Our Spectator is kind, generous and demanding

The Russian rock stage is wonderful in its diversity. The Names that have lasted since the nineties and, it is even more important, have become increasingly popular over the years, have got every right to the legendary status in the twenty-first century.

Svetlana Surganova and “The Orchestra” will perform in Tallinn on June 8. An amazing, delicate woman leads a team of equally enthusiastic musicians and is ready to share with us some thoughts about creativity in the run up to concerts in Tallinn.

In 1993-2002 she was a soloist and violinist of “Nochnye Snaipery” band. Now she is a leader of “Surganova and the Orchestra” band.


Svetlana, your appearance at the “Yubileiniy” stage along with Diana Arbenina became one of the most discussed news related to you. To say that it caused a furor would be an understatement. Could you tell us how this idea was born and how it was realized?

It was Diana Sergeevna’s idea. She called me and offered to perform together at the anniversary of “Nochnye Snaipery”. And I immediately agreed. “Nochnye Snaipery” was an important part of my life, and I will always be grateful to Diana for these years, so there were no difficult negotiations or coordination. I arrived, we rehearsed and performed several songs at concerts at “Olympiyskiy” and “Yubileiniy”. It was logical, easy, organically and really enchanting. (laughs)

In early April you announced a concert with Yuriy Shevchuk. Is it time for creative collaborations?

On April 6 we performed at the festival of Advita Charitable Foundation along with “Divertisment” Chamber Orchestra. All our songs were in purely string arrangements, without any electricity, guitars or drums. It was an amazing new experience and, as people said, it was very beautiful. I got great pleasure. Also, a significant amount of money for Advita’s wards was raised at the festival. Yuri Shevchuk performed at this festival too, but with his own program, our collaboration did not take place that time. In future – who knows, everything is possible!

In winter your instrumental album was released. For an artist who so miraculously conveys a thought into a verse, this step might be rather risky. How was the album presentation and reaction of the audience?

Some music is always playing in my head.  And, as it’s turned out, not only in mine, in the head of Nikita Mezhevich, our keyboardist, too. Then we decided to fix all these musical mental waves and realized that they were very similar. We deliberately decided not to make a special event from the release, we even called the album  SurMezh “Ringtone-Suite”, not “Surganova and the Orchestra” as usually. As result, born was a small form of instrumental music, dedicated to a person who is very important for me. This is the case when you do not need words, notes are enough. Something very personal, yet something to share with our audience.

Sometimes you sing other people’s songs. For example, “Polet na daltoplane” (“A Flight by a hang-glider”) by Artemyev. How do songs by other artists and composers appear in your repertoire?

As for someone else’s. I do not consider them someone else’s. I even have an album “Chuzhie kak svoi” (“Songs by others as my own”), where I just sing popular songs of other authors and performers, for example, the same “Daltoplan” (“Hang-glider”). I do  often use music or poems by other authors for my albums. For example, by the wonderful Kira Levina, Irina Farenbrukh, or refer to the classics – Tsvetaeva, Brodskiy. My musicians are also actively involved in creation of songs. I let every such song, every note pass through myself and no longer consider them to be outsiders, they all become mine too.

If I am not mistaken, this year you have a personal jubilee and a modest jubilee of the “Orchestra”. I join the congratulations and wish to ask: how will you celebrate?

Yes, I turned 50, and the band celebrated its 15. I think that 15 years for a band is not a modest anniversary, it is quite serious, such an active puberty. As for celebrations, we have already celebrated with a big tour in Russia, the USA, Germany, Canada, gathered the full “Crocus City Hall” and then smoothly switched to celebrating the 16th anniversary. We’ve held traditional concerts in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and we are going further to Belarus, the Baltic States and the Far East. In general, we can say that in the anniversary year we went around the globe. We are celebrating at work and, most importantly, our fans are celebrating with us. As you can see from the tight concert schedule, almost everyone has the chance  to do it personally by joining us.

It would be very interesting to know your opinion about changes in modern culture. What looks positive and what is not.

