IT is interesting stepping into Maria Matveeva’s world…
as I ask her about the track, Princess of Ukok, and working with Deep Forest on the piece. She tells me about her music plans and what we will get next; when music came into her life and when she left her hometown of Omsk (Siberia).
Matveeva discusses her plans going forward and whether she has any ambitions to fulfil; what advice she would give to artists coming through; where she sources inspiration – she ends the interview by selecting a great song.
Hi, Maria. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! I am good. My week was great, thank you.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Maria Matveeva. I was born in Siberia (Russia). I am an Opera singer. I have a Classical musical education in Piano and Academic Vocal. During a certain period of my life, I performed Opera, Chamber and Sacred Music. It was a period of ‘Classical music’ in my life. But, I always dreamed about creating something new and innovative in music; to do some kind of experiment mixing different musical styles, electronic sounds; ethnic elements ...
My first experimental C.D. named ROSES TIME was released in 2000 in Russia where I mixed Classical music and Electronic sounds. But, later, my Classical music studies brought me to the world of Opera; taking me away, as it seemed to me at that time, from my dream. Only many years later, when I met the legendary leader of Deep Forest - Eric Mouquet, did I begin to realize my old dream! At that time, I also met other wonderful musicians such as Mike Garson, Alessandro Alessandroni; Alex Elena and others. It was an amazing collaboration and a wonderful experience in the new - for me - world of Pop music.
Talk to me about the track, Princess of Ukok. What is the story behind it?
The inspiration for the song Princess of Ukok comes from a really fascinating story...
In 1993, the group of archaeologists from Novosibirsk, led by Natal'ja Polos'mak, discovered a sacred place at the foot of the mountains on the Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains region of Russia called the ‘Russian Shambala’. This region is one of the most mystical places in the World where there is still a strong presence of shamanic culture and tribal peoples’ heirs of the Gorny Altai Kurgan Pazyryk culture. It is a timeless place where people still live in harmony with nature and communicate with the spirits. The group of archaeologists found an ancient mummy of a mysterious young woman known as The Ukok Princess by the name of the place where she was found, Ukok plateau.
Shamans from Altai believe that White Mistress or ‘Ak-Kadyn’ - like they call her in their language - was a spiritual priestess and her early death was a part of her spiritual mission. Thus, she maintains a balance between our world and the world of shadows. Princess of Ukok is a symbol of Altai and she is the protector of this land. In this song, I express my spiritual connection with the Princess of Ukok singing about her difficult destiny and her return to our times from the magical land of Altai to the whole world.
How did you come to work with Deep Forest? What was it like working with the first French Grammy winner?!
At the time, when I was singing Opera, I had a dream to collaborate with my favorite artist Eric Mouquet - the leader of the legendary group Deep Forest. I always was a big fan of this group and I really love their music. Finally, my dream has come true. We met in France and began our collaboration and, as a result, produced some tracks inspired by the harmony and magic of my land. Eric is a wonderful person; a great musician. For me, it’s a great and exciting experience to collaborate with him!
One day, Eric Mouquet told me a very important phrase that became for me a rule: “You must be honest in your music and always be yourself …". So, I follow his advice. The work on our joint project, Siberian Trilogy, opened up for me new facets of my abilities.
Siberian Trilogy Project is your E.P. Are there themes and particular stories that inspired it?
The theme that unites all songs from the E.P., Siberian Trilogy Project, is Siberia - my birthplace. I’ve chosen to follow this way because I felt the need to share with my audience the colors, charm; mysteries and sounds of an unknown world. At the same time, I have a possibility to tell the story of my life through this music; about the places where I came from, about incredible people that I have met in my life: shamans, princesses and ordinary people.
I am seeking the way to create a different original musical mosaic. The stories I tell are related to Siberia, to the Altai Mountains called Russian Tibet. Russia is a great country that has rediscovered its traditions after dark times. It boasts a rich folklore full of colors and shades that are very important for an artist’s creativity.
You are a celebrated soprano. How did music arrive in your life? Did you grow up around a lot of different music?
In my family, there are no professional musicians. My father is a scientist; my mother is a teacher at the university. My lovely grandmother, Maria, was a teacher of geography and astronomy but she loved the music a lot and she always sang at home. Since I was a small child, she used to sing me Russian folk songs, romances…
At the age of five-years-old, I decided to become a pianist (smiles) and began my study on piano at the musical school. And only at the age of seventeen, after graduating from the physics and mathematics college, I learned that I possess a naturally delivered classical soprano voice.
Omsk (in Siberia) is your hometown. When did you decide to move to Italy? Do you still find time to get back to Omsk?
I left my hometown, Omsk, many years ago. I understood that, in order for me to move on and create a career, it was necessary to study a lot. I planned to study in Moscow, but I was invited to study in another city in Siberia, Khanty-Mansiysk. It was an amazing period in my life. I had many concerts, performances. After one of my performances in Moscow, I was invited to continue my study in Italy, in the Conservatory, Benedetto Marcello, in Venice. That's why I decided to move to Italy.
Every year, I and my son go to Omsk to visit my family and my friends to get an extraordinary inspiration in the Deep Siberian Forest (smiles). For me, visiting Russia - and especially Siberia - is a sort of energy recharging. That's why it so important to me!
Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?
The new single, Kalinushka (from the Siberian Trilogy Project), created together with Deep Forest will be released in this autumn. Also, the Siberian Trilogy Project itself will be released too. The work on a new video clip, Kalinushka, has a particular importance for me. Here, for the first time, I perform not only as a singer, author of lyric and actress but also as a director of a video!
So, for me, this work is very exciting and, at the same time, responsible. Hope you will enjoy this video clip. I am also working on another project right now. Let it be a surprise to my audience!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I had different periods in my creative path and all of them are very important to me in their own way...because every period gave me certain experience or taught me something.
I remember all periods but I try to live here and now. So, I like this period in my music. I could describe this period as ‘conscious creativity’; the creation of something new and the period of intense internal work.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say?
What a difficult question - since I have much more than three albums, which for me are very different (smiles).
So, let it be:
Mike Oldfield's The Songs of a Distant Earth
Deep Forest and Rahul Sharma’s Deep India…
And, the wonderful soundtrack from the film Gladiator by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard - and many others…
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
First of all, be prepared professionally; listen to a lot of good music from different musical styles and different musical epochs to cultivate your personal musical culture and find your own individual style. Be yourself and believe in what you are doing!
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Now, in summer, I have enough time to relax (smiles). But, for me, music is like a part of me so, when I'm alone and I have time, I try to create some new ideas. I always take with me my book, in which I write new ideas that come into my head, even when I'm on the beach (smiles).
But, when I feel tired and emptiness and the inspiration does not come; I realize that my energy is exhausted...in order to return that energy and inspiration to myself, I practice yoga, meditation; swimming, dancing. Also, travel, nature and even watching an interesting film helps in restoring mental balance.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
If you can play it for me, I’ll choose the composition that I love - Only Time Will Tell by Mike Oldfield.
Follow Maria Matveeva