Touching the Strings of the Heart
Text Natalia Shuvalova
Photographs S. Zverev
This little guy has a big future. At least it feels like it by the pace at which his popularity grows. His stage name is DiDuLa (which he seems to use in life as well)… He is a guitar-player and composer. We met in a coffee shop right after he got back from his latest concert somewhere in the middle of Russia. Jeans and a jacket: everything is stylish but simple. His clothing is not that simple on stage. His aim is to make every live performance a big celebration of life, love and music. He treasures his time, answering the questions very much to the point.
There is a small city called Grodno at the Western boarder of Byelorussia. Due to its location, the city always had close connections with Poland and the Baltic countries and through them, with the West. That greatly influenced its cultural and architectural heritage, as well as the musical education of its people. We do not mean the classics of course. We mean that its residents had all the Western music available (pop, rock and disco) even when the Iron Curtain blocked this stream of music from Soviet ears.
That is where DiDuLa was born and spent his childhood and teenage years.
It was fortunate to be born in this place. We were able to get lots of music records and even tune into Western radio stations. I was exposed to all the variety of popular Western music. Though it would be a lie to say that I owe my musical growth to Western music. I loved and I love listen to everything. I find inspiration in different styles, cultures…
Whenever you talk about music and guitars, it sounds like music was your passion from childhood, as soon as you could hold a guitar.
Yes and no. I was drawn to music from the age of five, when my mother gave me a small guitar for children for my birthday. Yet, I did so many other things - sports, radio technology. At that time children had so many opportunities to study and learn at no cost. I sincerely believe that Soviet times offered much more opportunities than now. A child could always be occupied instead of just roaming the streets.
Did you go to musical school?
No, but I had many teachers. Everyone around me was playing guitar. I had many people to show me the chords, ways of arranging them together and styles of playing. I am grateful to all of them, but I believe that practice is the best teacher. Mostly I learned from playing. From the very beginning I loved improvisations and experiments with sound. I would add various gadgets to my guitar; sound boosters, for example.
On your web-page you have a whole section devoted to the collection of the guitars you have. You speak of them as if they are living beings…
They are! I have no doubt in that. My relationship with the guitar is the most intimate relationship in my life. It is mutual love. Just like a human, a guitar has its moods. There are days when it goes smoothly and well, and my guitar allows me to tap into great melodies and rhythms. And there are days when she does not want to communicate at all. It requires lots of emotional involvement, passion and patience. I love it! It is my life and I could hardly choose anything else. Music teaches me all the truths about life. Some practice yoga – I just play my music.
Your collection is not just a series of instruments to display on a wall, you use a lot of them during the performances and in your recordings. How do you get these instruments and how did you get the idea to mix various musical styles?
I am never loyal to any tradition. When I worked as a sound engineer for a Belorussian dance group, I learned a lot about our folk music. Not only that, I learned even more about sound as such, how it is made, how the audience reacts to it. Though, as I already said, I am a cosmopolitan musician. Wherever I travel I try to learn about the local music and its instruments. That’s how I have them. Then they naturally become part of my compositions.
Now you travel a lot. Do you find any differences between the audiences?
People are people everywhere. What I love about music is that it is universal. It touches us all, no matter what language we speak, which country we live in. We all love, laugh, cry… The only difference that I notice is the kind presents that people bring!
Do you choose different people to perform with on stage and in the studio or do you have the same group?
I have the same group of about 10 people. We are all great friends. I give each of them their creative space, as they are real professionals and can do wonders with their instruments. Music we do is a team and every member is very important.
You have worked with some of the Western music stars?
We played with Brian Adams when I worked with Andrey Konchalovsky in his movie “House of Fools”.
Do you find it difficult to work with famous people?
Not at all! I would say the opposite. They are very easy to work with, as they know what they are doing, they are talented, skilled and experienced. They are not trying to show off and prove anything to anyone. At the moment I work a lot with famous Russian musicians.
What are you plans for the future?
That’s a sort of an abstract question, don’t you think? Of course I have plans for the future but I try to concentrate on my plans for the next five years. Besides, I won’t reveal all of my ideas. (smiles)
Let’s put it in a different way: what are your immediate future projects?
There are many, but the one that is worth mentioning is a series of concerts at the orphanages. I would like kids to know that there is music and such an instrument as a guitar. I want to bring inspiration into their lives. I truly believe that it can save at least some of them from getting lost in their lives… Right now we are working at finding financial support for this project.
That’s a great idea! Anything else?
Concerts, records, records, concerts – playing music!