Satory Seine: Ukrainian House and the Anonymity of Influence

Satory Seine has been called "one of Ukraine's few female house vocalists" by Kiev entertainment magazine, Time Out. That, logically, would suggest a high degree of fame and a sturdy web presence. Yet, for some strange reason, the singer's central website, named and linked at her MySpace page, is not only inoperative, the entire domain has been reclaimed by, "Ukraine's Most Reliable Hosting Service." Somebody has been paying scant attention to the singer's presence online. That same MySpace page boasts close to 24,000 hits at the time of writing, which makes the dead website even more of a surprise.

As we'll explain, though, such apparent mistakes might actually help to explain the logic of this singer's chosen style and promotional endeavors. There's a paradoxical - and positive - logic at work that requires a little context.

Her presence within the Russian and Ukrainian press is also less than evident, yet she is a clear force in Kiev's club scene; her circles of influence are scribed on the dancefloor, rather than across the society pages. Aware of such matters, her current PR materials would have us believe that this "apparently frail young woman has nonetheless managed to win over not only aficionados of Ukraine's club scene, but also the admirers of light house music nationwide." The same text continues in a related vein, informing us that "Satory has been able to bring dance-driven electronic music out onto the big stage."

Satory has been able to bring dance-driven electronic music out onto the big stage.

This much would appear justifiable, given that the Ukrainian primetime pop awards "Zolotaia Sharmanka" (Golden Barrel Organ) has named Satory Seine "Breakout Artist of the Year" for work with Kiev's DJ Sender (aka Evgenii Evtukhov).  As a result, sounds once confined to the capital's clubs have begun to be heard all around Ukraine's kitchens, bedrooms, and offices.

Movement is under way.

Things have developed further still, in fact. Music by - or involving - this singer has recently been included in the sets of Tiesto, Joachim Garraud, Israel's Flash Brothers, Bristol's Way Out West, and the Muttonheads. The reason for this snowballing appeal has been attributed to the fact that "Satory Seine's songs are filled with the rhythm of lovers' hearts and the sounds of a refreshing rain... made from the most beautiful of emotions." This rather florid rhetorical tone continues elsewhere: "When you hear her voice, your heartbeat increases and life is full of the brightest colors. This young woman is the spirit of joy, radiating positive emotions."

That turn of phrase has a certain old-school ring to it, being more than redolent of Soviet entertainment magazines from the 1970s and '80s, but - as the first few images in this post show - the very raison d'etre of this woman's work is grounded in efforts designed to bridge the middle ground of Ukrainian entertainment (itself very much an outgrowth of those socialist shows) and something more fashionable. In Eastern Europe, garnering success requires not only the ability to stay abreast of European fads, but also an awareness of which fashions are compatible with enduring tastes from before 1991. Fame and ongoing popularity require insights not only into developing trends, but enduring (Soviet) traditions. The former phenomena have yet to appear, and the latter have yet to pass. They coexist with relative ease.

Standard biographies hold that the singer first realized at the young age of 5 how much she wished to be a performer. This early sense of calling was the reason behind an initial musical education; after graduation from school, her skills and showmanship would evolve into tours with a number of ensembles. Their stylistic paths ran in various directions, all the way from classical violin to rock music. Generic choices, as she grew older, developed into philosophical options: musical styles, in other words, would give birth to discrete worldviews, too. For example, in one potted biography, we find the following observation about her entrance into adult performance: "At this point the singer decided to widen her musical horizons and developed an interest in Eastern philosophy." Giggle-worthy though such claims may be (coming from one's manager), there is good reason why these turns of phrase have, nonetheless, a cultural resonance.

At this point the singer decided to widen her musical horizons and developed an interest in Eastern philosophy.

These dual paths of (sometimes retro) primetime and (forward-looking) club endeavors would come together with particular success at the Ukrainian Dance Music Awards as well as the recent opportunity to open Ukraine's equivalent of Song of the Year (Pesnia goda), a TV showcase of long and serious standing since the days of Soviet pop. Once again the Past and Present would both both demand equal attention.

