Pianoboy’s Dmytro Shurov wants to improve the world
There have only been four years in the life of Ukrainian singer, musician and the leader of the band Pianoboy Dmytro Shurov that he didn’t play the piano — the first four.
At 4, Shurov started taking piano lessons, and by the age of 12, he earned his first money from music: He was paid to record backing tracks for singers.
“At first, the piano was an object of pleasure for me, then it became a challenge because at some point I realized that in order to play some- thing complicated, you need to work a lot,” Shurov told the Kyiv Post in an interview on Oct. 1.
Today Shurov, 36, is one of the best pianists in the country and the leader and founder of the popular rock band Pianoboy, whose music videos gather millions of views on YouTube and whose shows attract thousands of fans.
Before starting his own band, Shurov played with some of the top Ukrainian bands, including Okean Elzy and Esthetic Education, as well as toured with Russian singer Zemfira and composed music for films and theatrical plays.
By 2009, when Pianoboy was formed, Shurov had a vast amount of experience of performing music, but he had never written any songs.
“I always wrote poetry and music, but I started writing songs very late, at the age of 29, when I was experiencing a serious creativity crisis,” Shurov says.
Despite the somewhat late start, Shurov’s songs resonated with Ukrainian music lovers and soon Pianoboy became one of the top local bands.
Shurov says that he founded the band mainly for the chance to perform live.
“Playing shows is the thing I know how to do best,” he says. “I enjoy it and I open up on stage.”
The band’s music mixes pop and indie rock, and their live performances are famous for their explosive energy.
At one of such shows two-anda-hlaf years ago in Kyiv, Shurov jumped into the crowd and broke a rib.
“Feeling excited, I rocked the stage until the end of the show, but I was in serious pain for the next two weeks,” Shurov says with a laugh.
He says that he feels free performing with Pianoboy, and that’s what makes every show different.
“Freedom is probably the most valuable thing in both life and music.”
Pianoboy are about to start a national tour and are getting ready to release their fourth album this spring.
While many of Pianoboy’s lyrics are about love, freedom and joy, some of them are dedicated to socially important issues to which Shurov wants to attract public attention.
One such song, “Everything That Doesn’t Kill You,” was released in April.
The song’s music video depicts school bullying — students torture other children inside the school halls, while their parents ignore the problem.
According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund or UNICEF, 67 percent of children in Ukraine aged 11–17 faced bullying over three months in 2017.
Although the video came out as a powerful work, Pianoboy’s team very soon realized that the TV channels most likely will not screen it and YouTube will not agree to advertise it because of the violent scenes in it.
That’s why, in order to make sure people watch the video and discuss the problem, they decided to start a flash mob for sharing personal stories about experiencing school bullying — Shurov was the first one to tell his story, and other Ukrainian celebrities joined in.
But that wasn’t enough for Pianoboy. To reach school students and their parents, the band launched a competition for Ukrainian schools — the one that posts the most comments under the video wins a music show by Pianoboy.
“We need to let children know they are not the only ones who go through it, and all of us at some point in life have experienced the same,” Shurov says.
The video gained over 16,000 comments from children from all over Ukraine. And in May, the band performed for the winner — a school in Stryi, a town in Lviv Oblast.
“I’m very happy with how everything went because it was a truly useful project,” Shurov says.
After the music video triggered a public discussion, the Ukrainian parliament approved at first reading the bill on tackling the problem of school bullying.
He For She
Shurov has also recently become involved in advocating for women’s rights. This spring, he joined the global He For She movement for gender equality, initiated by the United Nations.
The movement encourages men to stand up for women’s rights. Since its start in 2014, many influential men have supported He For She, including former U. S. President Barack Obama, Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, Chairman of PwC International Bob Moritz, and actor Winston Duke. Apart from that, numerous famous women from various fields have supported the movement too.
Shurov and his 15-year-old son Lev were chosen to be the movement’s ambassadors in Ukraine, and its Ukrainian branch was launched in March.
Their responsibilities include participating in He For She events, supporting the information campaign and talking publically about the gender inequality in Ukraine.
Shurov says that he is honored to be a part of the project, as it raises many important issues Ukraine is facing, such as domestic violence.
“The purpose of the program is to make sure that men, especially influential ones, make it necessary, important and prestigious to support women. In my mind, this is how it’s supposed to be.”
After the musician and his son visited the global He For She summit in New York, the United States, in September, Shurov became even more enthusiastic about the movement.
At the summit, people reported on the actions they have taken in order to contribute to gender equality in their companies and countries.
Shurov says that he was impressed by what he heard there, and he now hopes to attract more Ukrainian ambassadors to He For She, especially in the business field.
“I also want to come (to the summit) next year and report. Now it’s my personal challenge,” he says.
However, Shurov isn’t ignoring his main passion, music, and says he would also love to perform at the summit.
“Maybe I would play John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ or maybe I would write my own song. But just playing there would be cool.”
Ukrainian singer, musician and the leader of Pianoboy rock band Dmytro Shurov rocks the stage, as his band performs at the Odesa Academic Theater of Music Comedy in Odesa on Dec. 13. (Nadia Belik)