Interview in the Ukrainian magazine “Твои кумиры” (“Your idols”).

The Ukrainian vacation of Alexander Rybak

Found and translated to English by Sonya Luzina, revison by Anni Jowett

He’s the favorite of millions of girls across Europe and despite his big popularity, he adores strawberry cocktails, he sees the world through childish naive eyes, and he smiles so sincerely and openly that you will start to believe in fairy tales!

The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, Alexander Rybak, continues his victorious journey across Europe. Ukraine doesn’t remain behind. Despite his busy schedule. Sasha has visited the place here already, at least three times, and he even has spent a small vacation somewhere and in the Ukrainian capital. The artist in secret has informed “ТК” [The Ukrainian magazine] that he prepares a pleasant surprise for the Ukrainian fans this autumn. What? He insisted not to tell, therefore we will only give a hint: there is a big tour of Sasha ahead.

– Sasha, it’s not your first time in Ukraine, not the first time in Kiev…

– But I feel like this is the first time. How many times I been? Three? Last year in the autumn I had a tour across Ukraine, but the schedule was very busy: interview, filming, performances, and the weather didn’t favor – it was very cold. And in the summer I came to perform only for three hours. There was no time even to see Kiev. And now everybody smiles warmly, girls in skirts.

– Did you take a walk in the city this time?

– Yes. Such beautiful buildings and architecture here! Kiev strongly differs from Moscow. It’s beautiful there too, but, probably, even with an overabundance. Over here buildings and historical monuments are where it’s suitable, therefore you estimate their beauty much more.

– You were born in Belarus, you live in Norway, now you often have to tour in different countries of Europe. Do you have a favorite city, a favorite country?

– My favorite country – Norway. Because I know very well the culture of this country, this nation, it is my family. And from the CIS countries, Baltic is very interesting to me. I’m inquisitive, to me everything is interesting: culture, architecture, history monuments. Besides, there are special people, very honest. In Norway, for example, people always smile to you, but most likely because it is so accepted. And they come with all their heart to you, sincerely. And it is visibly an unaided sight. And still, next to Norway and Belarus, I would place Finland. I love this country very much.

– Why do you like this country?

– Finland is somehow similar to Russia. There is the same discipline, the same openness and honesty, but it still has the European standards of living, a positive inherent especially to Scandinavians. Therefore I consider Finland as one of the best countries in the world

-I know, you weren’t wishing to be approved as the candidate of Eurovision. And you not only have won first place, but you also have set a new record for the amount of points collected in the history of the competition!

– I think, the matter is that people always think in the same way. Think about someone who has thought of a non-existent format. And first of all, it is those ” big bosses”, then musical producers. When I had presented  my song to them, they had unanimously declared: «They don’t broadcast such songs on the radio now, Sasha! It’s not like that. You’re a talented guy, of course, but this is too experimental. And if you also play a violin, it will look silly in general. You should better perform any ballad». But I didn’t listen to them and went with the song Fairytale – and I won. And in National selection for Eurovision in Norway I had an absolute record too: I have received 900 thousand votes, and the girl who had taken the second place received 80 thousand. And I respect such competitions like “Eurovision” very much, because, thanks to it, many talented artists are discovered. And why? Because there it’s the viewer who decides, not the producers.

– Last year you were a guest at the finals of competition…

AR:  … «Ukraine got talent»

– Right. Did you like it?

– Oh, yes. I was amazed. When I was flying to Kiev I was watching some releases of this program in the plane, and then I went to each participant and told my opinion on his performance. And they were surprised, where I knew them? I really liked the girl who drew in sand. But her performance touched me even more than I admired her. But there was also a ridiculous guy who imitated me.

– You were surprised that you had to sing playback, and you even said about it on the stage.

– Well, yes. But, as far as I know, it was only me who had to sing playback, all other participants were singing live.

– Are you against singing playback?

– Of course, I prefer to work live, but sometimes TV shows ask you to sing playback, and I don’t see anything terrible in it. It’s a practice. Just think that an artist needs to know exactly how to work, either playback or live. I was told before the performance: «Sasha, excuse us, but we don’t have time for a sound check, so it will be playback». I had nothing against that, except that when I sang and my voice was played from the recording, you could distinctly hear the second voice, because it was heard from the microphone, and this was very strange and wrong. That’s why I asked the presenter: “What if we all sing the same? Live or playback?” (laughs)

– It was rumored that you had recorded a duet with Dima Bilan. Is this true?

– We recorded nothing. At least not for now.

– Do you plan to?

– Maybe. It would be nice. But, honestly, I would like much more to sing a duet with Ani Lorak. I like her very much. She’s such a fine person. She has an amazing voice. She’s a wonderful artist. However, I have other plans at this moment.

– And after your victory at the Eurovision you have repeatedly said that you wanted to be like Dima Bilan. Why?

– I don’t remember anymore, why I said so…

– I can remember. “Because he’s a European artist one hundred percent.”

– Ah! If so, then yes. I have the same ambitions. For example, I am currently “settled” in Scandinavia and the CIS countries. My second album was released in 25 countries, and for me that’s enough. I have enough fame, popularity and fans. There’s no time for something more. But Dima continues to conquer new territories. Now he’s in America, looking to become popular there. I respect that a lot.

