The Duke of Gypsy soul

Vasyl Popadiuk brings gypsy world fusion music to the tent

Ukrainian violinist Vasyl Popadiuk starts every morning with two double espressos. But that's only one reason he plays his violin at lightning speed.

"Actually, I play fast because my father was musician and played twice as fast as me," Popadiuk said. "It is our signature."

Popadiuk's father -- who has the same name -- was a legend in the Ukraine, he said. "In his hometown, they have street named after him."

Popadiuk's father was a composer and pan flute player who dreamed his son would follow in his footsteps as a flutist. But, according to his mother, he was preordained to be a violinist.

"My mother is actually a dancer, and every year at a Ukraine festival, mother danced while father played. When mother was pregnant with me, some Ukrainian from Canada said to her, 'You have son, and he become violinist,'" Popadiuk said. "It's my mother's story -- I don't believe it."

Besides telling stories, Popadiuk's mother also taught him how to cook when he was living and performing in Moscow.

"I don't like Moscow cooking, and I call my mom from Moscow, and by phone she give me directions what I can do, and I learn to cook," Popadiuk said.

His cooking skills came into play again when Popadiuk recently formed a six-piece band named Papa Duke. He said the band's world music is mixed together like soup.

"I always play with musicians with different companies when I was a soloist. Now, actually, my dream has come true," Popadiuk said. "I put together different world musicians, and very much like gypsy music, everybody brings it to the table, and we mix it like good soup."

Popadiuk explained gypsy music as a mix of his original compositions, the compositions of some of the other band members and music from all of their heritages.

"Everything we arrange and put in our style. Like gypsy culture, it is very interesting and romantic, too," Popadiuk said. "What we put on stage, we have in life. The result is mostly arranged from old, old -- couple centuries ago -- melodies that we brought to this country with our vision."

Popadiuk's style of music and talent allowed him to tour the world with the Nazarov Music Theatre Company of Moscow. He was invited to accompany former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife as part of a cultural entourage during a state visit to Spain, where Popadiuk performed for Queen Sofia.

"We were also in Jordan for two weeks when I was very young. We played in King Hussein's palace and were guests of the king, which was so nice, so interesting," Popadiuk said.

Even with his royal repertoire, Popadiuk is excited about performing in Steamboat Springs.

"I like country and bluegrass," he said. "We play some cowboy music, too, but you bring the hay."

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