The Leading Edge

Keyreel FidlÈir Raskolenko is taking Celtic music to new places ñ literally. The Uzbekistan-born fiddler, who now resides in Moscow, has become a musical trend-setter in his native Russia, combining his classical training and a passion for jigs and reels into a unique sonic hybrid.

What inspired you to start playing music?
I think my interest for music appeared when I was a child. My mother, my aunt and my elder sister studied piano for a certain time but none of them became a professional musician. However, our home was filled up with vinyl records playing musical tales and I listened to them over and over again. At my age of 7 my mother took me to a music school where Iíve started studying violin. Since itís happened my interest doesnít stop growing.

How did you get into†Celtic†fiddling?
I suppose, it was never enough for me to play classical music, which is, unfortunately,the only way of studying violin in Russia, so I was always in search for new things I can experience. New things came to me unexpectedly when I felt frustrated of the fruitless search. I saw an ad of the band willing to find a fiddler for a Celtic project. It wasnít a traditional Celtic music actually, but anyway that was the start-point of my interest. Since that time I met new people and learned something from each of them and Iím happy there will always be a lot of things to learn further.

Are they the same reasons that you still do it today?
What can I say, I fell in love with this music. It makes me feel excited like a child, positive-thinking, energetic. From the other hand, itís the music with a very long history so you feel a breath of the centuries on your neck. Itís mystical and powerful, no wonder I fell under its spell.

What do your family & friends think of your fiddling experiences?
Old generation of the former USSR isnít familiar with this kind of music. My parents are not an exception. My mother saw me as a classical violinist, although sheís happy for me. Most of my friends like Celtic music. It tends to be more wide-spread and popular here in Russia than it was 5 years ago when Iíve just started playing.

What is the Russian Celtic community like?
There are many dance schools and bands nowadays; Irish, Scottish and even Breton music and dances. We run jam sessions and ceilidhs (dance events), and you can always hear Celtic music live in pubs. I meet people learning Irish and Scottish Gaelic. The main thing I like about it is that Celtic communities, whether Russian or not, are usually friendly and open to everyone willing to join in.

How are you involved with the fiddling community these days?
I wish we had more Celtic-oriented fiddlers here in Russia. Unfortunately, there isnít a big fiddling community so far. But we do our best to fix it. Itís a duty to share your knowledge with someone who hasnít it yet but willing to have it in future. Luckily for me, I have met many of foreign fiddlers to learn from and weíre still in touch. I do love to travel and take every opportunity my life gives me. I attended Fleadh Cheoilnah Eireann music school in Tullamore, Alasdair Fraser fiddle course on the Isle of Skye and I think Iíll keep travelling and learning further.

What events will you be involved with this year?
Iím engaged in 4 bands, three of them play Celtic-based music, the rest one is about Bluegrass so I have a pretty busy schedule but the biggest events for me will be my own band Glasach debut at the end of May, Alasdair Fraser fiddle course on Skye again at the end of July, Samhain-holiday gala concert with a dance show in October.

Is enough being done to promote Celtic culture today?
I think, the Internet helps a lot. So even in countries of non-Celtic origin there is a certain number of people familiar with Celtic culture. But I believe, there will always be a need in big Celtic-oriented festivals in Russia, which is only possible with sponsorsí investments.

What could we be doing better?
I would like to see a good communication with foreign colleges, musicians, dancers and language teachers. It would be great if we could do something interesting together, with some help from other musicians all over the world. And, as Iíve already said, I would like to find organizations and companies interested in promoting, supporting and representing Celtic culture here in Russia so we could coordinate our work.

Whatís next on your own creative agenda?
Iím currently tied up with work on my own project called Glasach. Celtic-oriented band, performing Cape Breton tunes, Scottish and Irish material. Weíve just started to record our demo CD and I hope, the combination of fiddle, viola, piano, bass and drums would be interesting to the audienceís ear. Also, Iím thinking on creating a website devoted to Celtic culture, with musiciansí blogs and media, events announcements and a dancersí corner with up-to-date information on different Celtic subjects.

www.raskolenko.com