– After winning the Eurovision Song Contest of 2010, Lena Meyer-Landrut stated that you had a romantic relationship for 3 years and that she had received a marriage proposal from you…

– No-no-no (laughs)… It is necessary to see, how she told this, with what face… She joked. I also joke sometimes, and the press accepts all my words as true. I met Lena this year at the “Eurovision” for the first time. I almost fell in love…

– Why “almost”?

– Because she was only there for four days. Lena asked my advice. I certainly tried to help her: she asked how to look at the camera, how to behave on stage and so on. We spent much time with her in the Eurovision days and we even performed together one of her songs for a German TV show: Lena sang and I played the violin. I liked her very much, but nothing more.

– Sasha, in Sweden, during your performance for the entertainment TV show “Lotta på Liseberg” you broke the violin. Why?

– (Laughs). Yes, it happened. The last months were very difficult for me, the working schedule had been loaded to its limit. Sometimes it was necessary to perform in several concerts in a day, and all this stress was an overabundance of emotions. I will not relate details as to why this happened: let’s forget the bad moments. I just had a lot of problems that day. You can consider that it was a nervous breakdown. By the way, when I smashed the violin, I immediately felt better, and the problems receded.

– So, the Japanese are right that to have special rooms for stress relief in their offices, where they break…

– … violins (laughs)?

– No. Dishes.

– It’s a very correct practice.

– Sasha, the main character of the animated film “How to Train your Dragon” speaks with your voice…

– Yes, in Norway. I was offered to dub it for Russia too, but I refused. I speak Russian badly (“he’s obviously modest!” – Note of «TK»). I immediately said: “Thank you very much for your offer, but the fact that I’m a popular man does not mean that I suit this role.”

– Nevertheless, have you tried to do it?

– In Norway the cartoon dubbing lasted for 3 days, although we were given three weeks. In Russia the plan was the same, three weeks too. But in a day we voiced a maximum of 5 minutes because of my accent. Even after 20-30 attempts the voice could be corrected only by a machine. There was no soul, no intonation. In general, if you ask me which language I speak most easily, I would answer that, first of all, it’s Norwegian, then English, and only then… but no, then it’s Swedish and then it’s Russian. So it was necessary to decline.

– And the main character of the cartoon, Hiccup, is similar to you.

– Yes. I know. And who did the voice in Russia?

– I don’t know. We had a Ukrainian dubbing.

– You see, it’s good, that I didn’t dub it, you would not have it good with my voice.

– You recently made a joint recording with Norwegian rappers for the song “Fela Igjen”. Who was the initiator?

– Who? It’s my song. It isn’t accepted in Norway, to take offers, you need to think yourself. I invited them [the rappers]. They are my friends. They are still unpopular. We’ve recorded together, not only the song, but also the video.

– Which, judging by the internet, shocked your fans…

– I don’t know how here, but in Norway, I lost a part of my fans, it’s true. But I’ve also got new fans. You can hide some of your sides, to work in the style in which all are used to see you and hear, but you can also strive to something new, to develop, to experiment. Yes, I lost part of my fans, but now I know for sure that these who remain, truly love my work.

– What other style would you also like to try yourself?

– In my new album «No Boundaries», each song is in a special style. There are songs in the style of rap, musical, hard rock, pop, country and ballads. I just realized my audience is not only young – there are many young people of course, and I wanted somehow to develop for them. And I can do this by showing different kinds of music through my songs.

– You played in the high-budget film «Yohan – Barnevandrer» in Norway. Did you like to working in a movie?

– I played the gipsy fiddler, and my father was played by the ex-soloist of group A-Ha, Morten Harket. They always find such roles for me: the gipsy, the Jew, the Muslim. Why? Enigma! (laughs) So when they suggested me to play the gipsy, I was not surprised. I was curious not only to get used to the character, but also to supplement it with something interesting from myself.

– What you admit you would never try to do?

– To risk life.

– Are you not an extreme person?

– Why? I love being extreme. I engage into windsurfing with pleasure. But I think you must never lose your head in extreme things. When I know that my mom could lose her only son just because he got it in his head to jump, say, from a height of 20 meters with a snowboard, I would definitely say no. For me it’s more interesting to live than to risk.

– Do you know any words in Ukrainian?

– Yes (smiles). Last year I learned a little Ukrainian . I know how to say: « I am very pleased to be in Ukraine» and «thanks». I can also read Ukrainian, but my speech is not very good.

In the red box:

Interesting facts about the musician:

● He was born in a musical family: mother Natalia Valentinovna – the pianist, father Igor Aleksandrovich – the fiddler, grandmother Maria Borisovna – the teacher in a musical school.

● Idols: Michael Jackson, Sting, Blink 182.

● Mascot of Sasha – cufflinks with an image of his violin.

● As well as a victory at the international competition Eurovision – 2009, he is the owner of the awards: Hedda, «Сrystal Globe» [Russian Compatriot 2009], «God of ether», «Muz-TV 2010», the Scandinavian version of Grammy and many others.


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