Our ship has set a course for the west, and this cannot be changed, we have crossed the point of non-return
“We must take responsibility for our history, territory and culture”
Ukraine has set a course for the West not only in politics and economy, but also in culture. However, the Ukrainians still have a lot to do. In particular, create the own cultural and informational space. Well-known Ukrainian artist Oleg Skrypka told about that in an interview with “Fashion of Diplomacy”.
You are on stage for about 30 years. When was it easier to work at the beginning of the career or now?
— Objectively — everything has changed a lot. I have also changed a lot. It is easier for me now therefore I have great experience. Sometimes you go to the stage; there may be problems with sound, fatigue, or anything else. But you’re still singing, doing your part, and the listener is grateful for that.
Where is more grateful listener — in Ukraine or abroad?
— The listeners are grateful when they are in the same cultural context with us. Recently we have played in Israel. The audience that knows all our songs arrived. We have been to America, and there was our audience there too. One American came up to me. He did not speak Ukrainian at all, he had never been to Ukraine and had never heard of it. He came up with the words: “Real rock-and-roll”. This is our audience. Once, we performed at YES conference. There were diplomats of the highest rank. You should have just seen how they lived it up to our music! This is our audience. And sometimes it happens in Ukraine, especially in small towns, when the audience is gathering on the open air grounds, and look at us as at the aliens and falls entirely out of the rock-and-roll context. So-called pop intoxication.
You have been popularizing Ukraine abroad for many years. Do authorities help in this?
— Recently, this year, we performed in the Netherlands, and I have just returned from Mexico. And we can be proud of it, the organizers of the concert, in cooperation with the Diaspora and the Ukrainian Embassy, have done everything well. The Embassy contributed to our performance, and we represented Ukraine well. For the first time this year, I really felt that our state was involved in the process of popularizing Ukraine.
What has changed in Ukrainian culture for 26 years of independence?
— This year I have been to the international forum of professionals of ethnic music in the world — “Vomax”. This year, it was held in Poland. And it immediately catches into the eye: the professionals supported by the state are represented best. I always say: while the state is not fully engaged, will not appreciate in modern way its advantages, weaknesses and will not start a correct, understandable and effective strategy — the intensive development will not begin.
What can you say about your ambitious project “Country of Dreams”?
— Without support of the state, it is also extremely difficult to maintain the livelihoods of this large-scale festival. The project is 14 years old. And honestly, for today, the future of “The Country of Dreams” remains doubtful. Perhaps, in the near future, the vector will be changed.
You have a lot of projects. Which of them is the most native?
— The musical project — Vopli Vidopliasova — it was the start of work on a professional stage for me. Social project “The Country of Dreams”. The festival gave birth to many parallel projects: “Vechornytsi” (“evening parties”), artistic balls, charity events.
Since the beginning of the war in the East, you are demonstrating your active civic stance. Not all fellow workers supported you. Why so?
— The rock scene, by the way, unanimously supports our soldiers. However, this is a personal choice of every person — whether to support Ukraine’s future or take a neutral position. But in fact, it is better to choose the bright future, than to dream of the Soviet past.
People and artists, in particular, have divided. Why so?
— The search for the whipping boy is underway now. And, one of the artists, at times, is wanted to be made such a whipping boy. Someone from Ukraine goes to work to Moscow, someone from Russia or Europe went to earn money in the Crimea… But this is a question, first of all, for diplomats and the government. If the state or society considers such things to be inadmissible, it simply needs to be made impossible. Instead of being in the absolute passivity, putting up the information waves and throwing own helplessness at the artists.
And are we succeeding in building cultural independence now?
— Very slowly. I have recently learned: it turns out that in Georgia, at the legislative level, it was decided to ban low quality music. My friends have recently come back from there. They say: “There is high quality music on the radio”. And this is extremely important!
Just the Georgian one?
— Any! Both Georgian and foreign. You know, this question, first of all, is not about a language, but quality. If our cultural space is with a huge advantage occupied with Russian-language material — it is a matter of quality of our cultural space, security and independence.
How often do you have concerts in the ATO zone?
— I played solo and with the VV for our soldiers, at the front or on the rotary with acoustics. But we always tried to get to the fighters, playing them with high-quality professional sound. Eventually, we implemented this project and in the summer of 2016 “Vopli Vidopliasova” carried out the “Frontline Tour of VV”, speaking to the fighters at the front in Marinka, Konstantynivka and Selidovo. I was having the idea of performing at the front matured for almost two years. Despite Ukrainian fighters, many civilians gathered. These people are real patriots. They are striving to listen to Ukrainian music, watching Ukrainian cinema, hearing their native language. In conversations, they honestly acknowledge how much they lack it. For a long time I have not seen such spiritual unity, as during our VV frontline tour.
What is retained in the memory from such concerts?
— Looks. Handshake. The guys who saw the war do not speak much. They are used to act. Life sets everything clearly there: there is friend and foe; there is white and black; to save life or lose it. When they say “thank you” after the concert — this is a great thank you. We were scared here, in the rear, especially at the beginning of the war. But when you meet the soldiers — it becomes calm. You gain confidence from them. You know personally those people who are on your side who are protecting your peace and the ability to create.
And is this change felt in the mentality of the Ukrainians?
— People have changed. I see everything in the context of aesthetics. As for me, the West is aesthetic, and the East — in the form of Russia — is brutal. The Ukrainians have become more aesthetic.
You actually revived the anthem of the OUN “We Were Born at the Great Epoch.” What was the reaction?
— We, the Ukrainians, and about time too, should have been writing modern history and getting priorities straight in our history. In the Soviet times, we had a propaganda version of our past; today we have to take responsibility for our history.
You say that we need to take responsibility for our history. Where this should be manifested in?
— In actions. We must stop crying. The Ukrainians, on the one hand, are very lyrical, romantic, and this is good for art, but for the state creation — it is ineffective. Foreigners say: “Why didn’t you protect your Crimea? Why did you allow entering your home? Why do we have to be pitiful to you if you did not protect yourselves?“. And we: “Please pity us and do all the dirty work for us”. Nobody will do that for us. They are just looking at us like at infantile people. We must grow up, be responsible for our history, territory, culture, for our songs and for the country of our future, where our children will live.
I want to ask a question, you are asked, probably, by everyone: why do you love Ukraine? After all, you are not of Ukrainian descent.
— Ukraine is cultural, historical jewelry, which at first sight is invisible, sometimes deeply hidden. It needs to be extracted, washed, cleaned and used. I, like many other artists, just feel the value, the beauty of Ukraine. There is such a sense of historical justice, curiously enough; there is a large deficit of Ukrainian things in Ukraine. We, the Ukrainians, must justly have our own ballet, jazz, painting, theatre, Ukrainian operetta, cuisine and much more. This is historical justice. Feeling that potential, I realize how much more good things can be done.
Share your plans for the next year
— As for VV — it is to write a new album. Now we are considering how to conduct the “The Country of Dreams” festival at a high level.
What can you advise the Ukrainians before Christmas and New Year holidays?
— I want to wish to the Ukrainians merry holidays. The holiday is born in the heart, somewhere in the soul. It must be shared with the own relatives. I wish we spent the holiday with our relatives, shared good emotions with friends.
I think 2018 will be the beginning of a new era in Ukraine. It is necessary for us to take this responsibly and to understand — everything depends on us. We can build a new, beautiful country. And for this we need to understand who we are, to move forward bravely, to be progressive, and then we will definitely make a beautiful Ukraine, and we will be consuming the fruits of our own work within the lifetime.