Zulya Kamalova: ''I would like Tatar remained in school but with improved teaching''

The star of the Tatar alternative music tells about love for the native culture and stage

Zulya Kamalova: ''I would like Tatar remained in school but with improved teaching'' Photo: facebook.com

An Australian singer of Tatar origin Zulya Kamalova with the group Children of the Underground visited Samarkand, which has recently hosted the international music festival Sharq Taronalari where they participated. On the way, Zulya visited Kazan and met with fans, talking about creativity, development of Tatar culture and the ways it can be brought to the masses. Realnoe Vremya discussed with the singer the topic of voluntariness of learning the language of Tuqay and multiculturalism in music.

From Shostakovich to Zemfira

The meeting with Zulya Kamalova gathered about 50 fans and had the format of a conversation with them. The singer told about the participation in the festival Sharq Taronalari, which means ''Melodies of the East''. The festival takes place in Samarkand under the auspices of UNESCO with participation of many countries. This year, Australia has been presented for the first time by Zulya Kamalova and the group Children of the Underground. The main prize — $10,000. ''Alas, we didn't win,'' said Zulya. The victory went to Azerbaijan, but the musicians were still very glad with the trip to Uzbekistan, where they managed to communicate with a large community of Tatars:

''I was asked: how did it happen that you are from Australia but you sing in the Tatar language? It was curious for them. I had to explain that a lot of different peoples live in Australia and they sing in different languages, not just in English.

The singer told about the participation in the festival Sharq Taronalari. Photo: facebook.com

The group Children of the Underground already returned to their homeland. Zulya was without the music band but expressed hope that soon they would give concerts in Kazan, ''Maybe next year.'' The singer told about a new project of the group. In honour of the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, the musicians give the concert ''Russian evolution'', where they sing songs of the last century:

''Starting from Utyosov. There is even classics: Prokofiev, Shostakovich, i.e. we go throughout the century and finish with Zemfira.'' It's not just cover versions, says Zulya. The musicians give their interpretation of the compositions, using newsreels, reflecting the milestones of the history, but without going into policy.

''I am often accused that I perform Tatar songs too freely''

Zulya also told about the recently released album-book On Love and Science, where she combined music, literature and science. The illustrations to it were made by a popular in Europe artist Dilyara Nasyrova, better known under the pseudonym Dilka Bear. The singer calls her book a poetic parable, and with the music on the CD she tries to convey her sentiments. The main character is named Alma, although it is nowhere stated that she is a Tatar, a song that describes her is in Tatar, ''It is a collective image of the girl from my past,'' explained Zulya.

Zulya and the group Children of the Underground. In honour of the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution, the musicians are preparing the concert ''Russian evolution'', where they will sing songs of the last century. Photo: facebook.com

The singer was asked if she planned to use in her work the old Tatar songs. The singer answered that earlier she had worked more in this direction, for example, in the framework of her second album, Aloukie (1999, voted best album of the year in Australia). The discussion ensued whether it is right to re-sing the old songs, even trying to give them new sound. They say that such attempts by representatives of the Tatar music are not always successful.

''In terms of music I have a broader approach, perhaps that is why my result seems more interesting. But I am often accused that I perform the Tatar songs too freely. I believe that we all make some contribution to the development of our culture. Different people interpret differently. It is possible to do like we are taught at an institute of culture, but we can also try to look for original moves, maybe not all acceptable, but they still come from you or me, the bearers of culture. We still won't be able to freeze it as it was in the villages 100 years ago. For this there are folk ensembles,'' said the singer.

They also recalled the Tatar tradition to meet with relatives and sing songs, complained that young people moving to the cities forget their custom. In Australia, in the country of immigrants, according to the singer, representatives of different peoples sometimes gather and remember their national songs, being nostalgic for their homeland. However, this practice doesn't find wide application, ''Multiculturalism is not in fashion, unfortunately. It was 10-15 years ago.''

Zulya also told about the recently released album-book On Love and Science, where she combined music, literature and science. Photo: zulyaandthechildrenoftheunderground.bandcamp.com

''I open the textbook and begin to forget the Tatar language''

We touched on a vital topic: what prospects does the Tatar language have? Though the singer did not study it at school because she grew up in Kirov Oblast, she was introduced to the native culture thanks to her grandmother.

''I speak Tatar only thanks to her. But the grandmother was illiterate and I read books to her, she loved Nasreddin Hodja. I also have my own small experience. When I came to Kazan four years ago, my daughter had attended the 3rd gymnasium for three months. It is clear that this is a very short period of time, but somehow she did not learn much,'' admitted Zulya Kamalova.

The singer heard from many parents that the teaching of the language of Tuqay in Tatarstan is lagging. ''I open the textbook and begin to forget the Tatar language,'' agreed a journalist, musician and organizer of the meeting Radif Kashapov. But now the textbooks are being rewritten, he said.

''We need to change the methodology of teaching Tatar''

At the end of the meeting, the singer answered to some questions from Realnoe Vremya.

In Tatarstan there are being heated discussions on the subject of studying the national languages. What do you think, is it necessary to leave the Tatar language in schools?

''Yes, I heard about these disputes. It is difficult to answer to this question unambiguously. First, it is necessary to change the methodology, then maybe there would not be such a negative attitude. But now it's too late. They are discussing to give it an optional level. But I hope that this is temporary. I wish the Tatar remained in school, if to improve teaching, to make it interesting, people would see the good in it. But although I do not know, honestly, I can't definitely answer to this question.''

What trends in modern world music would you highlight?

In modern world music… Honestly, I don't know. In Poland, there is one girl, I forgot her name. She has recently made the album of Tatar songs Керфеклэрен синен нигэ кара (Why are your eyelashes black). She sings with a strong accent, but it is very interesting, she makes good music setting. Perhaps, you won't appreciate because she has a strong accent, it is even unclear what she says. But the fact that she decided to express herself, to do it in different styles… It's interesting.

I think it is not difficult to find good music today. If people want to find something interesting they will. The main thing this music should find a response in the heart. A musician should develop, it is necessary to listen much, not only funk or rhythm and blues but different music, different genres.

By Vasilya Shirshova