We often discuss this issue with friends. The world is changing and changing very quickly. Everything is accelerating and getting shallower. The time of small – scale forms has come, the time of one-day faces, one-time events and phenomena, in culture as well. Things everyone was talking about yesterday, nobody remembers today. Many of today’s hits and artists flare up, burn and vanish in a very short time. Trends, tastes, fashion are changing before our very eyes. But you know, I would say that it is not so bad. People consume a huge amount of content and information, there is a real sifting out of the wheat from the chaff, and only things really having at least some value are remembered and remain. And I’d like also to underline that modern viewer or listener is more inclined to perceive the same music on several channels at once: sound, visuals, shows, etc., everything becomes technically complex and, at the same time, simple in content.

It was interesting to know that you had a role in a play. “Moya schastlivaya zhizn” (“My happy life”)  – what is it for you now? Would you tell our readers about this project?

I’ll say right away that there I play a small role of a friend of the main character – an  actress from Riga, my close friend. For me it was, first of all, an interesting experience. And judging by the audience in Riga, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, the experience is quite successful.

Some of your performances last for 2.5-3 hours. How is such a concert organized? How to make the audience happy?

Our audience is kind, generous and demanding at the same time. To make it happy, we must never cut corners, never  be lazy, we must give our all. We must respect and love our audience. Terribly corny answered, but this is a real way for how to make the audience and, as a result, oneself, happy.

Poets in your songs can be both contemporaries and classics. Am I right?  How many poems pass before your eyes until one turns into a song?

Well, we sing songs to the verses of both our contemporaries and the classics. But the process differs from the one you’ve described. Poetry is a kind of music. Poems have their own temporhythm and complex internal structure. When you read a poem and suddenly catch this hard-to-describe feeling of the poetic music, a melody starts playing in your head, this is where the moment of creativity and creation begins. It’s not at all necessary that eventually a song will be born and we will play it at concerts, this process itself is an incredible pleasure.

The themes of your album amaze by variety of topics and names. The Besieged Leningrad. Bulat Okudzhava … These are very powerful, symbolic names and events. Could the work on such projects be easy?

The work is not easy and is very responsible. The songs of wartime are songs-legends, landmarks, it is never allowed to spoil or misquote them, or make a poor performance! We worked on this album for a very long time, took the score from the originals, with all responsibility approached to the sound and arrangements. I would have felt ashamed, first of all, in front of my mother, who survived in the Siege, her friends, the Petersburgers and all the listeners, if we had done something unworthy, not of high-quality. Yet, it seemed we did it well. I felt the same for the songs of Okudzhava. Invited by Olga Vladimirovna, his widow, we performed at the evening devoted to the memory of Bulat Shalvovich, now we are participating in his tribute.

As one can see, you are equally warmly welcomed in all countries. The geography of your tours is very extensive. Are there places where you give concerts having some special feelings?

Concerts are never similar. Everywhere they are different for us and for the audience, even if the program is the same. Moreover, it is impossible to predict in advance. I feel particularly worried before the concerts in Moscow, my native Saint Petersburg  and in new cities. It is hard to answer, always everything is different, and any city is special.

In my opinion, this year, in February, “Chartova Duzhina” in Saint Petersburg  marked all the iconic artists. Could you share with us your feelings about the award and the ceremony?

Well, I am the soloist of the year, not a singer, at least, I don’t like this word (laughs). To be serious, I really appreciate this award. Our songs have long been running on “Nashe Radio”, they were on top of its charts, we repeatedly took part in “Nashestvie” festival, so this recognition by fans and by the radio is very pleasant and exciting, and I hope we’ve deserved it.

During your last visit to Tallinn, you mentioned in an interview that you had a goal to raise a family of your musicians. At what stage is this project now?

How nice that you recalled it! The project is a success, the process is almost complete. People say that a family is never chosen, but this is not exactly my case. First, I was chosen – adopted at the age of 3, secondly, I chose my musical family at a more conscious age. I speak about my musicians, about my team, my like-minded people, whom I basically can call my family.  This time we come to Tallinn having reached our goal.

The Baltics, Estonia, Tallinn. You are loved, recognized and welcomed here. What kind of mood do you have when coming here?

A loving one (laughs).  I have a loving mood. I often visit Riga, but I have tender feelings for all the Baltic republics and their capitals.

By –  Mark Vegas

STOLITSA