Pianoboy’s Dmytro Shurov wants to im­prove the world

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY TOMA I STOMINA ISTOMINA@KYIVPOST.COM

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.

So­cial is­sues

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)

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