Valentina Lisitsa’s Hands

I have no musical ability but I love music, so at the age of 18 I became a stage-hand and by the time I was 20 I was running my own club on the South Coast of England promoting bands I had bought down from London several decades before I first heard Valentina play.

There were no clubs in my town and I couldn’t afford to be travelling up to the Smoke all the time. In spite of having established myself on the circuit and having VIP access to all the best clubs in London: The Ace, The Academy, The Brixton Fridge, The 101 Club Clapham, The 100 Club, Hammersmith Odean, The Clarendon, The Hope and Anchor, The Lyceum, and of course the legendary Klub Foot.

I never had to pay to get in to any of them.

I watched Poguemahone (aka The Pogues) perform their first ever gigs from which they apparantly never sobered-up again, got to know the Damned and Captain Sensible, chatted with Rat Scabies, saw the Clash, the fifth Sex Pistol Tenpole Tudor many times, dropped acid with a very well known performer who shall remain nameless, once threw Billy Bragg out of his dressing room, got beaten up by Combat 84 skinheads, led a riot at the Woolwich Tramshed when the Metropolitan Police wanted to cancel the show, and saw hundreds of performances from many of the great smaller bands of the era.

I’ve written extensively on this site (see menu Home->King Kurt above) about some of my time in the UK music scene, most of which involved 1980s punk rock and psychobilly and travelling the length and breadth of the land. As there were no clubs in my home town I had no choice: Keep on travelling, or set one up myself.

I’d asked a band leader backstage at the Lyceum one time, “Why don’t you ever come and play in my town?“, to which he answered, “Find us somewhere to play and we will“.

So I did. I started my own club, and on the third gig I promoted had to turn away 200 punters after I’d sold out of tickets. I always insisted on every contract that I would have a local start-up band play a 20-minute set first to help them gain experience, and I even managed a couple of local bands for a while and did several national and European tours as a roadie for big-name bands.

They were Halcyon Days, which delayed my entrance to Oxford University to do my research into computional logic and advanced mathematics by several years.

Sex and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll and Math

Don’t be surprised. Ordinary students in ordinary unis take a year out to travel and go to gigs then park their ever-expanding asses in a job that mummy or daddy found for them. Back street punks like me take five years out, set-up our own clubs, live the sex and drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle until we get bored with it, and then we go up to Oxford. We don’t be wasting our time on no gender studies shit while we there, either. We become Masters of Logic.

Getting back to the music, my favourite, in spite of the eclectic tastes of my youth, has always been classical piano. I’ve tried several times to learn to play but finally had to abandon the efforts when I tore a tendon in my middle finger attempting Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude.

I was just never intended to be a musician, alas. As a music promoter, on the other hand, I found myself to be a natural. I never made any money out of it, but that wasn’t the point. Listening to it, played live, the audience connecting with the performers, that’s the point.

Valentina Is The Musician

So it should be no surprise that I discovered the incredible talents of Valentina Lisitsa soon after she launched her YouTube career. I’ve also had many friends in or from Ukraine, and I helped found a Post-Soviet Club when I was at Oxford and spent my time in college with many talented young people from the former Soviet Union. Thus I found Valentina to be appealing on many levels.

When listening to piano I’ve always liked to watch the pianist’s hands. It fascinates me that the human mind can control it’s hands to produce such beautiful music, and Valentina’s hands and music are something special. My favourite, in that respect, is her 2010 rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in which the well-developed muscles of her hands act like a choreographed ballet of Volkswagons.

Euromaidan

In July 2013 I took on a contract in Switzerland, where I have lived for the last ten years, to do QA on a robot medical device to ensure its software was fit for purpose and that it wouldn’t kill the patients or laboratory assistants working with it (having come a long way from my first career in the punk rock clubs of London, granted).

The team I was working with had daily stand-up meetings which we announced each day by playing 30 seconds of music from a YouTube video. We were all required to choose a video in turn, and naturally one of the first I chose was the one above. Little did I know that half the team members I was working with were Ukrainian and Polish nationalists.

Nothing much was said until a month or so later when Euromaidan erupted on the streets of Kiev. These so-called team-mates of mine hadn’t the faintest idea who Valentina was at that time, similar to the rest of her post-coup critics, but they did know that I have a Russian wife. So I had to endure endless comments from them about how Russians “should be killed”.

There was no point in me complaining about this because I was on a temporary contract and the immediate supervisor, a German, thought it cool to have people “involved” with Euromaidan on his team and exploited it to promote himself among his own bosses as being “in the know”.

The Coup Occurs

On February 19th 2014 I showed my racist co-workers the webpage I had published the night before in which I predicted Ukraine’s imminent coup and civil war. I also let my dumbkopf team-lead know that this kind of death and destruction is exactly what you can expect when you try to act cool by supporting things you’ve seen in the media but know nothing about.

I needed the money (and I was charging this company $130 per hour for my services) so I couldn’t just walk out. I looked for other jobs, but after the bank bailouts there are none left. I endured the vile racism of this team with a very British stiff upper lip for as long as I could but was eventually shoved out and have been out of work ever since.

It’s the same with the rest of Valentina’s critics today. They had no idea who she was prior to Euromaidan but have decided that as a Ukrainian ex-pat who publicly criticizes the violent actions of Ukrainain nationalists she must be some kind of racist and is thus fair-game for their ‘social-justice’ version of officially-sanctioned hate.

Thus I know what Valentina has been going through and that she has had it a thousand times worse than I did.

Yet here we are several years later with Ukraine in tatters. The coup regime, in spite of all the unquestioning support it gets from the EU, NATO, and North America is a shambles, the poorest region in Europe, and the only parts of former Ukraine that show any kind of social cohesiveness or economic activity are Donbass and Crimea.

So I’m with her, and if I ever find any reasonably-paid work again I will be renting a concert hall in Switzerland and offering Lisitsa a contract to come and perform. And when that day comes there are two or three ex-colleagues of mine who event security will be instructed to deny access to the venue (although I will try to sell them “best seat” tickets first, Poroshenko-style lol).

Do you want to know more?

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