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Karpov, Alexander
Written by   
, 01 2002

Age 31; Russia, Moscow.

I'd like to take off into this sky
And look into the eyes
Of those who avoid the answer!
And break myself against the cold sky,
And fall and chill. Todie
And be done with the songs of summer.

A.Karpov

Once upon a time there was a certain boy named Alexander Karpov.

He attended the geography department at the Moscow teaching institute, taking from there good English and unique knowledge of heraldry, as well as love for the Beatles, Ireland, languages, folk music, and Tolkien. Hesat down at a table to sling some ink, tried it out, and went to the Arbat and sang in English with a guitar in his hands and a harmonica on his sleeve. Hedreamed that someday he would have his own band.

In early 1995, our creative association started to form, under the slogan: “If we don’t help ourselves, nobody will.” It was decided to gather in a single ammo clip all of our singer-songwriter friends and ‘get her done’: organize a big music festival full of obscure names. Thatwas the first time someone brought up Shurik, so we called him up and he happily agreed, since he was fairly sick of his usual random movements.
The festival went on with due sound and fury, and we all became the group “32nd of August”. Wedid not limit ourselves to one festival, and so we staged a wave of performances for our associates. Karpov by that time already had a lot of good songs, and he performed them everywhere.

First there was his song ‘Tale’, with which he would start every performance. Itis a song of greeting, as well as serving as his business card. Thenthere was his poisonous ‘Reflections of a rocker visiting with members of an HSC (homemade song club)’ which you just had to love him for, as well as other songs. Shurik often humorously described his early misadventures when he took on an assembly, singing the Beatles and Irish folk music, until adherents of the genre drove him away in disgrace. Orabout how he tried to perform something of his own in front of his rocker friends, and they insulted him for his “HSC intonation.” Getting kicked in the butt from all sides, Karpov was more than comfortable in an association whose members prided themselves on being different, and carefully erasing every boundary they could find in the genre of singer-songwriter.

His dashing and wonderful ‘Balcony over the park’ was an elegy-sketch, and, finally, his song-patter ‘Breakwater’ was a sobriety test: it became an instant hit even before the execution of its last lines. After every concert people would come up to Karpov and ask him to dictate the words.

From 1996on, we began an active concert life, going to every music festival, participating in every competition, and playing wherever possible. Gradually the duo ‘White Karpov’ formed (Igor Beliy and Alexander Karpov, ‘beliy’ in Russian meaning ‘white’ in English ed). Wecould not bring ourselves to call it a full-fledged duo, since that implies not simply singing and playing in accompaniment, but something more that requires reflection and each to create their own separate work cooperatively. Wehad a fun and lazy time of it, and every successful concert for us was just like another rehearsal. Wealternated between his songs and mine, and played or sang accompaniment to each other as the mood dictated. Manysongs were later developed further with secondary guitar and vocal parts.

At the same time, Shurik was writing new things, fiddling with the association, and working in various places: he sold umbrellas, was the coordinator for a Jewish cultural center, translated women’s romance novels, and worked as a translator in the oil fields in Turkmenistan Hismost famous songs refer to this period.

‘The Long Road to Dublin’ is another of his business cards that explains what Ireland meant to the author. Itis still performed at many festivals as a master, and contestants love it for the rare joy of being inside the song.

‘Beer Barrel’ is a natural Irish pub song, allowing one to dance around in a circle, splashing foamy beer.

The poignant and radiant song ‘St. Petersburg’ (“But here that just isn’t”) is one of the best songs about Petersburg that Ihave ever heard.

The very long African song ‘Macumba’ used to drive people in the auditorium to hysterics. ‘Letter from a young black boy to his faraway Soviet pen pal’ is its full name.

The soul of any company, and a wonderful storyteller, Karpov at any moment could start writing anecdotes, observations, and jokes. Ivolunteered for his website, but after a short while Irealized that Iwas running the risk of getting completely wrapped up in his texts, but it is utterly impossible to leave anything out: everything is worthwhile. There are articles, essays, jokes, plays in verse, tales, stories, palindromes, limericks, Mitkovsky folios (on the 1980s St. Petersburg art underground ed), and a huge collection of drawings, cartoons, caricatures, and illustrations for his texts.

Around 2001, Karpov’s old dream came true: he found his group. Moreprecisely, it found him. Itwas the group ‘Ruadan’, and back then it was little known. Theyplayed Irish folk, and desperately needed a leader. WithShurik they began a new phase in life, and had concerts, projects, and recordings.

