Sergey Manukyan: ''I feel shame for what my generation is doing''

Legend of jazz tells about modern musical culture, degradation of the society and love for the young

Sergey Manukyan: ''I feel shame for what my generation is doing'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The ancient hall of the Kazan City Hall hosted a concert of a legend of the Russian jazz – vocalist, pianist and drummer Sergey Manukyan. Last week, he performed in the second season of Hotel de Ville traditional music festival with Olga Skepner. The musician gave Realnoe Vremya an exclusive interview on the threshold of the concert.

''Jazz musicians are storytellers''

Sergey, why did you decide to come to the festival to Kazan?

Why should not I agree to come to Kazan? Kazan is a wonderful city. Many famous and good musicians come from here. Oleg Lundstrem worked here for a long time. The city has big musical and cultural traditions. In addition, it is a city of educated people. There are many educational establishments here. Judging by the audience that goes to concerts, it is seen that the city has a cultural layer that is able to perceive sensitively different music, not only jazz or classical music. It is interesting to play here. In Kazan, I played in different places – in the conservatoire, philharmonic, clubs. I have never played in the City Hall, and I will do it today.

What a transformation did Russian jazz have in its history? What does it look like against the background of the musical culture?

I don't like to insult other genres. But the jazz culture became more interesting and grew a lot in the recent 25 or 30 years. The level of people who deal with this music has grown. I am very happy for them. As for the pop culture, it always reflected the life of the modern society. It is the most truthful part of the musical culture if it can be considered as culture, of course. Pop musicians tell the truth: they sing about the way we live. A chic look, a cool bike… I have four kids. I know the young very well. This is why I can state that what the majority of young people from 17 to 25 years thinks about today. We – jazz musicians – are storytellers. We live an imaginary world. We create this world themselves. We speak about it. We are fantasists, perfectionists. There is one ''but''. People say that tales tell the truth for a reason. But this truth is different. It is the global truth. It is not momentary.

So the jazz culture is growing. It is seen in musicians' mastery. You can't get enough of a good thing, of course. There is quite a lot of artisanship. Individuals existed and will exist, there will always be geniuses. Jazz has many unnecessary things, but we also need them. People come, play, want to gain a foothold, be in the public eye, show off technical possibilities and knowledge of music of different genres. It all exists today. But there is something deep that submerges in the space of a serious human philosophy.

What space do you mean? Where does jazz lead a listener to?

Jazz musicians differ from other people because they are playing there and then. Jazz is composing on the stage. Jazz musicians are people who compose on the spot. They do a job that is different from what rock, pop and classical musicians do. They are different people… a bit crazy. Their target is to tell that maybe has been said but to tell like they want. When it is accompanied by deep mastery when a person has an especial philosophy and sense… Even the sense is not the point. Sounds are a bit deeper than words. Music and sound – it is when you reach spheres you have never been in. Many things happen in these spheres. Different roads lead there. There is a road of a musician, artist, poet, writer. Note that all religions have an obligatory tone row, prayers and important words from the Writing aку delivered with the help of music. God's word is always delivered through music – in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity. It means that music is divine.

God's word is always delivered through music – in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity. It means that music is divine

''We, adults, deceived the young''

How did listener change?

I want to embitter you: people have not changed since they appeared on the Earth. They always needed something that they can listen to. They always want to say and express something. And people took somebody's away property five years ago and are doing it now. What is the difference? Funds have changed. Now one can launch a rocket, while bows or a stone was used in the past. There was a writer Ambrose Bierce. He wrote The Devil's Dictionary, God forgive. He defines the meaning of a device used to establish state borders. In other words, everything is done like centuries ago. The audience doesn't change.

Music can change. But… another music was performed in the past. Now it is different. Remember what did Aristotle write about harpists? The same thing is happening now: a person enters a restaurant and wants to hear some pleasant music. The demand is the same. People always need bread, spectacles, and they get them.

