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Local Promoter Speaks Out Against Boycotts

With more international artists canceling concerts in Russia, Ilya Bortnyuk says they are only hurting their fans.

Published: May 7, 2014 (Issue # 1809)



  • U.S. band The National are the latest act to cancel their Russian concerts.
    Photo: A2

  • According to Bortnyuk, making a political statement at a concert would be more effective than simply canceling altogether.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

With a growing number of Western artists boycotting Russia in protest of its annexation of Crimea and destabilization in south-eastern Ukraine, a St. Petersburg concert promoter has spoken out against their actions, saying that these musicians are only hurting fans. Ilya Bortnyuk, whose agency Light Music has brought many international acts to St. Petersburg and organized the popular Stereoleto music festival since 2002, believes that boycotting targets the wrong people, with politicians left unaffected.

In fact, he believes that boycotting is actually helping Russian President Vladimir Putin further isolate Russia from the rest of the world.

Of course, its not right, Bortnyuk told The St. Petersburg Times in a recent interview. If they want to make a statement against the politics of Vladimir Putin or our state, they should do something that could really influence the situation or at least bring their message to those they are protesting against.

As a result, people who have nothing to do with it [the politics] in the least degree are the ones who are being punished. This is the main thing that I disagree with.

If you want to punish McDonalds, you dont buy their products. However, if you stop buying kebabs from a kebab stand nearby because of its proximity to McDonalds, it will not harm McDonalds at all. Even if there is an indirect link between them, its most likely that the people whom they are protesting against wont even know about it, thats what its about.

Bortnyuk founded Light Music in 2000. Since then, it has brought such acts as Sparks, Sonic Youth and Morrissey to the city and launched the annual Stereoleto festival in 2002. The upcoming Stereoleto festival, scheduled for July 12 and 13, will feature acts from Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Georgia, Cuba, France and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to Bortnyuk, the refusals from international artists to perform in Russia have become more frequent after the Federation Council voted unanimously on Mar. 1 to send Russian troops to Ukraine.

At least three artists have refused to come to Russia, one of which is quite well-known, he said. I also know a few other cases where artists have refused to come when approached by different promoters. So far, I dont know of any more cases of artists canceling already scheduled concerts, except for The National.

Last month, The National, one of Americas premier indie rock bands, canceled concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev, citing the current political climate as their reason.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

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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