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Strings of Russian Guitar in Amsterdam
There is a park in the South-East of Amsterdam with a huge lake right in its centre, full of clean clear water, named Gaasperplas. Pikes, eels, sanders, tenches and even big crawfish live there and it is widely known, that they live only on clean water. I thought this was symbolic – fidelity and love also live only in clear relationships. There are meadows near the lake, and the Russian community in the Netherlands has held festive events in it for the third time already. Creator and organizer of the festival and the host of “Russian Guitar” Programme Elena Kuzmina tells:
– Our festival’s name is a bit conventional, because it is a cultural event of the entire Russian-speaking diaspora, living in the Netherlands, and not only here. People come from Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, France. All the willing are invited to perform: guitarists, bards, singers, ensembles, poets, wizards, dancers, artists, stand-up comedians, cooks, dj’s, photographers. Our people in the Netherlands are exclusively talented, so there are more than enough performers.
I would not cope all by myself – people help me. First of all – NCRC (Netherlands Council of Russian Compatriots), a coordinating non-commercial organization. Our compatriot Kristina Shmidt is its leader. Second, it is Embassy of the Russian Federation, represented by cultural attaché Yuryi Uraksin. I’d like to thank these people and also other employees of NCRC and of the embassy for their assistance in organizing large-scale events for our compatriots. We created a logo together with artist Elena Boom-Dmitrieva. Dutch Wim van den Brink bought equipment for the festival at his own expense last year.
This year, we have nice merchandise t-shirts and pins. In honour of Family, Love and Fidelity Day, we ordered medals for couples, who have been married for over 25 years. At first, we planned to grant them at the festival, but our plans changed, and those couples were invited to the embassy at The Hague, where they granted the tokens at a special ceremony, organized for them.
The festival was really international – the singers and performers used different languages: Russian, English, Latvian, Dutch, Ukrainian, Kazakh. Uzbek Bakhadyr Uzakov cooked a delicious Uzbek pilaf, using a Tashkent recipe. Dancer Armish, who lives in the Netherlands but has Armenian background, taught us a Greek dance “mafromaka”.
What did the artists sing about? About love, of course. Bard Vera Borisovskaya sang the classics of the genre: songs of Bukat Okudzhava, Ada Yakusheva, famous Yuriy Vizbor’s song “You Are the Only One”. She also sang her own song “Listening to the Rain”. This song and one more named “Pigeons in the Sky” were broadcast in Tatiana Vizbor’s programme at the “Silver Rain” radio station. Vera has recently visited Paris, where she performed at the Russian Singer-Songwriter club. That’s what she tells:
– It was a great reception in Paris, I am considering going there, as they are inviting again. I met great people, living in France and Russia. Look who I took to Holland – Svetlana Tyurina (introduces a smiling woman with a round kind face). Svetlana is from Tver, she leads a children’s singer-songwriter club ”Pearl” there, plays flute and guitar, sings well. We will be singing and playing in duo here (smiles).
Svetlana Tyurina performed a children’s song “Lollipop” with lyrics by Viktor Tretyakov. The song is written on behalf of a four-year-old boy, who is plushing through puddles of water with a lollipop under his cheek, smiling to passers-by and holding his mom’s and dad’s hands – a picture of family happiness. The song perfectly suited the family holiday atmosphere, where there were many kids there and it was to be seen – they literally jumped on the grass and their faces were glowing with joy! After that, Svetlana sang “Amazon” and “Let’s Exclaim”, making the entire meadow sing.
Honoured artist of the Russian Federation Elena Bazhenova, who has a unique silvery mezzo-soprano, performer of classic and folk songs, performed Russian romances. Our mothers, grandmothers and even grandgrand-grandmothers sang “Do not Go Away, My Love”, “Only Once We Meet in Life”, and ”Wicket”, which was first published in 1898. And the listeners sang along, as many know these song from their childhood, they heard these songs numerous times at family holidays at home, in Russia.
Angela Zhuravleva sang a song “Love and Kindness” and declared poems about family happiness. Yuliana Slavinskaya added, having declared a humorous poem about her life with a Dutch husband. It appears that they get along fine, as they have lived together for five years without quarrels.
Poet Elena Danchenko also told a poem on family topics: “Genealogy”, “Second Motherland” and “Red”. “Genealogy” was the most remarkable one – in it, Elena vividly and metaphorically tells about her origins. Elena has been married to a local husband for 12 years already and according to Dutch traditions – it is a copper or half a silver wedding.
An ex-Petersburger bard Olga Danilova performed guitar accompanied songs in an unusual genre – I’d risk to name it a rock-folk-bard song. The songs were so unusual that I asked her about the texts and the genre.
– I do not know how to define my genre, tells Olga, - I mean, if I hear music in poetry, I start singing right away. After that, I feel if I have to use acoustics or electricity. I sang two songs based on Daniil Andreev’s poems at the festival.
– Poems by the author of “The Rose of the World”, writer Leonid Andreev’s son?
– Yes. He is not only the author of “The Rose of the World”, which he wrote in prison, but also an exceptional poet. And he is my close friend, although he died even before I was born, but it is a different topic.
Everyone was delighted at Dmitry Bayakin's arrival from Vienna. He is well-known by the Russian-speaking diaspora in the Netherlands – before moving to Vienna, he had lived in Holland for many years and performed on different stages many times. Dmitrys’ strong guitar together with his powerful voice and performing talent makes the listeners forget everything and live through the song he is singing. He does not have many of his own songs yet, but he thoroughly collects a program from the repertoires of the Russian “soul mate” performers, for example of Andrei Kozlovskiy, Sergei Solovyev, Igor Ivanov, artist Slava Glyuk from Krasnodar, Aleksey Kostyushkin, a leader of “Corridor” band from Novosibirsk. This time, Dmitry sang a famous song named “We Are Alive” by Aleksandr Rozenbaum, Sergey Solovyev’s song “Agasfer” about travelling and eternity, and his friend’s Sergei Solovyev’s song “The Netherlands”.
– Sergei is not here anymore, - says Dmitry Bayakin. – Unfortunately, he died early, but managed to write numerous wonderful songs, which are sang in different corners of Russia and abroad. I am happy that I can sing his song “The Netherlands” here, in Holland.
Vyacheslav Lobatyi from Ukraine performed guitar instrumental music, his own and from Didyulya’s repertoire. Elena Artyukh performed song “Walking on Water” (it is known by its second name “Àpostle Andrew”) by “Nautilus Pompilius” band.
“Amstel” band, consisting of Nerius Ivanauskas and Mikhail Yurkov, also pleased the listeners by performing a hit of 1980s “Grass in Front of the House” – all the meadow sang along.
A singer from Kazakhstan Dariga Sundetova finished the programme - she learned “Chervona Ruta” song especially for the festival.
Little participants of the festival were not forgot either. Elena Kuzmina conducted a game especially for them. The kids were especially glad at the soap bubble show by Elena Velegzhanina. Big, small and enormous bubbles of different forms flew over the meadow.
The festival was full with a feeling of fraternity, love to the world and people; it seemed that one large family gathered at the Gaasperplas meadow. People of different nationalities hugged and kissed each other, got acquainted in a twinkle of an eye. Well, it was a moment to live for.
Extraordinary as it might seem, it was raining in Amsterdam in the morning… it seemed, the weather was hopeless… But people kept coming to the festival, holding umbrellas, with baby carriages, bags, barbecue grills and coal, food. And when everyone gathered, a miracle happened – the rain stopped.
– Thank you that you were not afraid of the rain and came, - said Elena Kuzmina, closing the festival. – The weather was afraid itself and the sun came out.
And it is what it was.