Pasha Parfeni, the man who sang about homeland in Tiraspol

Pavel Parfeni (Pasha Parfeni), a singer and composer, was born in the town of Orhei, in a family of musicians, his mother being a piano teacher at the local Music School, and his father — a singer and guitar player. Pasha studied at the school where his mother was teaching the piano. In 2002 he was enrolled at the Tiraspol music college, the jazz section. After four years, he returned to Chisinau, continuing his studies at the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts.

In 2012, Pasha, along with a few friends — musicians, sports persons and civic activists — created the “Lautarul” NGO, through which he initiated several cultural projects, including bringing closer both banks of the Nistru River. His latest project is called “Plaiul” (homeland).

Pasha Parfeni singing at Tiraspol concert, 17 March 2019.

Interview by Laura Bohantova

I asked Pasha what made him create an NGO, record and offer his voice to a song written by his Tiraspol jazz teacher and sing about homeland on a stage in Tiraspol. He smiled and said he will speak plainly, without pompous sentences and jargons fit for the statute of a public association.

  • Tell us about yourself and the first interactions with the Transnistria region.

When I was about 10–12 years old, I played for Orhei’s basketball team at a match with Ribnita team. I remember that we lost or that … friendship won (laughs). When I grew up, at the age of 16, I was looking for options to continue my general studies in a music school, and because I loved jazz since my childhood, I came to meet an artist of Belarusian origin who was in the jazz department at the Musical College in Tiraspol. That department has remained unique even until now, it is the first and the last of its kind where jazz is studied at the level of secondary school. The professor’s name was Viktor Zelenski*, to whom in time I became very close. His daughter, Vera Zelenskaia, was my piano teacher.

So, I was 16 years old when I came to live in Tiraspol. I remember that I was impressed by the kvass, which was sold like in old times and that Russian was more spoken.

I quickly got used to the city, made friends, I felt very good in those four years. The paradox is that music has no borders, compared to political reality. We are the same people, with the same expectations, desires, mentality, prejudices. We think the same way and art unites us, removes all barriers.

  • Why did you create the “Lautarul” NGO? What is your vision?

Because I realized that on my own, as an individual, I would not be able to undertake all the actions I would like, and I’m referring to cultural projects, including bringing both banks of Nistru closer to one another. Thanks to the NGO created with friends — artists, sports persons, civic activists — we can be more productive, more efficient, and with wider scope and impact. We created this organization by being committed to the same values: friendship, empathy, solidarity, respect.

  • Why did you apply for funding for the “Transnistrian dialogues” UNDP Project?

The idea to participate in the UNDP’s grants competition came from my participation in informal discussions with experts and opinion leaders, “Transnistrian Dialogues” **.

I realized that I could do such a project, being an opinion leader and a civic activist. I can do more than play the guitar in the evenings. And I want that. Since childhood I like to be the focus of attention, where something happens, and my competitive nature stimulates me to be creative.

Our project is called HOMELAND. It’s about values, friendship, going beyond barriers, borders. It’s about people and bridges of trust built by music.

  • How was the concert held on March 17? To what extent have your expectations been achieved?

On March 17 we organized a concert in Tiraspol. The room was packed full. The tickets sold out one week before the event, which is impressive because they could be purchased at the ticket offices, not online.

Performances were held by my former colleagues from Sunstroke Project, Aliona Moon, Lidia Isac, Alina Odobescu and … me. Five Eurovision stars, a very popular contest in the region.

Five Eurovision stars on Tiraspol stage.

I have had many roles in this concert, from accountant to singer. The strong point of the event was that we were accompanied by the Zelenski Big Band orchestra, consisting of 20 instrumentalists and another orchestra from Chisinau. We worked hard, made musical arrangements for songs so they can be accompanied by an orchestra.

The result was spectacular, like the sound and visuals. (Pasha shows a clip from the concert film made by an acquaintance from Chisinau, who films the folk Romanian song „Cântă cucul, bate-l vina/ De răsună Bucovina”). We had real-time video projections and a banner on which HOMELAND was written. People were singing with us, asked for an encore, applauded. The public in Tiraspol is one of the most receptive ones I ever met. We felt great, they sent their energy to us, I realized that people resonated with the messages they were hearing. I felt at home, relaxed, like meeting with former schoolmates.

All my colleagues who played in Tiraspol in one way or another have ties in the Transnistria region. I studied there, and so did my best friend and former bandmate, the saxophonist from the Sunstroke Project, as well as the pianist from Aliona Moon’s band, who is her husband. Ana Odobescu studied at the same department. By the way, Nelly Ciobanu was also enrolled at the same college. Zelenski was a visionary and gathered talented people around him.

Sunstroke Project band in Tiraspol. They are rather famous in the town.

Ciobanu was also enrolled at the same college. Zelenski was a visionary and gathered talented people around him.

From the idea of ​​a single concert we have evolved to the idea of ​​a festival, which will certainly take place in several localities along the Nistru river.

Soon we will launch the song PLAIUL (homeland) and its videoclip, composed by Viktor Zelenski. It’s a song interpreted in one voice, mine. It’s about homeland, about Moldova.

(hums softly)

The sun rises gently,

The springs are awakening,

And the meadows break out,

In a thousand colors.

My eternal Moldova,

The life of man passes,

You remain like you are today

A flower among flowers.

  • How could the cooperation between the artists from both banks of the Nistru River be stimulated? What opportunities could we capitalize on?

There are many opportunities that can be realized, and joint projects could start a cooperation between musicians from both banks of the Nistru. We want to do more.

Because it is about Nistru, respect for origins, roots, love of art, those close to us, respect for teachers, friendship, openness, tolerance, joint issues, such as ecology. Nistru is also about ecological and environmental aspects.

* Viktor Zelenski (1938–2013), is one of the founders of the Music College from Tiraspol. He was born in Belarus and came to Moldova in 1963 at the invitation of the Slobozia Music School. In 1972 he moved to Tiraspol, where he founded the musical group “Solar quadrant”, with whom he won numerous awards in international competitions. He composed songs and made arrangements for orchestra for Romanian and Russian folk songs, as well as jazz, pop. He founded the first and only jazz department in the secondary school and an orchestra that bears his name.

** “Transnistrian Dialogues” is a public platform for creating an atmosphere of cooperation and confidence-building between the two banks of the Nistru River, supported by the United Nations Development Programme.

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