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Singing for freedom

Jazz singer Olesya Yalunina on how jazz freed her from a career in economics.

Published: February 29, 2012 (Issue # 1697)



  • Jazz singer Olesya Yalunina will perform with guitarist Alex Degusarov at Erarta on Friday, March 2.
    Photo: FOR SPT

As for so many of her heroes, for jazz singer Olesya Yalunina, jazz is freedom: A means of expressing emotions and ideas, as well as a means of freeing oneself from the homogeneity of daily life. This is apparent not only in her music and her singularly expressive voice, but in her personality as well. Yalunina flits between multifarious topics with ease, always with a smile framed by her trademark scarlet lipstick, clearly at ease with herself and eager to imbue similar feelings among those around her.

Yalunina is, unsurprisingly, most animated when talking about jazz, her job and her lifeblood. She talks lovingly about its ability to inspire and indeed, a look into her past explains why. Born in Irkutsk to a conventional working family, her mother and father encouraged her to become an economist. Although she played the piano at music school for eight years, the rigid structure of such an education, limited as it was to the classical styles of Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, nearly extinguished Yaluninas passion for music. Having moved to St. Petersburg at 17 to begin studying economics, it quickly became apparent that office stuff was not for me, she says. During this time, at about the age of 19, she began listening to jazz artists, notably Diana Krall and Tierney Sutton.

I dont know why I started it was intuition, Yalunina says. Before long, she had fallen in love with all things jazz, broadening her musical repertoire whilst surrounding herself with musicians in the field. It was then that she decided to embark on a second degree, this time in jazz.

Music in particular, jazz was what freed Yalunina, and she remains confident in its ability to help people.

Music can be different for different people for some people it can be useful and helpful. Now there is more commerciality but music always has power. If you want to hear it, it always has power.

While some artists set themselves the mission of bringing about political change or doing something on a grand scale, Yalunina feels there are other equally important ways in which to help through music.

Its a big responsibility, but I want to help people, she said. To encourage people to change their job, to break routine, to look at things with a fresh perspective. When we perform its a great happiness, when you think people might listen to your music and go home and get on the Internet and listen to more jazz. You know, just so they dont switch on the TV! I want to give people good, positive emotions.

At the same time, Yalunina concedes that jazz music is not for everyone.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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