Monday, 8 March 2010

MAMA DIASPORA IN PAPA KYIV: Extra Classy Performance from Mama Diaspora featuring Yuriy Gurzhy and The Unforgettable Scratchy

"… nasha mama---Diaspora!!!..."
from “Dogs were barking” on Gogol Bordello’s album
Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike

Photos kindly provided by Alexej Zaika

Flying in from St Petersburg to Kyiv, I had an interesting conversation on the plane with a neighbour, very educated and intelligent person, on how profoundly lost the Ukrainian culture was and how deep the cultural crisis in Ukraine was. An argument from my counterpart was that there was never such a thing as Ukrainian musical culture and even if one would say that there was something in that culture - it has never produced anything interesting or arguably important. Another argument from my counterpart was that certain acts from the musical groups existing in Ukraine never had any importance on the European continent or anywhere abroad, followed world music trends, were of low quality (example of Eurovision participants) and were largely local events known only to a limited number of persons, with no major influence on music trends. Knowing a lot about Kyiv, born in Kyiv myself and being from the very childhood at the roots of underground music movement in Ukraine, I disagreed, trying not to use any “trumps” - origins and roots of such a world famous act as Gogol Bordello (I try not to use the “Gogol Bordello argument” in such conversations for many reasons).
My arguments were that the massive “pop” culture existing in Ukraine is publicly visible, but this culture is an empty soap bubble, music with no content and soul, that is rather likely to disappear soon, without any historical trace. It will disappear as a soap bubble that is not able to fly up even by itself as it can only follow the strong wind of euro-pop or Russian pop musical trends. The ideas behind it always being borrowed. Nevertheless, I mentioned that among these empty soap bubbles, appearing and disappearing almost immediately, there are "shiny pearls" in Ukrainian music that can satisfy even the most demanding and exquisite tastes of musical “gourmand” and “connoisseurs”.
My argument, which failed orally before stubborn “airplane seat neighbour”, was proven to the public attending the Stare Misto Underground Pre-Party at Sullivan’s, by DJ Scratchy, a person who definitely has a taste in music (a tour DJ for Clash, the Pogues and Gogol Bordello - and who considers that there are pearls in Ukrainian music that form a part of The Rock and The Roll of The World music culture. I personally felt from his live DJ performance that he came to Ukraine not just to play the Ukrainian music he loves, but to share his admiration for this music, to get a feel of Kyiv and Ukraine “backstage”. At some point I even thought that he came to return to Kyiv as it seemed like he was always here before, so harmoniously he acted and played his music before the audience and so nicely he got in rapport with his fellow musicians from Ukraine - Yuriy and Mama Diaspora.
Another “control shot” repartee against arguments discussed with my unfortunate incidental airplane companion was performance Mama Diaspora that could have finalised the dispute and rule in my favour confirming that there are any newly emerging musical pearls in Ukraine that do not follow the “world music trends”, Russian pop music trends or anything of a kind, as my neighbour insisted, but create trends in music themselves.
Mama Diaspora project ( is the recent collaboration of talented Kyiv musicians Mama Diaspora (Kyiv-born patriarch of the Ukrainian club scene DJ Ivan Derbastler and Igor Sakach, musician of Rusyn origin from Novy Sad, aka DJ Ingvo) and Yuriy Gurzhy (Kharkiv-born musician and DJ, a founder of Berlin-based group Rot Front and the originator and co-founder of Russendisko and Shtetl Superstars Orchestra). This collaboration until now resulted in their first EP with the same name – Mama Diaspora feat. Yuriy Gurzhy. This recording features four tracks “Back in my hometown”, “Secret agent”, “Too late” and “The House is Burning” – all of them trendy magic grooves, coupled with rhythmic jazzy sounds, simply beautiful and touchingly sharp lyrics and vocals by Yuriy Gurzhy. The live set performed by Mama Diaspora and Yuriy in Sullivan room on 5 March was different from the recording as it involved live trumpet performance by Zhenya Didyk (he originates from Moldova and used to be a part of such acts as Haydamaky and Zdobsi Zdub, he also collaborated with Ruslana recording horn sections for her).
From their solid performance, involving a mix of live dj-mixing from DJ Derbastler, guitar from Igor, trumpet from Zhenya, vocals from Yuriy Gurzhy, we saw and witnessed emergence of a new musical trend, which goes beyond any existing styles. The style that cannot be easily defined standing alone or as fitting or belonging to one of the musical categories - to ethnic dub or electronica, Balcana, Carpathian or Ukrainian music style, or even funky and groovy jazz. However, that undefined in terms magnificent mixture made my feet move and gave me that sweet soul ache that I have not experienced since I fell in love when I was 16.
One might say, why is this example at all related to the Ukrainian musical scene? The persons involved in this project are barely linked to Ukraine – one is a resident musician in Berlin, the other is of Rusyno-Serbian origin, Zhenia who played live with Mama is from Moldova? What unites them? My answer would be simple – Kyiv. And isn’t Kyiv something very Ukrainian? Isn’t it the CITY that, notwithstanding and despite any kind of attempts to destroy and ruin it and its culture, for almost two thousand years traditionally mixed, consumed and then reproduced various cultures, making them its own, distinct and profoundly original Kyiv culture? And in fact isn’t it why we all love Kyiv? Does Kyiv not resemble a magnificent old sweet granddaddy who nurtured so many wonderful musicians, poets, writers and simply great talented people from everywhere - who indeed became a part of Kyiv Diaspora?
My airplane counterpart was simply not right about Ukraine, Kyiv and its culture. Kyiv definitely resembles that gentle invisible giant whom you can feel anywhere when you are there. Kyiv is old and wise and is always right in selecting who to share its treasures with - my neighbour was not one of these persons. Kyiv continues to be discreet with nurturing its pearls and telling to strangers about them, but Mama Diaspora’s collaboration with Yuriy Gurzhy is not yet another, but one more beautiful musical pearl kindly shared with us by Papa Kyiv, which we all had an opportunity to witness and admire closely at Sullivan’s Club on 5 March 2010.

specially for
Extra Estrada music blog

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