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Olya, curator of Am I Jazz? Festival

“I was born in the city with unrecognized status in the country that does not exist anymore. Therefore, the question of identification is complicated for me. I am not inclined to jingoism. I don’t like speculating about this topic. I was born and raised in Luhansk. In 2009 I moved to Kyiv - it was my fifth year at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. I’ve known for a long time that I would stay in Kyiv. Luhansk had to end for me as it was grey and too small. Of course, I liked some people there, but I didn’t like the city.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always liked music and have always been interested in different music genres. I remember going to school and singing Hello, Dolly on my way. I listened to Nina Simone. Very classy. Cover bands began to form in Luhansk. Once there was a concert by Fima Chupahin. After I moved to Kyiv, I remember walking around the city and passing the Actor’s House (Budynok Aktora), where there was a concert. It was the first time I heard free-jazz. I was so fascinated that when I was going to the metro, everything around felt like music to me. I thought I had lost my mind.

Today I’m a music festival curator. I’ve never even dreamed that my life would be connected to music.

I wanted to study in music school when I was little, but I didn’t have a chance. With age, I thought that the world of music for me as a participant was closed. But then life itself gradually and naturally led me to music. For four years already, I’ve been organizing jazz and improvisation music Am I Jazz? Festival that is held in Closer in November. Nowadays, it is hard to define the genre of music: modern tendencies always mix different styles.

Why am I doing this? I can’t live without it. I love music, and I think any kind of art, like music or cinema, that people experience together - unites them. It creates a community, common interest. It helps to understand each other and find a common language without cliche. It helps to be open through art.

It is precisely what I am writing my thesis about: “Music festivals: social responsibility of curators during the time of changes in society.” There are a lot of examples of how the music industry united different marginal groups. It is what happens when people interact.

Now I study in New Orleans. I am a Fulbright student (a program for scientific and diplomatic exchange between the US and other countries. It is sponsored by the US Department of State. The idea of the program: interaction and understanding; it is based on exploration and respect for diversity in the world. Established in 1946, it operates in 155 countries). We act as cultural ambassadors. Musician Fima Chupahin, who also did Fulbright, advised me to enter the program. I have always wanted to live in a different country for a couple of years to study and get new experiences that I could use in Ukraine. As I am a lawyer by training but doing music festivals, I have always had that impostor syndrome: who am I to tell the city what and how to listen? Now I understand how the industry operates in the country where jazz was born. Although I do the same thing as before, I know the process on a conscious level. My program ends in a year. Meanwhile, I am in Kyiv on vacation.

I have been living on Videnska street since 2014. So many years in Podil, and I like it here.

My morning starts with coffee in в Espressoholic. Then I go to Closer. I often spend time in a First Point coffee shop. It is a district for young people where everybody drinks cider or coffee in the street. Life in the street is a great thing.

I like this architecture of small streets close to the embankment or Poshtova where there are Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and “Chornobyl” museum. It is a city that lives, a district that has its community. We often walk around Podil and rarely leave it. After moving from Luhansk, Kyiv seemed to be very glamorous, a city with many decorations. In Luhansk, I used to go to rock concerts and biker clubs, so in Kyiv, I missed real underground with speakers full of holes. Now Kyiv is more real for me. Maybe, changes in me and my surroundings are the reason. When I was a student, I used to walk around Khreschatyk. Now I walk around Podil – this is how my Kyiv has changed. Today it is a progressive city with people who want to grow, with many events and opportunities. Happening place.”

Olya, curator of Am I Jazz? Festival


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