Yerkesh Shakeyev, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

From the very beginning, I heard in my heart different melodies and musical fragments. I believe life led me, step by step, to the musical path; I consider this to be my destiny.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

I think people are influenced by the environment that they grow up in. My father was a folksong-improviser, and could instantly compose and sing poetry live. This is a rare gift and is called “Akyn” among the Kazakhs. As an infant I fell asleep to his singing and to the sounds of the national string instrument – the “dombra”. The whole atmosphere around me was saturated with music: my brothers and sister owned various musical instruments, including the guitar, saxophone, clarinet and trumpet. Naturally, this environment gave me the desire to hear and develop my musical abilities.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

I do not perceive difficulties and disappointments in life as a problem. I think that if we do not interfere with the natural course of events, then life will always work in our favour. However, sometimes it’s difficult to see the prime cause of the frustrations we encounter. The biggest obstacle I faced recently was trying to organise the promotion of my new music; however I have found a philosophical and practical solution to this, and I intend to focus on the creativity.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

In the past I have enjoyed working with pianist John Lenehan and cellist Alexander Bailey. I also enjoy a happy professional relationship with producers Chris Cracker and Jonathan Allen. During the recording process of my new album, I enjoyed working with all the musicians and orchestras, in particular the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Such experiences have enabled me to build strong friendships, such as the one I share with British composer Guy Fletcher who I met in 1998 when he was chairman of the British Academy of composers.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

My music is not classified as “classical” or “pop” music but a hybrid of both. It has the accessibility, logic and shortness of pop music, and the philosophy, emotion and depth of the classical genre.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I am sure that for a musician the most important thing is not fame or money, but an opportunity to  move people emotionally with music.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

In the philosophical sense, my idea of happiness is absolute freedom. In the earthly sense, it is harmony.

Yerkesh Shakeyev will present his new album ‘Waves from Heaven’ at Cadogan Hall on the 2nd June with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Chloë Hanslip and John Lenehan. Find out more


Kazakhstan’s leading composer, Yerkesh Shakeyev is widely acclaimed for his classical, popular and film music

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