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¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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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 EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s 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.

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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.

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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.

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Kyiv Celebrities

“Sting’s Guitarist”

It’s a title he freely admits to being “proud of”, but Dominic Miller’s musical collaborations don’t end with the former The Police fronts-man gone solo. The names he’s worked with read like a “who’s who” of music – from opera to pop. Work with names like 60s icon Donovan to British pop-ettes The Sugababes interspersed with his own solo-recordings. What’s On meets Miller in Kyiv to chart a musical career less ordinary.
Bryan Adams, Joss Stone, The Backstreet Boys, Phil Collins, Sheryl Crow, Placido Domingo, Peter Gabriel, Nigel Kennedy, Tina Turner, Luciano Pavarotti, The Pretenders, Rod Stewart, Paul Young and more.

The list is as diverse as it is impressive, yet there is no hint of arrogance and no posturing when it comes to Dominic Miller.
At a workshop in Kyiv restaurant Cosmopolite ahead of a gig in restaurant/concert hall Oasis, Miller demonstrates he has a self-deprecating quality that has his audience eating from the palm of his hand. Perhaps it’s because he begins his talk by dropping a bombshell. “For me music is my life, I’m really obsessed with it and have been all my life, but I’ve also got six children and had two wives, so I’ve really f*cked in my life.” After a swift translation for the non-English speakers the effect is akin to hearing the proverbial pin drop.

Breaking Through
I first meet Miller outside the hotel adjoining the restaurant, where he is having a quick drag on a cigarette before the workshop. He’s easily spotted. He has the laconic sense of style of a seasoned rocker, from his tousled mop of hair to his well-worn boots – it’s a thrown-together-in-five-minutes look that oozes casual cool. That “coolness” reaches new heights inside as soon as Miller picks up his guitar and starts playing his “signature” song Shape of My Heart. While, he has stage presence, this is a man who has been content to take a backseat to the big names for his entire musical career. It begs the question why? Miller quickly answers in his characteristically candid fashion. “I have no real personality, producers started calling because they knew I could do anything.” I beg to differ on the personality part, but quickly understand this is a guy who simply wants to play music without the added pressure of the spotlight.
Describing life as a professional musician as a “never ending struggle”, in between playing samples, he talks about his evolution in music. Born in Buenos Aires to an American father and Irish mother, was raised in Argentina and Wisconsin, Miller moved to London to study classical guitar at The Guildhall School of Music under Sabastio Tapajos before going on to the prestigious Berkley College in Boston. Despite his background, his accent is pure British as he explains his musical journey. “I’m a music student. I went to music college – I didn’t really learn a lot in college, but I’ve been a student of music ever since.” Initially he struggled to find work, he says, then, slowly but surely, the calls started coming from producers who had heard word of his versatility. That work would culminate in 1989 in what Miller says was his “big break”, before strumming the familiar chords from the Phil Collins hit Another Day in Paradise. It’s Miller who plays the nylon stringed guitar on the track.

Shaping the Song
Then, in 1991, he auditioned for Sting and got the gig to play on Sting’s Soul Cages. Ten Summoner’s Tales followed, on which he co-wrote the emotive Shape of My Heart. As he tells it, the song evolved from his loathing of conventional guitar practice. “I hated scales, they’re so academic. So instead I would work for hours and hours playing Johann Sebastian Bach,” he says. “It’s like yoga.” Stripping the compositions of their natural tempo and instead playing them really slowly. “It’s f*cking difficult,” he quips. “I can do it all day. That’s probably why I’ve had two wives and why I’ve problems in my personal life.”
That same obsession with understanding the work of Bach at what he calls a “forensic level” translates across also musical genres, he says. “I don’t really like country music, but I want to know how it works.” His “need to know” was the key ingredient in forming his lasting collaboration with Sting. “When I first met Sting 23 years ago, I found the perfect fit for my schizophrenic sound. He got the joke.” Shape of My Heart developed from a riff created from him “playing around with Chopin chords” and initially, Miller says he didn’t see the potential. Sting did. “He said ‘that’s a song’ and asked me if I wanted him to write some lyrics,” Miller says. “I said ‘sure’, he asked ‘do you want to know what it’s about?’ I said ‘no’.” That exchange sums up how he sees his role or place in the music world. “All I do is show up to a studio, I don’t think about me, I think about what’s right for the song and what is right for the artist. It’s very simple really.”

Jared Morgan

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t 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 don’t 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 – children’s 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. What’s 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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