Sheer chart at­tack

She’s a for­mer Mrs World, an opera singer, a film star, her hus­band is a bil­lion­aire, and she’s been a con­sis­tent pres­ence in the Ir­ish iTunes chart for months. Yet hardly any­one has ever heard of Ka­maliya. Louise Bru­ton re­ports

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

The iTunes chart is a wild and won­der­ful thing. Next to your very reg­u­lar and cur­rent hits such as Calvin Har­ris’ Feels and the song that will out live us all, Luis Fonsi’s Des­pac­ito, you will have the likes of Lou Bega’s

Mambo No 5, Bill Whe­lan’s River­dance and Bac­cara’s Yes Sir, I Can Boo­gie.

These are, you might say, time­less songs that cap­ture a zeit­geist. But for the past three months there has been one con­sis­tent pres­ence in the Ir­ish iTunes chart that may come as a sur­prise – and she goes by the name of Ka­maliya.

Ka­maliya is from the Ukraine and is a for­mer Mrs World – that’s Mrs, not Miss – which is a pageant for the beau­ti­ful mar­ried women of the world, and she was the star of 2013’s re­al­ity show Meet the Rus­sians.

The short-lived 2013 re­al­ity show fol­lowed the lives of in­sanely rich Rus­sian and Ukrainian entrepreneurs and so­cialites liv­ing in Lon­don, and it was the first proper in­tro­duc­tion the world had to Ka­maliya and her sup­port­ive Pak­istani hus­band, Mo­ham­mad Za­hoor.

He is a Bri­tish busi­ness­man of Pak­istani ori­gin who is now based in Ukraine. He founded the Istil Group, which works in the steel in­dus­try, is the pub­lisher of the Kyiv Post, and is thought to be a bil­lion­aire.

A GQ fea­ture from 2014 by Danny Wal­lace pro­vided a glimpse into the deca­dent lives of the cou­ple. Cham­pagne baths and pri­vate jets that cost $7,000 an hour – only for them to wait on the tar­mac for five hours as Ka­maliya gets ready. Za­hoor told Wal­lace that his plan for Ka­maliya was “to send Lady Gaga into early re­tire­ment” – be­cause Ka­maliya is also a pop star.

On her web­site, an eight-minute long video boasts her achieve­ments so far. These range from the mum from the

Brady Bunch an­nounc­ing her as the win­ner of Mrs World in 2008 – where she says that “beauty is not just a body, not a face. It has to in­clude in­ner beauty too” – to her ap­pear­ances in Rus­sian sit­coms and ac­tion movies.

“Sal­va­tion and con­quer­ing is not easy,” she says, clad in a white leather pantsuit, mo­ments be­fore a snip­pet from the Rus­sian movie My Widow’s

Hus­band shows her bal­let danc­ing with a bare-chested blond and chilly pho­to­shoots in front of the Lon­don Eye.

An opera singer, a pop star, an ac­tress. She’s aim­ing for global dom­i­na­tion in 2017 with the aes­thetic of a Pop­stars au­di­tionee in 2000. This is Aqua meets Cas­cada. A pop­star man­u­fac­tured through an ex­pen­sive Brook­side lens. The Amer­i­can Dream but with Rus­sian in­flu­ence.

iTunes chart

Since May, Ka­maliya has had up to nine songs in the Ir­ish iTunes top 100 at any given time, most of them su­per-pol­ished and Euro­vi­sion-ready. Yet few peo­ple here seem to know who she is. She has had lit­tle or no ra­dio cover­age we could track down; she doesn’t ap­pear in the of­fi­cial Ir­ish charts; and no club DJ we spoke to, from the Ge­orge to Lumo, has heard of her. And yet her songs – six on the last count – seem to have gained trac­tion in the iTunes chart.

The of­fi­cial Ir­ish sin­gles charts take phys­i­cal/dig­i­tal sales and stream­ing fig­ures into ac­count, where the iTunes charts works only off its own dig­i­tal sales.

This means that songs can have sud­den, volatile bursts in the iTunes chart. On the day af­ter the Manch­ester Love con­cert in June, al­most all of the artists at that con­cert charted again with the songs they per­formed. If a song ap­pears in an episode of a pop­u­lar TV show such as The Hand­maid’s Tale ,it will of­ten chart within hours of the episode air­ing, and if The Coronas or Ar­cade Fire play a sell-out gig in Ire­land, older songs of theirs will sud­denly reap­pear in the iTunes chart. One

quick click and ¤1.29 later, any song stands a chance of chart­ing briefly on iTunes in 2017, only to be re­placed with some­thing else 24 hours later.

In this way, the iTunes chart is a re­flec­tion of what’s pop­u­lar right now. Ka­maliya might have re­leased a new al­bum in July called Time­less, but any Ir­ish con­nec­tion is loose.

On a mis­sion

We got in con­tact with her Aus­trian-based dis­trib­u­tor Re­beat, which put us in con­tact with her man­age­ment and la­bel, in the form of Sergey Ch­lechko. Some­one with this name is also listed on bloomberg.com as an act­ing direc­tor of the closed joint stock com­pany Mini Steel Mill Istil in Ukraine.

It seems that the steel mill in­dus­try, thanks to Ka­maliya’s hus­band Za­hoor, who owns Istil, and the pop in­dus­try are close bed­fel­lows.

Ch­lechko did his best to shine a light on Ka­maliya’s Ir­ish suc­cess. “There is no ap­par­ent Ir­ish con­nec­tion, yet Ka­maliya’s man­ager is an Ir­ish lady, Hermione Ross, since 2011,” Ch­lechko told us in an email. Ross is the daugh­ter of Ir­ish folk singer Christie Hen­nessy and she also made an ap­pear­ance on Meet the Rus­sians.

He says that there is a “hid­den bond” between Ka­maliya and the Ir­ish peo­ple, which he says was ap­par­ent in 2012 when she sup­ported Steps on their come­back tour and when she per­formed at Belfast’s Pride that same year. In Belfast, Ch­lechko says, Ka­maliya “was stunned to know that gay com­mu­nity was closely fol­low­ing her and all her songs from her al­bum ClubOpera”.

With this sud­den and in­ex­pli­ca­ble pop­u­lar­ity in Ire­land, and the UK “and in fact world­wide” he says, she then “van­ished from the mu­sic scene to give birth to her long awaited dream – twin girls Ara­bella and Mirabella”.

Four years later she is chart­ing again and while it doesn’t seem like Lady Gaga has suf­fered much, Ka­maliya’s string-and-disco heavy cover of Ter­ence Trent D’Arby’s Sign

Your Name is ap­par­ently what caused her resur­gence here.

“In Ire­land,” says Ch­lechko, “the peo­ple went out all the way to look for her old al­bums and made her songs [an] es­sen­tial part of the charts.

“Feel­ing the strong bond and love from Ire­land, Ka­maliya is tap­ping the pos­si­bil­ity to per­form in Ire­land for her fol­low­ers.”

While she is yet to break the thresh­old of the iTunes charts into the of­fi­cial charts, Ka­maliya and her hus­band Za­hoor are on a mis­sion for this pop ca­reer to take hold of Ire­land and the rest of the world. And it all starts with one click, ¤1.29, and a lit­tle help from the Ukrainian steel mill in­dus­try.

Feel­ing the strong bond and love from Ire­land, Ka­maliya is tap­ping the pos­si­bil­ity to per­form in Ire­land for her fol­low­ers

Ka­maliya ‘Sal­va­tion and con­quer­ing is not easy’

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