In 2002, Karpov went to his favorite city, Kazan, where he gathered up his musician friends and recorded their only studio album, ‘The Road to Dublin’.

That summer, somehow he magically got a job doing a Moscow-level translation, namely the musical ‘Chicago’, which Filipp Kirkorov was bringing to the stage. Shurik was shut off from life for almost the whole summer, “sitting like Sydney” at home, sometimes calling me up and telling me about certain intricacies of the Chicago accent. Whenthe musical went on stage, his pride knew no limit. Karpov invited everyone, several times, to the first showings, and he walked with a strut like Gogol after that.

In October 2002, Shura was ready to get to ‘Nord-Ost’, which all and sundry were buzzing about. After a lot of time conflicts, he got a pair of the last tickets, and with his wife, Sveta, he went to see this work by ‘Ivasi’ (Ivashchenko & Vasiliev). Thiswas on October 23rd. Whathappened next is known to all: the terrorists, the stifling auditorium, bursts of gunfire overhead, and the mysterious gas that switched off some people’s lives for a while, and other’s forever.

They found Shurik after three days of frantic searching. Sveta survived.
It is clear how, for a long time, no one could understand or believe that it could be true. Itseemed that everything from now on was going to be different, colorless, and pointless. Idisagreed, and so Istarted to put together a book about him.

Eighteen months later, in March 2004, the book came out and we sold it at memorial concerts in every city where Karpov performed, we even took it to the town of Grusha. Now, however, the books are all gone, and we are not planning a reprint. Wemade a film about Karpov from his surviving recordings, and a couple of new albums.

The website of Alexander O’Karpov, as he liked to call himself in the Irish fashion, is: http://karpov.hole.ru

Written by Igor Beliy, singer-songwriter and friend of Alexander Karpov.

Iwish to express my deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences on the tragic death of Alexander.

Idid not know Alexander personally, but my wife Lisa and I, along with many members of the American community in Moscow, attended the musical ‘Chicago’ and marveled at the brilliant rendition of this famous show into the Russian language. Alexander was not only a gifted translator, but a lover of music, the arts and the English language. Ihope it is some consolation to his family and friends at this difficult time to know that through his work, Alexander brought so much joy into the lives of so many people.

On behalf of the entire Embassy community, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Sincerely, Alexander Vershbow, Ambassador.

Something horrible happened to Sasha. Ioften think about it, honestly, and if Iwas not so pragmatic and, at times, cynical, Iwould try to figure out even more as to why it happened to him. Itis impossible to understand, and difficult to believe, but our short acquaintance is actually a strange story, and, unfortunately for him, a fateful one.
It was strange how it all came about. Iwas driving somewhere and on the radio Iheard an interview with (Filipp) Kirkorov, about how he was going to put on the musical ‘Chicago’. Iadore this musical, and immediately Icalled him up. Wedecided that, given the complexity of the text, and the humor, it might be more than his writers could handle, so we would need a good translator, and not just simply a translator, but someone with the skill to rewrite the prose. Lenny Kaganov suggested talking with Sasha. Heknew him well, and admired him back when he was one of the writers over at the ‘OSP-studios’ comedy show.
Back then the practice of translating musicals was not yet so extensive, and Ithought: Why not Sasha? SoI called him up. Iremember that he was terribly surprised. Hesaid he was sitting at work, translating some technical description of a certain gadget, and when Iphoned he was trying to find something funny about the process. Later, he told me that he could not even understand who it could be calling, or why, and what in the world they could possibly want from him. WhenI told him that Kirkorov was coming to pick him up that evening, Ithink he was completely stunned.
We tested his limits, and for a long time he had trouble believing what was happening. Whenhe started to believe, Ithink it was then that he realized it was now really his story, a story that he found both pleasant and interesting, and one into which he would pour his heart and soul. Sohe went to work on it, though more with Filipp than me, and Idid not interfere much. Onlylater, when we were sitting and correcting the final version, choosing from two scripts one by Sasha and the other by Filipp’s writers Iremember that Iwas pleasantly surprised by all his formulations, many of which were very subtle, and how everything was absolutely rhythmic, musical, subtle, and preserved the right intonations and puns. Ingeneral Igot a pleasant sensation out of his text, and Iclearly sensed his potential and his interest in the whole process, as well as his willingness to work hard. Backthen Istill did not know that he wrote, translated, and performed songs
Later there was the premiere, where we met up with Sasha and Sveta, and we were all happy about this marvelous twist of fate Butfate later coiled about in such a way that we got a look into the eyes of a serpent.
Misha and Iwent to ‘Nord-Ost’ about a week before the capture. Weliked it a lot. Itis perhaps highly likely, though Icannot remember for sure, Imay have even advised Sasha to go see this musical, because he just had to study this creative work, in fact it was overdue and beckoning. Hesaid he certainly would. Thatwas the last time Italked with him.
He could have become a very popular writer. Ioften think about this. Thatis all Ican do.
Written by Tatiana Lazareva, television personality.

