Rybak: “Ultimately you’re still alone in your hotel room”
Author: Inese Mizovska. Photo: Dmitrijs Suļžics.
Found and translated into Russian by Ronja Laupitaja. English translation by Zhanna Sergueeva. English revision by Anni Jowett.
Last week in the concert hall “Dzintari” one of the most popular winners of the Eurovision Song Contest – Alexander Rybak (26) came to the stage together with his father Igor Rybak.
When you won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009, how did your life change?
Radically. The only thing that has not changed are my ambitions. I’ve always been quite self-confident. I was aware of my talent and ability, just it was not easy to convince very important people about that. Three years ago, to be able to perform, I wrote about twenty emails a day. Do you think that these important people responded to me? They were not interested in my music. I recorded my Eurovision song, and brought it to the radio by myself. Nobody accepted it. Radio stations said this is not a music at all, the violin sounds strange, and I scream something on the top. When I won the Eurovision song contest, for some reason everything started to sound good. Winning this competition has changed the limits of my abilities. It is important that it’s not some wise uncles and aunts who judge on your talent and work but an audience. Now I don’t need to tell anybody who I am. No need to beg and to prove, because offers are pouring like from a cornucopia. If I speak to someone by myself, everything happens very quickly!
How is it, when your dad is not only a parent but a teacher and colleague on the stage?
My relationship with my father has always been very simple and pleasant. He is an intelligent and understanding man. I was an obedient child. Sometimes, of course, I argued with my dad, but I always had respect and reverence towards my parents. Now, looking back on my childhood, I understand that for a musician I have perfect parents. Strict, but only through love. Thanks to the pedagogical talent of my father, I fell in love with the violin. If he had been too demanding, it would cease to be cool. My father was able to choose for me those songs that were simple enough, but all had some special zest to make a playing them exciting. Even as a child, I played jazz, and classical and gypsy melodies. As a musician I must also thank my mother , who is a very good pianist. She also worked hard with me.
What kind of advice do you get from your parents most of all – musical or everyday advice?
My parents have already given me every possible advice, so now they do not tend to push or teach me. They realized in time that I’m grown up, and – most importantly – a successful person with a logical mind and a healthy perception of life. So now I come to them just to relax and to eat something delicious.
What delicious things can be obtained at your parental home?
In Belarus, a popular food kolduny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalduny). This is my favourite dish – something similar to dumplings with meat. I don’t cook kolduny by myself, otherwise there would not be so many reasons to visit my mother.
What kind of father will you be yourself?
Me? None so far. I am absolutely not ready to become a father. Maybe somewhere in the world there is already some baby of mine, but I’m not a father.
But your heart is taken?
For those who are interested in my personal life, I propose them to watch my new video for the song “Strela Amura” (“Cupid’s Arrow”). Everything will be clear. This is the story of the musician’s life – people, applause, music, joy, but ultimately you’re still alone in your hotel room.
But you have a person to share this hotel room?
I have, however the time that we can spend together is so limited. The relationship does not preclude a sense of loneliness.
Do you often feel lonely?
Yes. And very sad. I work a lot, I travel around the world. While my family and friends are enjoying their life, I am working hard.
You have devoted your songs to your beloved ladies. Also to your present one – the violinist Maria. How is it – to sing these songs after breaking up?
I never avoid to dedicate songs to my beloved one because they are born because of her. Those melodies that I gifted to the special women are emotionally spacious. They don’t reflect only my feelings and events in our life. They represent life itself. Therefore I continue to perform these songs in public even afterwards, when the status of relationship has changed. But of course I never forget the reason for creating these songs. Fortunately no relationship has ended such that I would not want to remember them. So it’s easy for me to sing, even after separation. It’s easy and light to remember those people.
You moved to Norway when you were so young. What are your earliest memories of this land?
I can tell you about the event that shared my dad. We had just moved to Norway when for the first time in my life I saw a live moose. I said – look, Dad, there goes a horse with horns! Another pleasant memory is Lego and that has a great respect by Norwegian children. This unites you so with your peers. If you’re playing with Lego, there is always a common theme at once to talk about.
As a child didn’t you want to change your violin for the life of carefree boy?
In the early years when I lived in Norway, I did not have any friends. So I did not know that another life was possible. If my parents would dress up in kangaroo costumes and entertained me, I would have thought it was normal, that all the moms and dads do so. In Minsk, from where I come, young musicians have to practice a lot . At least two or three hours every day. In Norway, I learnt by chance that I’m the only one practicing so much. For others one hour is enough. Of course that was the cause of a serious conversation with my parents and I managed to slightly reduce the time of my practising.
At what age did you start to play your violin?
I know that the violin was given to me by my father. Russian newspapers write that happened when I was five, Norwegian ones write -when I was seven. I always feel uncomfortable when people ask me about my childhood, because I remember almost nothing. I do not even remember where I was and what I did yesterday. There are too many new impressions in my life.
The special person in your life is your first music teacher your grandmother Maria. When was the last time you visited her?
To be honest, I do not even know in what city she now lives in Belarus, because in recent years she has moved several times. But we meet at least once a year. Furthermore with both grandmothers, because they visit us in Norway with pleasure.
I discovered in Twitter that you’re a big fan of football …
Sport has always been close to me. I play football and basketball myself. During these weeks the football championship – it’s my number one concern. With all my heart I was rooting for the Russian national team. I worried that because of the concert I could not watch the game of Ukraine. I followed the results on the Internet.
Do you still speak your native Belarusian language?
Virtually I don’t. I can understand what they say, but I can’t readily answer. I consider Norwegian as my mother tongue, because communicate with it every day, I was educated in Norwegian schools. After Eurovision I have improved my skills in the Russian language, as in recent years I have given many concerts in the former Soviet Union. Firstly I answered in English only, but now I speak quite fluently in Russian.
You also starred in the Greta Salomonson’s movie “Johan.” Do you intend to pursue a career as an actor?
Not yet. But movies have a special place in my life. It is because of movies I got to love the music. When music plays in a movie, the narrative becomes special. Emotions, the mood and the meaning of the movie come to a person with the melody. I love Russian cinema very much, therefore I find it hard to talk about films with Norwegian youth. They just do not know my favourite movies – “Volga-Volga” and “Carnival Night”.
What was the most exciting event in the last month?
Over the past three weeks I have been to nine countries – I performed in front of an audience of thousands in concert halls, I was playing for millions on the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan. But the most important concert of my life I played recently for the audience of one hundred people. It was my exam at the conservatory. There I got the feeling: to be a violinist – this is my true vocation and profession.
This post is also available in Русский.