WHAT'S ON: two voices, one road
The Telnyuk Sisters are one of the most popular musical groups in Ukraine. They are, however, one of the most sophisticated. Mixing rock with ethno and jazz with romance, the rich musical background is provided by Lesya, one of the sisters. The other sister, Halyna, is responsible for the many varied and poetic transitions from one verse to another. Between the two, they make up one of the most intimate, philosophical and meditative acts you will ever see in this country.
The Telnyuk Sisters have been producing music together for decades, coming out with their first collection of musical interpretation back in 1991. With a new project on the go, called Road of Glass, we got Halya in to give us a personal tete-a-tete about what we can expect to see, hear and experience this spring.
The Long Road
Road of Glass is a project uniting the poetry of well-known Ukrainian writer and poetess Oksana Zabuzhko and the music and vocals of the Telnyuk Sisters. Considering the way people are drawn to modern writers and alternative/rock music these days, the project was a bit of risk, quite frankly. It was for this reason the Telnyuks first presented the project in a number of different Ukrainian cities and towns in autumn of last year. “We felt we had created something really powerful and completely new for the Ukrainian music sphere, but we also knew we would have a tough time trying to entice audiences with profound poetry and weighty music,” reveals Halya, just getting started. “We needed to first test out the programme and see if audiences were truly ready for such a journey. It’s not easy working through philosophical verse – it’s something that requires reflection. In addition, we needed to know that everything we sing and give to the audience was able to permeate, so that those in the auditorium give back in return.”
The setting of this new project is minimalist, but beautiful: amid a backdrop of black, three spotlights shine down on the participants. All poetry is recited and/or sung with the accompaniment of three cellos, an instrument thought to be most similar in sound to the human voice, and chosen to reinforce the emotional effect. The result is a creative programme so diverse and unadorned you can’t help but feel as though a bold naked truth is being revealed. “These are songs of love – it’s the only feeling that enables people to live. We can only live when filled with the happiness to love and be loved, and this power is present in Oksana’s poetry and in our music.”
The Winding Road
Returning to the beginnings of this sagaciously successful trio, Oksana Zabuzhko was herself very impressed when she first heard how the Telnyuk Sisters had interpreted her poetry. Halyna says Zabuzhko had always been one of their favourite Ukrainian writers, while Oksana had long been acquainted with eminent Ukrainian poet, literary scientist and father of the two girls, Stanislav Telnyuk. It was he who passed on a love for rhythmic literary work. While the “street”, divulges Halya, influenced their musical taste.
“Underground artists are responsible for our preferences where music is concerned. We grew up listening to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and of course a bit of classical music as well.” Today, both ladies enjoy international rock music, such as Radiohead and Portishead, while here at home they often listen to the works of contemporary classical music composer, Valentyn Sylvestrov. Sylvestrov, by the way, is a long-standing fan of the Telnyuk’s music, and since 2006 has never missed a concert of theirs in Kyiv.
Standing apart and at times in opposition to the pop culture and showbiz here in Ukraine, they know that their art is not for mass consumption. But that doesn’t seem to be too much of a stumbling block for either Lesya or Halya. In fact, they seem quite at peace with the way things are, offering, “Before one can speak about Ukrainian society and its problems, one first has to love the people of this country. It’s the only way you can find harmony within yourself and the world around.”
Bringing their love for music and poetry, the Telnyuk Sisters will share this and so much more during their presentation of Road of Glass next week. Their only request is that you remain open to the message.
Road of Glass
Suzirya Theatre (Yaroslaviv Val 14b)
19 April at 19.00, 21 May at 19.00