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Ivan Dorn: The Renaissance man forever in motion

The 33-year-old singer/songwriter was born in Russia, in the final hours of the Soviet Union. After its dissolution, his family moved to Ukraine, which is where little Ivan grew up. Even though he was successful in sports, he gave that up for music and being on stage, and has proven with every role he has played that he made the right decision.


If someone takes a look at your CV, they can see that you’re not only a singer/songwriter, but also have a long list of other occupations such as actor, producer, DJ, television show host, that you had a band, you have won piano competitions, and before you started you career as a musician, you had been an outstanding athlete, playing curling and lacrosse. You seem like a creative person, always in motion. Is that true?

Yes, spot on. I like to challenge myself constantly. Life is so much more interesting if I keep discovering new facets of my inner self. There are no boundaries except the ones you set yourself. Life is too short to keep living the same way.

Besides your CV, your music is also very multi-layered. It is a mix of several genres: disco, pop, jazz, funk, hip-hop, soul and electronic music. Which one is the closest to your heart? What does Ivan Dorn, as an ordinary music lover, listen to at home?

I could listen to all of these genres all day long. What I choose always depends on my mood. I have a playlist for every mood. For example, I work out in the mornings and I always listen to music: chill, jazzy music for stretching, deep house for the warm-up. I listen to a bunch of modern music and old classics during the day. I often don’t listen to anything, and that also feels good. But what do I listen to for my own entertainment? Toro y Moi, classical music, Miles Davis, old school funk and hip-hop, and, of course, my own songs.

You started your own record label Masterskaya in 2016 with the intention of discovering the most exciting performers and bands of the Ukrainian underground scene. Who do you recommend from the ones you discovered?

Masterskaya is not an ordinary record label. It’s a unique space and venue in the heart of Kiev, that allows modern and typical Ukrainian musicians to express themselves and their art, to help them play in front of an audience and start their journey in the big world. I recommend you get to know these performers: ЮЮ, Tonka, Jonathan Livingston, The Lazy Jesus, Constantine, YUKO, [O] band, Hyphen Dash.

photo: Gaál Dániel – Ivan Dorn

You are currently on a world tour – in the US at the moment – and you are raising money to help your home, the Ukraine, by playing concerts. Does the fact that the tour has a noble and important message have any influence on the songs you include on the set list?

When it comes to the #playforUkraine charity tour, my first thought was that it wouldn’t be right to play groovy songs. I wasn’t sure about which stage strategy would be the best to support the Ukrainian people. Maybe we were not ready for funk, and the context of war inspired me to play slower music. And then, at our very first show, it became obvious that Ukrainians are not a sad nation. They came to the concerts to process their emotions, to uplift their souls so that they are able to live another day and fight for their independence. So we transformed our performances into a musical therapy of sorts. Groovy songs had a place in the mix of many moods and styles, as did sad or uplifting songs. We keep holding our heads high and spreading our arms.

Even though you played in several movies, I was surprised to see that you were one of the voice-over artists of one of the main characters, Jonathan, in two instalments of Transylvania, an American animation movie (the original voice was Andy Samberg). You had to play with your voice – without singing. Was this situation strange at all, did it go smoothly? How did you end up acting?

It wasn’t strange at all. My voice was born to be used in movies and animations. Dubbing was really simple, it was so easy for me to step into someone else’s life and pretend like it’s mine. My lyrics are created the same way: I try to imagine what others feel and think in a certain life situation. The same applies to acting, too. You visualise the character and think about their possible moves, gestures, thoughts. I have been studying acting for three years now at Kiev University, that’s why role playing comes naturally to me.

This October, you’re going to play the opening concert of the Budapest Showcase Hub that primarily presents the latest music trends. Will you prepare a unique production?

You have to know that all of our shows are unique. I write unique poems for all of my concerts. My live band, DORNABANDA, and I are constantly improvising to offer a new experience to the audience at each performance, to offer them something real and honest to see on stage. We keep changing our set list, we interact and play with the audience. So no one regrets coming to our show, even if they have seen us multiple times.

You have visited Hungary on multiple occasions if I’m not mistaken. How do you see the Hungarian audience? Did you have a chance to explore the city?

I have visited Budapest several times. This is one of the best and most charming cities not only in Europe, but in the whole world. I played at the Sziget Festival, and recently I have played a show as part of the #playforUkraine tour. The audience was very multicultural, with a taste that drove them to seek out something unique. They were curious about the Ukrainian cultural DNA, they were eager to learn about it and experience it. Well, here we are, welcome!

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