“Yelena, when did you really feel that you’ve won it, what feeling is it?”
During the final gala-concert, when a member of the jury, a well-known TV presenter Yuri Nikolayev opened the envelope with a name of the winner. I was standing nearby and saw that it was my name, but at that moment I thought: maybe it’s just a glitch. And only when he announced the winner, I got it: yes, it happened! So far, I can’t realize this fully. After all, when the contest began, I could not imagine that I would win it. I was just trying very hard to give an adequate performance, show everything I was capable of, not let my countrymen down. My victory was largely made possible by the support of Yamal’s residents, who sent the largest number of SMS to the contest. They were the most friendly and purposeful. This is our common victory.
“The contest lasted for three months, was it a difficult period for you?”
These three months just flew by, besides, we did not live at the project all the time, we had to fly to Moscow and back every time there was a shooting. That’s why I live my ordinary life in-between, had my concerts. The contest had several stages. 85 singers took part in the first round, 49 went to the second round, 24 of them entered the semifinals. Now I can remember that, when going to the contest, I was not aware of all its grandiosity. Of course, I knew that it was supported by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, that it was Sergei Shoigu, who suggested to gather performers at one stage performers, representing all regions of our country. Only when I came to the first shooting, I managed to understand the scale of the project, a magnificent stage with amazing sound, when I was able to meet the jury eye-to-eye - then I realized the full responsibility: I needed to represent not only myself but the entire Yamal. When I sang, I always felt the support of Yamal’s residents, it gave me strength, supported my faith in victory and inspired me.
“Every participant was fighting for his/her region, so to say. How did you want to present Yamal to viewers?”
Yes, that was my main goal. A lot of people used to think that the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug was a gas production region, supplying the fuel to the entire Russia. Actually, Yamal is a modern region with comfortable conditions, with wonderful people from all walks of life, including many talented, creative persons. Also, I wanted to show viewers that there was an indigenous minority in the North of our country - the Nenets people, with their own particular attitude, a rich culture. To participate in the first round, I chose the song Sikhirtia. This is a Nenets legend, a song-cry of a girl, who lost her father. Some people did not approve of my choice, it seemed unfortunate to them, they offered to replace the song, saying that it would not win anything, it was too tragic, out of the show business format. As it turned out, I was right, the song was well-accepted, and I went into the second round. Then, I performed a Russian folk song. In the semifinals, at the request of the organizers, I sang a cheerful song - I Will Take You to the Tundra. At the final stage, the performers sang songs of the war years, many tried to choose unknown songs, so they were fresh to read. The finals took place on May 10, immediately after the Victory Day, therefore, it turned out to be festive and very touching.
“By the way, at this contest you were not the only representative of the Arctic region, there were other participants from the North, were they your competitors?”
Indeed, the North was surprisingly bright and plentiful at the contest. I think because our northern regions were very serious about choosing artists and sent the strongest to represent them. Of course, the North is very specific, it has a national identity. A participant from Chukotka, Veronika Usholik, surprised everyone with beautiful throat singing. A gorgeous artist Alexander Kuular demonstrated Tuvinian throat singing. Sayan Dashanimayev from Buryatia gave an absolutely stunning performance with folk instruments. They just rocked! I want to say that all participants were worthy of winning: strong, imaginative, original. But that was a contest of regions more than it was a contest of artists, and it was Yamal’s victory!
“How do you think, do northern songs find response in the hearts of Russians, do they understand them?”
Any folklore, whether from the North or South, is close and understandable to the audience, it's songs of the people. It is the language of love, feelings, traditions. So, you perceive the song of any people as your own. Northern folk songs are very simple, modest, because this is the lifestyle of a person, living in the tundra. Again my favorite comparison: the North and the Krasnodar Krai. In the South, almost all locals can sing, it is specific to the region: beautiful, warm, sing wherever you want, even in the street. Try to do it in the North! People in the tundra will never get together to sing in a chorus, choral singing does not exist there. Nenets songs should be listened to via chamber performances, because they are quiet, touching. It is desirable to understand the meaning, the Nenets language is very beautiful, it has so many special words that sometimes it is impossible to pick up a Russian equivalent.
“Surely, you’re popular on Yamal, have you ever considered moving to Moscow and pursuing a career there?”
I will represent Yamal in Russia and abroad with great pleasure, but it is out of question that I could leave Salekhard. I love my home, my home is here, I have a lot of things to do, to make. I want to support the creative youth, help and inspire talented people to reach success. Because I was born in a simple family, I have never stars falling from the sky into my lap, I have sought them through my work. I can tell you - when a person wants something, it is possible to do anything. If you set a great goal, you can achieve it but you’ll have to work hard for it, give it everything, then you’ll reach success.