You see this man? His name is Ivan Rebroff and yes, he looked like that ALL THE TIME.
I can’t help but wonder if that hat is actually his hair. Perish the thought.
I mention him and his fantastic choice in headgear because I only discovered him today. He’s a German singer (born Hans-Rolf Rippert) who claimed Russian descent and made a name for himself singing foreign songs – particularly French and Russian – as well as playing the part in Fiddler on the Roof that sung “If I were a Rich Man (diddle-diddle-diddle)” and he’s particularly famous firstly for his bizarre Russianesque fashion sense and also his incredible singing range. The average human can reach one-and-a-half whole octaves if he or she pushes themselves. A trained singer can hit two octaves reliably. Good opera singers can hit three octaves (but their parts often don’t go much beyond two octaves anyway). Mr. Rebroff, however, could sing four and a half octaves. That’s all the way from a Bass register up to Soprano. The guy was insane.
What makes this guy more amazing is that I’d never heard of him before. Many of you might read this and roll your eyes. The guy’s a legend! I hear you cry. Well – I’d never heard of him and now I’ve been listening to his amazing voice all evening whilst going about my online business. I was looking at Russian songs on youtube when I found him. I started learning Russian because I loved the sound of Russian and its beautiful singing so this guy was right up my alley.
But then when I checked his Wikipedia page to find out who the hell he was I found that he had died in early 2008. I can’t say I wasn’t suprised – the guy looked fairly old in the videos I’d seen of him that looked to have been filmed in the eighties or something. But I experienced that all-too-odd feeling you only really get with famous people. Famous people have that knack of hanging around after they’ve died – you can still see their faces and their words all over the place. So it can be odd when someone seems to be alive – they’re singing and speaking on videos you watch and writing on pages you look at – and then you find out they’ve been dead for nearly half a decade. You realise all you’ve ever known about that person and all you can ever hope to know is just a shadow – a footprint left in the soil.
Part of my love for History is the thrill of imaging “being there“. The idea that, years later when people are studying those events in classrooms or whispering of them with awe in hushed places, you can sit back and say “I remember it. I was there“. This can range from revolutions to raves, concerts to calamities. We all remember where we were when 9/11 came around – we all remember those historical moments we were part of, however small. But then there are the ones we miss. Things like the Egyptian Revolution which one of my dearest friends was caught right in the middle of. It can’t be said I would have enjoyed being in that enviornment but at the same time imagine being there as history was made. That’s something special.
Which is why as I look on the imprint Ivan Rebroff has left on planet earth I’m reminded of all the important things around us that one day won’t be here anymore. I have a sudden urge to attend a Stephen Hawking lecture just so I can say I saw the man with my own eyes. He was “supposed” to die in his twenties. He’s seventy now. Even without his condition he’s fairly old and one day he won’t be with us anymore. One day the Queen will die – one day they’ll actually close off Machu Picchu for good (the soil erosion is damaging the ruins, after all). We need to see these things and so much more before they go.
This sounds morbid but actually it’s quite the opposite. We need to live. We need to see as many places, do as many things, meet as many people and be part of as many events as humanly possible. Have as many adventures as you can as many times as you can. Because they only come round once. Because you only come round once.