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Violinist for a Trumpeter: interview with member of Gogol Bordello Sergey Ryabtsev and composer Alexandr Ratmansky

Slightly over a month ago the first musical film for kids in the years of independence premiered in Ukraine, it is called “Trumpeter”, directed by Anatoliy Mateshko.

The movie tells a story of a 13-year-old trumpeter Kolya Sokolov, a virtuoso of the instrument who composes music himself, and his friend Lisa. Kids are getting ready for an important performance but a chain of unfortunate events takes place for them to face a complicated task: no to lose both their dream and their way. The complete movie was filmed in Ukraine with all the parts performed by our fellow countrymen. Even music creation was worked at from over the ocean by renowned Ukrainians – a violinist of the famous band Gogol Bordello Sergey Ryabtsev together with composer and arranger Alexandr Ratmansky

Alexandr Ratmansky, Sergey Ryabtsev

OUTLOOK had a chat with the musicians and a glimpse within the veils of cinema production out of the corner of its eye.

Sergey, how did you manage to combine work over the film and tour life with Gogol Bordello?

S.R.  In fact, despite obvious genre difference, there was no conflict in it. My tours with Gogol Bordello and work over the film demanded one same thing – higher rotation rate of internal engine. An amazing feeling. I am accustomed to it, always ready for one, sort of. Despite tire. This year was the year of search and some creative discoveries. In the band everyone understood me and was supportive in all possible ways, so I’m really grateful for that.

Tell us about your cooperation with Ukrainian movie producers, why was it you that they turned to?

A.R. It is worth mentioning that it was very pleasant working with Ukrainian colleagues – director and actors were just great. High level of performance – I liked it from the very first frame. Sure enough, I’d have to palter with truth saying that everything in our relations with Ukrainian producers went perfectly smooth. In America we work in a different way, after all; there are distinctive features of music industry. And they mean that whatever is done – it is done fast and is output-aimed. And everyone in the field understands that working in studio is first of all about planned production and only then about creativity so if there is a project’s due date set, “lack of inspiration” is no excuse. With Serezha it was easy and simple – we understand each other excellently so even if we failed to get to the right track at once, we still managed to find a way to achieve necessary results.

S.R. There were a couple of circumstances determining cooperation with us of everybody else: first – time constraints, second – price. There is no secret that in America solving certain financial issues, including ones connected to music industry, is much easier. I’ve lived in New York for 20 years and in this period almost all our celebrities were recorded and re-recorded there. Why? It isn’t about prestige or finance alone. Reliability, quality and last but not least – speed. When I came to Kiev, there were 3 month left before the shooting of the movie. Musicians I was introduced to were really good at what they did. We worked passionately, with pleasure, sometimes spending entire days in studio. Time went on but, with all the enthusiasm, in some mystic way we were making no progress. We had a radical decision to make. I made a call to friends of mine in New York from AB studio offering them to participate in the project. They agreed and, by the way, against the amount three times smaller than we were charged by one of Kiev companies. Not only did I well know people I had to work with close and fast over the ocean, I also realized specifics of working there. Immigration teaches you a lot of things – primarily, discipline. 

Sergey, this was your first experience of working in movies as a composer. What difficulties did you face?

S.R. The biggest difficulty was exactly that it was the first one. This means that I had to get the whole creative and production process going. Imagine a mechanism of splendid and sophisticated jewelry clock where every gear-wheel is in its special place without spoiling general glib and lightsome impression. What if instead of a graceful tiny cuckoo a furry monster will be springing out of the clock house, articulating all kinds of nonsense – not a simple and dear “cuckooing”? This is what was the hardest when creating music: to succeed in precision, lightness, compactness and “childishness”. And, sure enough, in addition to that – a bit of healthy and perfectly natural magic. 

Was it hard working with children?

S.R. On the contrary, I‘ve had an experience of working with kids and it has always been a pleasure for me. When studying at conservatoire I was teaching at a music school at the same time and when I became a director in a theatre, I was delivering the whole course of lectures at musical college. But with this project I have very special relations. It was the first time I felt he immense impact on life that is coming from kids of all others. I realized their power, their abilities. In fact, they became my main discovery and a source of true inspiration! There is no room for doubt that this experience was unique and priceless in both human and professional terms. 

Have your colleagues from Gogol Bordello already watched the movie? What are their impressions?

S.R. Concerning music, I was acting in quite a crafty way: I was presenting them materials even in an unshaped version on the stage of elaboration and according to their reaction and interest was figuring out where to move further. So they were among the first introduced to the music. But the movie itself turned out more than a shock for them: no one expected such a bright and stylishly executed footage as well as such a professional “picture”. They haven’t watched the whole “Trumpeter” yet for I’d rather show it to them with English subtitles but those fragments I demonstrated in the process of work were received with flying colors and discussed stormily. And it was a real pleasure for me.

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