By Piotr Vavilonsky
This delicate young lady is able to transform a guitar into a singing lyre, her melodies revealing the finest shades of feelings and moods. Music lovers from Spain, Austria, Latvia, Russia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Germany and Japan adore Irina’s performances. Her skill rivals that of any maestro, gladdening the hearts of audiences. Her smiling expression and her passion for life speak for themselves.
Not long ago, Irina gave a concert in Minsk, heartily welcomed by the audience. Just beforehand, she chatted openly with us.
I always protest on hearing that instrumental music is not for everyone; I play for the widest audience. I graduated from the Conservatoire, playing Bach and Paganini, but always dreamt of playing my own compositions. As a result, I invented my own world, as I feel it. My guitar playing is now broadcast on the radio in Belarus and abroad, although it’s difficult to appear on radio stations’ playlists when you are playing instrumental pieces — especially of your own composition. Believe me.
Irina, you tour a great deal, even setting a record of performing in Japan 55 times. Is instrumental music perceived the same everywhere?
It is very popular in Japan. People there are intrigued that a European is playing this music. I’ve been well accepted. I once saw young Japanese girls arriving at my concert with copies of my hairstyle. I didn’t know how to react on seeing my ‘clones’ but I was later told that the girls were expressing their respect for me by emulating my style.
Many Belarusians and Russians live in Cyprus, so I’ve had no problems with understanding. I travelled to Cuba this year, improvising alongside Cubans. Their guitars were in extremely bad condition but they played them marvellously. Cubans are a very positive nation and cannot live without three things: rum, cigars and music. I still dream of performing in the centre of Havana, where there is a very beautiful square. Probably, I’ll succeed. On returning home, I composed a melody in Cuban-Mexican style. Travels help me compose. I try to fix my impressions in music. In Kazakhstan, I once performed in an actual yurt, which housed a small concert hall. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Such things stick in the memory and live on in music.
When did you leave for Moscow?
Almost three years ago, although not because I felt uncomfortable here. Everything was fine for me in Minsk but, after one of the ‘Listapad’ film festivals, I was invited to Moscow to give a concert, at which I was noticed. Everything went from there and I now have an agent. I receive serious proposals and have given concerts in the Kremlin and at Moscow clubs. I’m enjoying my work. Misteria Zvuka company has released my album and signed a contract with me, which was a shock to everyone. The company never works with young artistes… but they believed in me.
Don’t you have a producer?
No, I don’t, but I do have a company which promotes my career for me.
Will you ever tire of pop music, returning to classical pieces?
It’s quite possible. However, although pop music seems easy and light at first glance, it actually takes quite some time to record and arrange. I feel responsible for each note, having no doubt about how music should sound. I’m glad that my view coincides with that of listeners. My music is loved by accountants and taxi drivers alike, being lightly entertaining and relaxing. Not long ago I heard my ‘Sunny Paradise’ composition on the radio, while at a beauty salon. I was so pleased.
The papers once wrote: ‘Irina Ignatyuk is a virtuoso guitarist’. However, I’m no virtuoso; I just perform beautiful melodies. My conservatoire education remains with me and I still love to go to concerts by great classical instrumentalist Yuri Bashmet. I love to listen to a good symphony orchestra. Saying that, I sometimes meet up with my father, in London, to go to an AC/DC concert for example.
Your father is a teacher of music. Does he give you advice?
Of course. He supports me in all my ideas, understanding me heart and soul. Funny things sometimes happen. I arrived in Japan and he asked me on the phone not how my journey had been (as the flight is so long) but when my sound check would be (laughing). It’s really possible to move mountains, having such support.