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On the cover
7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


On the Sofa with...

A Lady with Lavish Charms

Winner of Best Ukrainian Act at the MTV Awards in 2007, nominated in 2009, we wondered what Lama has been up to lately. So, we headed over to Cosmopolite in Kyiv where Natalia Dzenkiv was waiting for us on a plush green sofa
Firstly, as in all my interviews, there is the question of language. Natalia (for Lama is effectively, she) has some English, so I suggest we do a combination of English and Russian. The trusty back-up of my dictaphone and, then later, my lovely Russian teacher Elena, gets us through.

English, Russian or Ukrainian 
The first question comes from Natalia: You are in Ukraine, why are you studying Russian, not Ukrainian? I tell her its because my Russian isnt yet good enough to start learning another language, and since Ive started with Russian Id like to see it through. She smiles at me, sweetly, and switches over to Russian, with bits of English, for the rest of our interview. 
You cant get away from how important Ukrainian, and being Ukrainian, is to Natalia though, Im from the west, Ivano Frankivsk, my roots are all there. My family are all from there. We are proud Ukrainians, we speak Ukrainian and its the language I can best express myself in. I know that many people are grateful for this, and appreciate it. Im certainly one of them. Despite not really understanding quite a lot of what she sings about, without first going via Google translate, I love her voice. Its so mellifluous, so flowing, so soulful. 
So many different styles of music too from soaring ballads such as Znaesh Yak Bolit to pure pop with Svitlo I Tin and even rather rocky stuff with Ne Mama. I ask her about this, I have a lot of musical influences, she says. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and many more. When I start writing a track though, I dont plan it to be any particular way, it all depends on which way inspiration takes me. 

Life Becomes Art
As to what inspires Natalia, she says the city plays a big part. Back in Ivano Frankivsk, life is calmer, more peaceful, things move almost as if in slow motion. Moving to Kyiv, I was immediately struck by the pace of life everything is super-animated, super-charged. It was a little hard to adjust to, but I met someone who helped me make the transition, a spiritual guru, who told me all about Buddhism. This gave me insight into how to live happily. Now, Kyiv is my home and I love it walking in the Botanical Garden, up Andriivskiy Uzviz, even down Khreshchatyk. Asking after her fans and whether they recognise her, she laughs and admits, It happens, and its always a pleasure. What happens more often, is that people think I look like Lama! 
Enquiring a little more about her fans and how she connects with them, she says, Of course, the best way is through concerts. Its both sad and true to say that since the credit crisis, there have been fewer concerts for the public. A lot of my concerts now are corporate gigs, which are great, but theres nothing like the connection with a paying public, people whove come just to see you. I remember one show in particular, at October Palace here in Kyiv. The show had ended and I just came out on stage and sang to my fans without any backing music as they were leaving. I was just so full of emotion after the concert that I didnt want to stop singing! I wanted them to know that our connection doesnt end with the last number of the night. 

This Year and On
For this year, theres an album in the works and plans for more concerts. I ask Lama about her status as huge in Ukraine, but as of yet not having really broken into the western market. Naturally, there are massive advantages in doing that, the system in Ukraine makes it hard to really thrive here. There are a lot of creative, talented people, but there is also quite a lot of amateurism. Ukraine needs western influence and, in turn, I would like to show the west what Ukraine can do. 
So, as Ukraine as a country looks to the west, so too does Lama. With no plans, ever, to sing in Russian, there are already recordings in the English language, something that could really propel her into the larger market her music deserves. 
Im sad to realise that our time is drawing to a close. I rush back to the office to listen to more of her music, understanding it on an even deeper level after my hour with this lovely, genuine, inspired and inspiring young lady. 

Graham Phillips

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Comments (3)
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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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