Meanwhile, Seine's collaborations with several young DJs would develop further, specifically with DJ (Eugene) Noiz, a southerner from Krasnodar now living in Moscow, and homegrown hipster Jim Pavloff (aka Dmitrii Pavlov). The one enduring link between these artists is Kiev's Send Records, formed seven years ago in order to blur the stubborn line between Ukrainian and international dance music. The key, they believe, to extending Satory Seine's experience and success further still is a "high level of professionalism." It will, they hope, lead to respect away from home.

That issue of professionalism, in fact. is key. The assumption here is that the most skilled musicians (rather than the most inspired) are those blessed with an ability to promote Ukrainian music further than a local audience. As we can see from Seine's PR materials, she is offered to the public in terms of appeal and empathy, rather than technical wizardry. When we add to this the fact that her career began in Kiev's clubs, it becomes clear that her most fruitful line of professional development would be in various collaborative projects. They would allow her to make use of the technical expertise of local, studio-trained DJs; remain at the forefront of fashion (by working with the youngest, most modish names); and include her work in the sets of other, continental disc jockeys, as already noted.

In the field of dance music, though, pop/dance crossovers are often not collaborations in the literal sense. They do not consist of synchronous, joint effort between a singer and a DJ. The former produces compositions that are, in their own right, complete works - and then hands them over to the latter figure. Degrees of control change dramatically at this point. Whatever the original intention of the singer, for example, it has little effect upon the working patterns of the DJ, unless - of course - that same singer happens to be sufficiently influential (or wealthy) enough to commission remixes according to their whim.

That, it seems fair to say, is unlikely to be the case here. Satory Seine's stage performances speak more of an ongoing effort, rather than anything born of moneyed ease. The person below is working, not resting.

One of Seine's breakthrough numbers was entitled "Vanity of Vanities"; her movement between hit recordings, remixes, and other DJs' styles has been spoken of as "kaleidoscopic" in the local press. Both of these observations seek to define her growing importance in terms of a "humbling" dispersal between genres, remixes, and other "decentering" processes. In other words, according to the rationale of fame and fashion on the dancefloor, the more one's work is remixed, refashion, and re-employed by increasing numbers of DJs, the less important or recognizable, perhaps, the starting point of the initial composition becomes. A very popular track will be employed in a large numbers of remixes, which - each time they multiply or morph - outnumber, outgrow, and overshadow their starting point.

Below we see an attempt to visualize that same kaleidoscopic principle...

Vanity - or, more accurately, its demise - would indeed be a important aspect of this process, since each and every "kaleidoscopic" variation upon a theme increases the importance of the original, "raw" material, but lessens the proud uniqueness of its author. S/he vanishes among growing numbers of differences. Speeding these developments herself, Satory Seine has also worked with a side-project from the northern Ukrainian industrial town of Zaporozh'e, known as 2Special.

The more places she is employed, included, and reworked, the less she becomes a singular presence. Once might draw parallels, perhaps, with the efforts of a session musician; the most successful of them work all over the place - and are therefore not associated with any one band or face. In order to be significant and successful, one's vanity must take a back seat.

There is, therefore, a certain logic to the fact that Satory Seine's home page is not only out of order - it has vanished altogether. This is a singer who is nationally known, culturally significant, yet digitally homeless. In the meanwhile, the number of remixes increase, several of which can be downloaded from here. As a consequence of this happy, kaleidoscopic process, one's vanity is held in check. According to the same logic, if one's work were maximally popular amid countless remixes, one would disappear altogether.

Movement and metamorphosis would take the place of a famous face.


Satory Seine – Dance on the Cloud
Satory Seine – Gentle Motive
Satory Seine – I'm Gone
Satory Seine – No Need to Rush
Satory Seine – Solaris (radio edit)

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