On June 14th Gogol Bordello was playing in Budapest. Music Against Racism had a stall at the event and before the concert (thanks to Skalar Music) I had the opportunity to meet Eugene. As he has a diverse beackground - he is from Ukraine, had a Roma grandparent, migrated to the States in the 80s - I was curious about his opinion.
by Marcell Lőrincz from Music Against Racism Hungary
ML: You have many identities because you are from Europe, from Ukraine, but living in the United States. You have Roma roots and you were an immigrant and a refugee. What kind of experiences you had? Did you meet personally racism or prejudices?
EH: Yes, I know what you mean! Basically I burned through the so called identities quite early in my life. Burn through meaning that if you were already taken out from your native environments and go through several different cultures you pretty much see that all these cultures are in a way no to be taken seriously. Because they will continue to keep changing throughout the all globe and that is not the identity, that is the false identity. There is no such thing as national identity actually! It’s a myth! The only identity there is Homo sapiens, human being. Under the myth of all these fake identities people share exactly the same questions and same aspirations. They question the same things about life. They really do! It’s an important thing to understand as soon as possible in your life, otherwise, you will spend your life living a false identity without ever realizing who you really are. That’s the truth of it!
ML: And did you meet personally, or in your family, racism or prejudice? Were you ever a target at anytime?”
EH: Actually, here and there. Starting in Italy, while we were living there. Here and there, around the world. Even in New York City, which is probably the most international town of all towns. There were small incidents, nothing too harsh, but yes. I came to contact with people from all walks of life. I tell you what’s that. Somehow all these situations where resolved because I was able to strike that chord with people – that what they think that identity is. It’s actually quite not the truth. You know that, the biggest example for it is, well any concert of energetic music, you will see that people pretty much forget what their political agenda is. Once their bigger organism gets activated, once their soul comes alive, suddenly nobody really cares about the color of each other skins. They actually grow more appreciative of it. So I have seen a lot of it in my life. Festivals, gatherings, everything and it’s an ongoing tendency in the world, really that globalization in some ways is also a part of it, of really connecting on a level that it’s all about the community of people who understand the human element, above any other element.
ML: I would like to ask your opinion about what’s going on in Ukraine? This nationalism thing?
EH: There’s no nationalism thing. Actually, I’m not going to talk about it because to understand the situation there, you really have to be there. So I’m already not there, so I’m not going to talk to people that are even farther from it, because I don’t want to create anymore confusion.
ML: My main question, and also it’s a question to me, that I can never answer. Do you think that we can change the people or we can stop racism? Ever?
EH: Its not going to happen in our life time. But it will happen eventually. It will not be completely exterminated in our life time that’s for sure. Unless some transformational asteroid will hit Earth. But slowly, surely will start working. I mean there was a time when people, you know, where still walking with the help of arms and hands. It’s a revolutionary process. Takes time.
ML: This anti racism? It’s a topic in your band among the members? Are you talking about such issues or just reflecting on your personalities?
EH: It’s self evident from our band that we are all part of these issues. Yes, I was born in a country where black people are considered to be something from another planet because we don’t have any, and there‘s stupid folklore jokes about that. But you know, I’m living in a different society for so long, that for me, playing in a multi-ethnical band it’s not even a question of any kind. Those questions don’t even pop in my head. They are all gone. I obviously overcame them with ease.
ML: Do you see a difference in this way between the so called western and eastern society? You don’t feel the same kind of prejudices? Or they just have another face?
EH: I don’t know. Even in Brazil, racism is quite high, you know. So you don’t really see the root of it. I don’t even know where to start. But you know, hopefully people slip them to more harmonious world vision I mean. And art I think helps a lot of this situation.”
ML: And you have any knowledge or connection to Hungary? You were here already some times. Do you have Roma friends or friends?
EH: I don’t have a lot of friends in Hungary, actually. But I know quite a bit about Hungary. At one point Ukraine was part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, not that long ago.
ML: You are from that region? Close to Hungarian border?
EH: Yes, my family came from Munkacs, in Ukraine. Zakarpate. So at the same time my connections to Hungary are more through rock music. Early records – I think this band actually exists now although it sounds quite different more metal. But in the beginning it’s a really innovative EDDA music.”
ML: It’s something very different now.
EH: So you know – Beatrice – all these bands. Good momentum.
(All pictures are from last.fm website -thanks for them.)