Tinatin Interview - The Georgian Times 03.03.2009
“It is definitely one of my goals to finally return to my roots when the time is right and introduce myself to my audience back home as “one of their own.”
Probably most Georgians would feel proud to hear that over the Atlantic a 24-year-old girl, Tinatin Japaridze, is on her way to reaching the heights of two careers: as a writer and a musician. Heralded by Billboard Magazine as one of the "fresh faces to keep an eye out for in 2008," she was a finalist in the worldwide John Lennon Song Contest and her song “Wild” was hailed as a 2007 year-end Billboard Top 10 Critics’ Pick.
Years ago in London Tinatin, together with Christopher Neil who is also her Executive Producer and Vocal Producer and Oskar Pall Sveinsson wrote a song called “Is It True?” which has become Iceland’s Eurovision Song Contest Entry for 2009. The song won the national finals by a staggering 44% and will be competing with at the international finals to be held in Russia in May.
Tinatin's music career began in 1998 when she auditioned with Professor Luigi Alva at La Scala and was offered a place at the Academy. At 14, she began classical vocal lessons with renowned Maestro Gocha Bezhuashvili, who has worked with La Scala, The Metropolitan Opera and Covent Garden. In the summer of 1998, Tinatin was invited to open the 1st Festival of Russian Films in Cannes and was then asked by the Mayor of Nice to close the annual Carnival of Flowers with her version of Jacques Brel's "Quand On Na Que L'Amour."
Three years later, she went to London to study journalism—and while there, launched her first promotional tour, organized by Event One, Jeff Chegwin and Yegor Shishkovsky, the latter of whom is a widely popular Russian-born journalist and radio personality. Live performances and TV/radio interviews with Tinatin were featured on BBC, Channel 5 and ITV's "London Tonight," where Capital FM's Neil "Doctor" Fox referred to her as having a "really fantastic and beautiful voice. She's unbelievable. It's a voice that you would want people to put money behind."
Born in Georgia and raised in Moscow, Tinatin has written in Russian for the leading Russian Newspaper in America, in English for the United Nations (where she is the United Nations Radio Correspondent) and in Georgia she has both written and been written about - including a story about her in Cosmopolitan – for which Cambridge Jones, the UK’s top photographer, took portraits.
Tinatin is currently working on two literary projects, fiction and non-fiction. Her songs are top hits on UK Radio stations and in clubs. Catapulting into mainstream success with a current dance/club hit in the UK, “Thinking of Someone Else,” Tinatin is adding final touches to her debut album with a number of the industry's top producers and scribes.
As her collaborator Sahin has described, Tinatin’s voice is very soft and just floats over the music. The basis for this, he believes, could be the Georgian culture she is coming from.
"One of the highlights of my early days came when I was asked by my all-time heroes, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, to perform 'A Piece of Sky' from 'Yentl' at the Creative Arts Awards honouring Marilyn, who alongside her husband wrote some of the most touching and beautiful lyrics that I was brought up listening to," says Tinatin. That performance marked her American debut, where she was presented to Mayor Rudy Giuliani and consummate Broadway composer Cy Coleman by the legendary conductor, arranger and composer Marvin Hamlisch, and accompanied by jazz piano great Mike Renzi.
To find out more about Tinatin we took our chance to ask her several questions as well:
Q: What are your expectations concerning Johanna Gudrun Jonsdottir, as you are the co-writer of her Eurovision song with Oskar Pall Sveinsson and Christopher Neil?
A: My long-time collaborators Oskar Paul Sveinsson, Christopher Neil and I co-wrote Is It True? several years ago in London as one of the few songs recorded for my pending album at the time. As often happens in creative situations, we somehow ended up putting the song aside after its completion. Many songs and years later, I got a call from Oskar asking if I had any objections to his idea of submitting it for this year's preselection process in Reykjavik.
