses, it means degradation of the audience. People think about how to earn money, attract the audience – thus, to make people come you need to provide something ‘light’ and easy to understand. This is a global trend. But the fact that we need to be more hard-working and more intelligent than Europeans is obvious. We need to become that in order to be heard, to be competitive. Young Ukrainians should learn more languages, they should read more and be more active in order to be adequately represented at the world market!
“Ukrainian people are very kind and talented. But at some point something happens, at the age of 30 I still can’t figure out where exactly there is the gap, but I am working on it. I don’t understand why people find my album All or Nothing extremely complex and jazz? Yes, there is English in there. By using a foreign language I cut off a great part of my audience. I am looking for a right way to create Ukrainian music. I write Ukrainian (!) music – no matter in what language: Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian, or Russian. I have recently finished a song, which will appear next after “U Oseni Tvoi Hlaza” – “Chomu Kvity Maiut Ochi?” (Why Do Flowers Have Eyes?):
Why do flowers have eyes?
Why do they voice prophecy?
Don’t we hear when trouble
Has already stretched its wings?
“That is, we have become so selfish and lonely in our problems that we really only start hearing when it bangs on our head, then, perhaps, we would understand that something needs to be done. You cannot blame everyone around you – you must first begin with yourself. And that’s what I am doing every day. Don’t stop exploring yourself and your environment – then, there is a chance that something might happen in our country.”
Why do Ukrainian people start to be proud of their compatriots only after their success abroad?
“It’s all mentality. We must either fight or tolerate it, I do not know. Even if we would take the example of this boxing match: Klitschko won – hooray! What more do you need dear people? Why are you nagging about the way he won? Why are you looking for some flaws, when the merits are much greater? This is our mentality – an inferiority complex. The same in music. For example, you release a new album and right away there are comments that it is 100 percent similar to something else. What is it similar to? However, these people don’t have enough intelligence to point out to what it is similar to. We don’t fully realize that we have an independent country. Rejoice, we live in independent Ukraine! What else do we need?! We are doing fine: we have our own politicians, our own athletes (who, in fact, could represent any other country of the world, under any flag, but they chose Ukraine). We really have a great number of people who make our country famous without asking anything in return, but we don’t know how to be happy about it.
“Why is there no love for national colors, flag, anthem, and other things? Because it is not cultivated. For example, while abroad, many (myself included) are willing to buy a T-shirt with British or American flag. It is considered to be stylish. But how did it become so? Through promotion. Some of the public figures put a T-shirt like that on, it was well used in some film, an interesting photo shoot was made. Our combination of colors (and I can say that with full authority as a double nominee for ELLE Style Award and Best Fashion Award) is incredibly stylish, that’s why I wanted to emphasize this in the ring.
“We have talented photographers, designers, operators, musicians who are really competitive with their European colleagues. You know, for me it was a revelation and affirmation of the faith in what’s Ukrainian, when I first got acquainted with Ukrainian cinema. It was exactly a year ago in Kharkiv on the set of the film Povodyr, abo Kvity Maiut Ochi (The Guide or Flowers Have Eyes) directed by the Ukrainian filmmaker Oles Sanin, in which I played the leading female part. I began to love all that’s Ukrainian even more. How talented our costume designer Halyna Otenko is! Her dressing room has more than 23,000 costumes, French film directors often work with her. There are very talented people in Ukraine! Love them and believe in them, because otherwise they would leave. And until we can fix this issue in our mentality, in our heads, we will never succeed.”
See the next part of the program with Jamala on Den-TV to find out more about music “piracy,” the image of a singer and role model for young people, and also about how to raise a child to be free inside.