Tuesday, February 7, 2017

First Dmitri, now Dimash

Here’s Dimash with his hero, Джеки Чан, on
his right.  That’s Russian (and coincidentally
Kazakh, as well) for Jackie Chan.
I love musical pyrotechnics as much as the next guy.  What’s not to love about that high C in Il Trovatore?  And I still can’t believe the human voice can sing things like that Queen of the Night number in The Magic Flute.   Or practically any coloratura soprano.  And how about Dmitri Hvorostovsky doing Largo al Factotum (Figaro)? You cross the line from music appreciation to superhuman performance, and it’s like watching an Olympic athlete.

Some of the power of the voice still grabs you for its beauty, even when they’re showing off.  Alfie Boe singing “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables inevitably makes the tears well up.  But then there are the “see what I can do” numbers, like you often see on those talent shows, when Susan Boyle or some nine-year-old belts out a number with an operatic voice.

I came across two of those the other day and was reminded of how we live parallel lives here in America with people on other parts of the planet.  The years I lived in Japan, I marveled at the sheer number of popular singers who had thousands of adoring followers known in the rest of East Asia but not in Europe or America.  The same holds true for the Slavic World.

Vitebsk is a city in Belarus.  Known chiefly as the birthplace of Marc Chagall and as the site of the Vitebsk Ghetto massacre where most of the city’s Jewish population, some 34,000 people, met their death, Vitebsk today is the site of an international Slavic arts festival known as the Slavianskii Bazaar.  Most of the artists who show up for the annual competition are from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria and the nations of the former Yugoslavia, although other winners have included contestants from Israel and Mexico.  In 2015 the winner was a young singer from Kazakhstan with an incredible range of voice. His name is Dimash Kudaibergen.

The Slavic festival at Vitebstk was only the beginning for this young man, I'm guessing.  I think he’s going places, if he's got the discipline to get an international career going.  He’s got great looks and great style for such a young man.  But more than that, he blows ‘em out of the water with his voice range.  Must be at least five octaves. Here he is competing at Vitebsk.

And here he is, more recently, in front of a Chinese audience (at Dalian? Not sure about that.) Pushing the limits, the "see what I can do" approach to a French song entitled "S.O.S. d'un terrien en détresse."

And if you don't find this all too gimmicky and unpolished, and want more, try The Show Must Go On and this one, a song with the title of Opera 2, by the Latvian born Russian, Vitas.

Here's Vitas doing it at the Dalian International Festival in 2009. 

Vitas’ full name is Vitaliy Vladasovich Grachov.  He’s a 38-year old Russian singer who, like Dimash, has a five-octave vocal range and an impressive falsetto.  I can't explain this Latvian/Kazakhstani miracle voice phenomenon. Maybe it’s a gift the Great Spaghetti Monster in the Sky gave to the world in appreciation for the fall of communism. What blows my mind is that these people exist on the other side of the world and we on this side, most of us, have never heard of them.  We might as well be living on different planets.

Even if you have heard of Vitas, did you know that:

Vitas doing "7th Element" at the Kremlin in 2002
·      He has won awards declaring him Russia's laureate ten times through various competitions.
·      He was recognized as Russia's most prolific live performer between the years of 2001 and 2003.
·      He is the youngest artist ever to have performed solo at the Kremlin.
·      He was MTV Asia's best foreign performer in 2011.
·      He is also a fashion designer, having presented his Autumn Dreams collection in 2002, again, at the Kremlin.
·      His album A Kiss As Long As Eternity sold more than 2 million copies in less than half a year.
·      He has released 16 studio albums.


Here are the words to that song Dimash and Vitas wowed them with.  The one with the catchy title, Opera 2.  In case you want to sing along:

Russian romanized
Дом мой достроен,
Но я в нем один.
Хлопнула дверь за спиной
Ветер осенний стучится в окно
Плачет опять надо мной.
Ночью гроза,
А на утро туман.
Солнце остыло совсем.
Давние боли
Идут чередой.
Пусть собираются все.
Дом мой достроен,
Но я в нем один.
Хлопнула дверь за спиной.
Ветер осенний стучится в окно
Плачет опять надо мной.
Это судьба, а судьбу не могу
Я ни о чем просить.
Только я знаю, как после меня
Станут ветра голосить

Dom moi dostroen
no ya v nem odin
khlopnula dver' za spinoi
Veter osenni' stuchitsya v okno
Plachet opyat' nado mnoi
Noch'u groza
A na utro tuman
Solntse ostilo sovsem
Davnie boli
Idut cheredoi
Pust' sobirayutsya vse
Dom moi dostroen
No ya v nem odin
Khlopnula dver' za spinoi
Veter osenni' stuchitsya v okno
Plachet opyat' nado mnoi
Eto sud'ba, a sud'bu ne mogu
Ya ni o chem prosit'
Tol'ko ya znayu kak posle menya
Stanut vetra golosit'

My house is built,
but I’m alone in it.
The door slams behind me
There’s an autumn wind knocking on the window.
Crying over me once again.
Thunder in the night and
fog in the morning
The sun has grown cold
Pains from long ago follow one after the other.
Let them all gather together.
My house is built
but I’m alone in it.
The door slams behind me.
There’s an autumn wind
knocking on the window.
Crying over me once again.
It’s fate. I can ask nothing of fate.
All I know is that after me
the wind will howl.

I’ve probably broken all sorts of copyright laws here.  Not my intention, and I hope the KGB, or whatever their successor organization is called, understands I’m not making any money off of this, but just trying to keep my Russian, now on full life support, alive.

But I really do love Russian music.  All of it.  Tchaikovsky, Hvorostovsky, and now these young Kazakhstani and Russian guys with the falsetto voices.

Why can’t we all just get along?

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