In an announcement made by RÚV Television, just over 69,000 votes were cast by the public when they chose our song as the nation's representative out of the 217 entries. It was so unexpected – Chris Neil was away and Oskar was in hospital, so you can only imagine our excitement when the news finally arrived!
As for my expectations of the ESC finals in Moscow, it's very hard to predict the outcome at this point – had you asked me last year if I was planning to participate in Eurovision 2009, I would have rolled my eyes and said, “I doubt it”, for no reason other than the simple fact that planning anything ahead of time is nearly always a complete waste of energy!
Thanks to Oskar, we discovered the wonderfully gifted and beautiful Johanna, and she did a great job! As a singer, I was inevitably "picky" but couldn't find a single flaw in Johanna's performance, which in itself was extremely gratifying. I think she's got a lot to offer at this year's competition, so we're very proud and definitely very much looking forward to it!
Q: Currently you are writing an autobiography, will it be available for Georgian readers?
A: This autobiography is definitely something I have long wanted to write, but now more than ever before, it seems like the right moment for me to share my story, which will be published in the UK later this year.
Hopefully, it will resonate with my compatriots, as in many ways this book also represents my journey from Tbilisi, my hometown, to Moscow where I moved at the age of nine, and my final destination – the United States of America, where I’ve been living for the past four and a half years.
Q: When did you obtain Russian citizenship and what was the reason for this?
A: We moved to Moscow in the early 90’s during the upheaval in Georgia when my dad, the architect and painter Givi Japaridze, was offered the opportunity to pursue his professional career in Russia.
It was the beginning of a difficult transition, but it was also a challenge that I chose to embrace, along with many other Georgian émigrés in Moscow at the time. I pursued my studies at the International School of Tomorrow and at the Moscow State University, until I finally moved abroad: first stop – London for several years, and only later – New York.
Q: You're at #2 on the Dance Radio Top 25 along with Madonna, Donna Summer and Jennifer Hudson with the song "Thinking of Someone Else," how do you intend to continue catching the attention of your fans?
A: To be honest, that’s a very tricky question! I've often been told that a lot of twists and turns that I took in my early career have never really followed a set pattern of a debutante – it all happened ''upside down''.
For example, while most artists become involved in political issues much later, a couple of years ago, the former President of the UN Correspondents' Association, Ian Williams, suggested that I compose a piece of music based on the United Nations Charter as a one-of-a-kind ''UN song''. Less than a year later, I was standing onstage at the UN Headquarters singing "We the Peoples" at the request of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, honoring Sir Richard Branson. It suddenly dawned on me that yes, sometimes we do have the craziest ideas, and yes, everyone will tell you not to do it, but with a little bit of luck, effort and belief, everything is within our reach - even the most insane and ridiculous fantasies!
I suppose trying to calculate the next move, no matter how predictable, is one of the most difficult tasks for me. And while my heart inevitably lies in contemporary music, I consider classical training and particularly bel canto to be an absolute must for any vocalist in any given genre; and needless to say, Maestro Gocha Bezhuashvili has certainly become one of my most trusted mentors.
Q: Do you plan any tours in the future and would Georgia be one of the countries on the list?
A: It is definitely one of my goals to finally return to my roots when the time is right and introduce myself to my audience back home as “one of their own.” The fact that this has not yet happened was certainly not my decision.
These days, I often get fan mail from young Georgian people asking me why I still haven’t made any effort to appear publicly in Georgia and have somehow managed to remain the country’s “best-kept secret for much too long”… I admit that singing foreign songs and working on an English-language project did not necessarily work in my favour in Tbilisi. Some accused me of unpatriotic tendencies, while others simply didn’t care much for American songs sung by a Georgian girl who was being produced by some of the leading European and American scribes and producers. Why? Because I wasn’t singing in Georgian!
I have to be honest and say that, to a certain extent, I was slightly disappointed by the unexpected reaction of my fellow Georgians. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our compatriots achieving success and recognition in other parts of the world – if anything, doesn't their popularity abroad promote our own country and its citizens beyond the ramifications of geography and politics?