Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

Eugen, a ukulele singer-songwriter from Kirovohrad, Ukraine

12 2010

Our world tour takes us to Ukraine today, where we meet Eugen Manzhenko, the first Ukrainian ukulele  player to upload videos to YouTube.

If you feel a bit down, Eugen‘s videos should bring a smile back on your face. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, there is an underlying feel of optimism in his songs and a real sense of fun which I really enjoy.

I was very curious to find out about ukulele playing in Ukraine and Eugen has very kindly agreed to answer my questions.

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U&L : You are the only Ukrainian ukulele player I have seen on YouTube. How did you discover the ukulele ?

Eugen : I learned about Ukulele from old American movies and Internet videos. I ordered an instrument, learned to play so-so, and suddenly started writing quite differently than I used to when I played guitar. New songs bring positive vibrations. I believe it is due to the special ukulele magic!

U&L : How long have you been playing the ukulele ?

Eugen : I have been playing the instrument for almost two years. During this time, I abandoned the guitar entirely because of its size and extra 2 strings!

U&L : Can you buy ukuleles in Ukraine ? Your ukulele is very distinctive, what brand is it and where did you get it?

I bought the first musical instrument (a Stagg Frog ukulele) in Ukraine. It was in a store in our town, and the seller was very surprised when orders came in and he saw my beautiful Hawaiian Ukulele of Belgian-Chinese origin. That instrument is not very good in respect to sound quality, but I did really like it.

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U&L : Do you have other ukuleles ?
I bought a second ukulele, an electro-acoustic Mahalo, which resembles a small guitar, the legendary Fender Telecaster. It was ordered from France, from where my friend, who studied in your beautiful country, brought it to me. This is the musical instrument I play in a band singing my own and my friends’ songs.

U&L : Your songs are very enthusiastic, what are you singing about ?

Eugen : I sing songs about love, robots, politics, about my hometown and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

U&L :  How do people around you perceive the ukulele ? Have you managed to convert any friends to the ukulele ?

Eugen : Ukulele is a musical instrument that causes positive emotions. The one who plays the ukulele is a positive man who likes life and likes to bring good mood to others. I hope I do a little but important thing in Ukraine and that soon there will be much more artists here who play ukulele. I am not the only ukulelist in Ukraine – people visit my performances and buy musical instruments. I think that soon we will hear them.

U&L : You are part of a band called Веселі Біоритми, what is it like to play the ukulele in a band ?

It is very convenient to play the ukulele in a band like ours – other musicians are afraid of insulting me, so they raise ukulele volume.

U&L : For me to provide a bit of linguistic information, are all your songs in Surzhyk ? (note : Surzhyk is a dialect or sociolect combining Russian words with Ukrainian grammar and pronunciation. You can read about it here)

Surzhyk is a Ukranian dialect specific to my region. People feel shy to speak it at work or sing songs in it, because this is not a literary language, but they use it in everyday life. I don’t care. I call the genre in which I perform emo-reggae-turbo-shanson. These are songs about ordinary people that live in a small town but go through great emotions. Yes, they speak such a language and their life is not as interesting as in the the capital – but they should not be ashamed of this! So I sing songs in their language.

Subscribe to Eugen‘s YouTube channel here.

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12 Comments »

  1. mdf on the 12th of January 2010 @ 21:13

    love me two times!

  2. Ron Hale on the 13th of January 2010 @ 06:06

    I’ve never seen a frog ukulele before, but it
    goes very well with his glasses and the sheer spirit of his music, which is quite contagious. Anyone wanting to see an acoustic-electric Mahalo Tele in action should watch the offbeat video, Loved By A Looney Ukelele Original From Mick, posted on Youtube by MalquiLans.

  3. anikevich on the 13th of January 2010 @ 12:59

    the best!

  4. theodorio on the 13th of January 2010 @ 14:33

    Eugen Manzhenko so sweet! His songs are wonderful!

  5. tedir on the 13th of January 2010 @ 14:37

    I want to meet with this superpositive singer! It is interesting to learn a “surzhyk” too!

  6. Armelle Europe on the 13th of January 2010 @ 18:05

    Ron : if you check this other video from Eugen, you will see that he also has a kazoo and a shirt that match his frog ukulele :
    http://ukulelelanguages.com/ukulele-world-tour/ukulele-and-eastern-european-languages/#more-46

    Theodorio : glad you’ve enjoyed the songs.

    tedir : maybe you should try attending one of Веселі Біоритми’s gigs to get a chance to meet Eugen.

  7. Inna on the 13th of January 2010 @ 20:15

    he`s marvelous!
    fascinating!
    Like his songs `cos they are stylish!
    Sense of humor is the best I’ve ever met)

  8. Armelle Europe on the 13th of January 2010 @ 21:03

    Inna : I’ll take your word about Eugen’s sense of humour because I unfortunately can’t understand the lyrics. But he definitely sounds funny.

  9. Vasin on the 14th of January 2010 @ 20:34

    My most favourite executor Eugen Manzhenko

  10. DeryJable on the 15th of January 2010 @ 09:36

    Eugenovych – you my hero! :-) Ukulele FOREVER!

  11. Lysyj on the 15th of January 2010 @ 13:16

    Awesome!

  12. Armelle Europe on the 15th of January 2010 @ 13:50

    Vasin, Dery and Lysyj : glad you’re enjoying Eugen’s ukulele songs.

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