( Exclusive Interview – By Dr Shahid Qureshi -) : Irina Kara is a Russian born singer based in London. We requested her an interview which she kindly accepted. We asked her following questions:
- Please tell us about your parents, childhood and family?
I was born in Russia, in a small industrial town, into a very modest working family. My mother was in the finance department of a mining company and father worked as an electro mechanic at the local soda plant. My father was the one who inspired and developed my love of music. He was a self taught accordionist, who never learned musical grammar but could brilliantly play anything he wanted. Inevitably our house was always full of friends and relatives for every possible party occasion. So, I was brought up on a Russian folk songs and soviet classics. Not surprisingly, by 6 years of age I was completely and deeply engrossed in music and wanted to study it properly. My parents gathered our scarce finances and bought me a piano. My beautiful black shiny piano! I remember the whole local community came to view it on delivery. I was the proudest girl in the world! I took my exams to a musical school and joined young prospective pianists. My parents really wanted me to become a music teacher.
- How was your schooling?
Studying always came to me with little effort. A good musical ear and memory saved me from hours and hours of rehearsals and repetition. I picked up the material very quickly and enjoyed learning the science of music. My favourite subjects were choir (singing) and piano lessons. I had a strong voice and soon became a soloist in the musical school choir. Seven years went by. At the final year my parents were disappointed to find out that I had chosen an acting career rather than opting for the musical college (which would have lead to a secure job of a music teacher.) What would I do? I saw myself only on stage and screen: singing and dancing.
- Please tell us about marriage, homes, kids and family life?
I have lived in the UK for 23 years now. London is my home, my fortress that gives me an opportunity to be in the centre of cultural and artistic life. I live with my partner in Battersea very close to the park – our favourite spot for walking and relaxing.
- How you spend your time, and your hobbies?
They say that actors/artists don’t have spare time. I guess that is very true. Whatever I do while “not working” allows me to “collect” material for my future roles or concerts. I am listening to music, searching for new singing material, reading, walking, watching films and visiting art galleries. From time to time I organise art exhibitions for my friends – artists. I derive immense pleasure organising such events, meeting new people, talking to collectors, artists and visitors. Travelling is a luxury. When I have a chance to do it – it’s a great opportunity to learn different cultures and to rest a bit. My next trip is to Dubai to see the World Cup Horse Racing.
- Where and what did you study?
After school I was lucky to pass the entry exams into the Film Academy in Moscow (The State Institute of Cinema named after Sergey Gerasimov) and become a student of an acting faculty under the mentor ship of legendary Soviet film director Sergey Bondarchuk, an Oscar winner for his epic film “War and Peace” (1968). After graduating in 1989 as an actress, I toured Canada with a theater group “The Players”, finally settling in the UK in 1992.
6. When you decided to become a singer?
Probably during my years at the musical school, when I realised that I could sing and people liked listening to my singing. But I didn’t decide at that moment to become a singer. Instead, it developed gradually over the years I studied acting. I would say that singing has always been part of my acting career. I never separated the two. In early years, I wanted to become a musical theatre actress but then changed my mind and never regretted it. Drama schooling brings different depths and understanding of singing material and performance. I discovered a genre of romance while studying at the Film School. Romance is a small vocal piece of romantic lyrical content describing a spectrum of feelings, including, love, separation, happiness, jealousy, sadness and tragedy due to unrequited love. These songs developed into a separate musical genre in the mid 18th century and emerged from “Troubadours” singers who sang in their native Roman languages (such as French or Spanish). That is where the name “Romance” derived. To Russia it came in the middle of 19th century and split into two major streams: the classical/Salon and urban (town) romance. Most of the classical Russian composers: Chaikovsky, Glinka, Dargomyshsky, Mussorgsky wrote romances. Poems of Pushkin, Turgenev, Lermontov, Nekrasov, Fet were set to music. They are called classical/salon romances because they were written by professional musicians and lyricists. The main distinguishing feature of Urban Romance from a musical point of view that is that it is sang in harmonic minor and typically that lyricists or musicians are often amateurs. And this is these types of Urban Romance ballads I love to sing. If any of your readers would like to hear a sample , please follow this link on iTunes to my album “The Return”.
7 – What difficulties you faced in becoming singer?
I cannot say that I suffered a lot of difficulties to become a singer. I just loved it and didn’t think about becoming famous. I always did it for the love of singing and acting. For me one of the most challenging parts is a self promotion. There are only few singers/actors that have managed to skillfully promote themselves to find work. One needs a very strong manager/agent, especially younger artists, in order to start earn a living through their profession.
- How did you overcome those difficulties?
Whatever obstacles I find in my way, I always “look into its eyes”. I am naturally quite a stubborn person and don’t like losing. I believe in my destiny and set to succeed.
- How do you feel being a successful singer?
I do not believe that I have reached the pinnacle of “fame”, yet I have fans that like listening to my voice and buy my albums and for the moment, that is what I care about the most. I am content singing for them and performing on stage.
10 – Please tell us about your success stories?
I always have very been lucky in meeting great people and taking parts in unique events. During my acting career I worked with 2 Oscar winning directors: my teacher Sergey Bondarchuk and an amazing Italian film director Giuseppe Tornatore. I played a mother of a lead actress (Olga Kurilenko) in the latest Tornatore’s film “La Corrisponenza” (“The Correspondence”). The film has been released in Italy at the beginning of January and will shortly reach the English speaking audience.
11 – What advice you will give to young and new comers in music?
Whatever you do, never give up on yourself and your dreams. I believe that every person has got talent. It takes time and effort to discover and develop it, but don’t allow anyone to discourage you. Be focused and faithful to your chosen profession.
12: What are future plans?
At the moment I am recording a new album of White Guards’ Ballads. It’s a very unique genre of Russian romance ballads that was formed during the 1917 October Revolution with lyrics on a subject of WWI and fighting between Red (Bolsheviks) and White Armies. Of course, I also hope for more concerts and big parts in films and theatre plays. I am also taking part in a theatre play “Love in the Nutshell” based on Anton Chekhov’s short stories. We will be performing on the 17, 18 and 19th of March at the Cockpit Theater.
http://www.xameleontheatre.com/. The show is a stage adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s selected short stories exploring love and relationships between people. Outside Russia, Chekhov is mostly known for his full-length plays, but his ironic, visceral, hilarious and sad short stories also offer an incredible source of material for theatre. Alongside with famous stories such as “The Proposal”, Xameleon’s cast will present London’s audience with Chekhov’s less known work such as “A Daughter of Albion” and “The Choir Girl”. In our show, recognisable and timeless sketches of everyday life from the pen of one of the most loved Russian playwrights will come together in a humorous and at the same time touching performance. For those who love Russian literature it would be a good event to attend. There will be English subtitles during the performances.
13: How you see yourself in next 5 years?
Even busier than now! Bigger events, concerts, film projects, wider audiences and more wonderful music.
14 – Anything else you want to tell the readers
I wish all the readers a peaceful year full with new inspirational events and supportive friends.