It was not by chance that Alexander Karpov was among the hostages at 'Nord-Ost'. Hewas the translator of 'Chicago', a musical whose producers included Alla Pugacheva and Filipp Kirkorov. Hewas attracted by this genre in its size and scale, so how could he avoid the work of his colleagues?

Imet Alex's parents while they were standing by the gates of Clinical Hospital No. 13, along with the relatives of other victims. Theyalready knew that Alex's wife Svetlana was there, but they could not find Alex. Thatevening Icalled Alex's father, Sergey Nikolayevich, on his cellphone.

Alex is dead, he answered in a detached voice. He was in the morgue at Botkin Hospital.

Yesterday morning Alex's mother, Tatiana Ivanovna, called the paper. You wanted to know about Alex? Comeon over. That evening Iwas in the Karpovhome.

Svetlana said that Alex conducted himself quietly and with dignity, said Tatiana Ivanovna. They waited until the last minute and hoped for help. Theybelieved, naturally, that they'd make it. Theyheld each other's hand to the last, and fell asleep together. Sveta woke up, but Alex didn't

He was carried out among the last, probably because he was sobig.

A poster with a picture of Alex hangs near the elevator in the stairwell of their apartment building. Friends other bards wrote on it: author and performer of songs, literary humorist, and soloist with the Celtic music ensemble. Alexwrote hundreds of songs and humorous essays. Hewas a splendid translator, translating everything: romance novels, mysteries, the rock opera 'Jesus Christ', and even scientific articles.

In childhood they considered Alex a prodigy.

He learned to read very early, and the doctors advised us to hide some books from him, especially serious literature with scientific tendencies, so that such early reading didn't influence his psyche, recalled Tatiana Ivanovna. Inthis regard, Alex wrote a funny story called 'The Tale of how Karpov did not turn out a child prodigy'.

He had many other, not so serious, talents. Forexample, his friends say that he could instantly recite an entire phrase backwards. Allthis was training. Itwas his desire to subordinate a word so that the lines he was writing would read easily and smoothly.

He started on the biggest job of his life, but only completed the firststep.

When Iwas selecting a translator for 'Chicago', said Filipp Kirkorov, and Tanya Lazareva from OSP-Studio brought Alex, Iwas astonished. Hemade no financial demands, but immediately set to work. Forme the human factor is in first place, and Iimmediately understood that Icould work with Alex, that this was an amazing person. Hewas like a big child. Everyone who worked on 'Chicago' loved him. TheAmericans respected him, because there were a lot of slang expressions in 'Chicago', and Alex adapted them to Russian magnificently. Whenthere were questionable moments, he didn't sleep all night, but by morning he already had ready such convenient, easy to sing phrases that they seemed to have been sent to him by God himself. Itwas 100% Alex's credit that we were able to bring the musical to audiences. Wehad other jobs for Alex, and wanted him to translate the famous Broadway musical 'Victor-Victoria'.

Did Alla Pugacheva know that Alex was among the hostages when she went to 'Nord-Ost' (while the hostages were still being held)?

Yes, Alex was among those who Alla Borisovna wanted to exchange for herself, but it never worked out.

You know, continued Filipp, Not long before his tragic loss he sent me strange email. There was a drawing of Alex lying on the sofa with his eyes closed, with his arms behind his head and he was curled up into a ball, and it was a very sad essay, as if he sensed something bad. Iwas getting ready to send him a reply: 'To Alex what's with you? Westill have work to do! but Iput if off, as always, until later Wewere shocked at what happened."

Alex has two brothers, Nikolai and Ivan. Hisfamily refers to him as 'Brother-1' (after a Russian gangster movie).

I was approaching my stairwell, wrote Alex in one of his mini-stories, and I'd forgotten my keys. Icalled on the intercom, and unexpectedly Ihear my brother's voice: 'Hello? Please excuse me but Ican't open the door right now. Please leave a message at the sound of the tone'.

One has the feeling that he will return to the door again, and leave a message

Alex's friends bought Svetlana a cell phone and inputted all their numbers for her 300inall.

Memory is in the records and photographs, they wrote on his poster. Memory is in the strings of our guitars. Memory is in our hearts

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Comments (3)
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