There is an audience that goes to a concert to think, to follow you and understand what you want to say. It is a tough road. If people understand what I want to tell through music, they will follow me. But they need be careful. Probably I tell rubbish. There is little sense at my age (laughing).

So, has the audience changed? Only clothes have probably changed. They became worse, by the way. Once a German writer was asked why everything worsened. He said that people thought about eternal topics and things lasted for a long time. So what do we have now? A one-time spoon, one-time marriage. Everything is for one time now. They use things once and throw them away.

I have seen a guy going together witha girl many times. It is obvious they have a good attitude towards each other. But each of them is looking at a gadget. So why are you going together? I don't tell the young off. I have four kids, they are all different – from 16 to 38 years. I know the young first-hand. I understand why they are so. Because we, adults, deceived them. It always was this way. We, adults, are guilty of what the next generation looks like. We deceive kids.

How did we deceive them?

We say that they need to do these or that things, be good, honest, fair. Then they see on TV that somebody came and took something away from another person because it was ''honestly and fairly'' or some president was substituted. They said he was not right. This is why he must be killed as well as his kids. How should we explain it to a kid? It seems that people are smartly dressed, many of them speak well but do bad things. My father was a prosecutor. He used to say that a criminal is a person who wants to live well but does it badly. But we themselves do it! Today my generation is ruling the world processes. I feel shame for what my generation is doing. I feel shame that I played football and fought with them. They and people who are ten years older are ruling today. They are also baddies. At times I am asked ''Why is the world living so?'' They live the way they rule.

Is there any opportunity to reanimate the society spiritually?

Of course. The general concept that has changed since humankind appeared needs to be seriously changed. The concept is the following: everything what I need is to be to my benefit. Nothing else doesn't and can't exist. How can we change it? We also look for our benefit. Should I say it or not? We don't tell the truth but keep silence. People gather, organise a great deal of talk shows and talk about the same things. They just waste their time. It seems that something happens, but, actually, it is a lie. Unfortunately, it is what we have. We can do nothing with it.

You often say that music is a manifestation of God's kindness. Are you a religious person?

Yes. I am bad but religious. I am the worst person among religious. Anyway, I am religious. Orthodox. I do my best. Any society always tried to keep a foot in both worlds – spiritual and terrestrial. It is the way a person lives. Here I am an animal, I occupied a territory, took it away and marked it. Here I am a religious person. I read and know something. Humankind tries combining these two approaches. Here I am an animal, sorry, don't kick a man when he is down. I wanted to eat. I took something away from a person. What? I want to eat. Here I am a religious person and teach others: it is not good to take away things from others, you know. What happens on the road? When a person sees that somebody violates the rules, he or she says: ''Jerk''. When they violate the rules, they said: ''Oh, come on!''

There is another story. Few people go and really serve God. They are called holy, monks because people are amazed when people really went somewhere and achieved something great. Sometimes I hear that icons are a bad thing. That's fine, icons are bad, but, still, they collect artists' photos. It is the same thing and cult. Icon says that a person became closer to God, though his or her road was not easy. And here an artist dumped a woman, then another woman, he was not given a role – he started to drink, he was given a role – he also started to drink. Icons are better.

What do you aspire to reach in your music?

I want to the place where God is, though both my hands and legs pull me back to the Earth. But I resist. Sorry, we were speaking about music… But it is all about music. Actually, I like the modern young. They are very good. They create great things. From 17 to 25. Meanwhile, they are limited: ''Guys! A revolution is about to break out! Go there!'' And they go there.

What would you like to wish the young generation?

Young generation, develop! Young generation, know more! However, in Writings, it is said that if you are not developed, don't touch the tree of knowledge. If you are, here you are. A developed person means a spiritual development. If a person is not developed spiritually but educated, it is horrible. Nowadays you can see people will the whatever you like by heart. But the person is black, it is seen he or she is black. ''Do you know the sermon on the Mount?'' You know it, so what? To read is a non-perfective verb.

By Natalia Fedyorova. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov