With two career violinists as parents, there was little doubt some of the Jablokov children would follow in their parents’ footsteps. In the end, five of the six siblings became full-time musicians, living in different countries across Europe. But for one in particular, the musical road had plenty of twists and turns.
Born and reared in Bratislava, Slovakia, Vladimir Jablokov was the third-eldest child. Growing up he loved playing the violin, but as a teenager he found the rigid approach to learning and practising stifling.
At the age of 14 he attended a music secondary school, where the only subjects studied were ones relating to music. There was no science or maths, for example, so attending a music university was his only option.
I had no smartphone at the time. I was like, what do I do to find those fields and those rivers full of fish?
By his late teens, Vladimir was questioning if music was really what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Having started to study music at third level, he decided to take a break to figure things out. So that year, in 2004, he travelled to Ireland!
Vladimir has always had a huge interest in nature, often spending time kayaking, fishing and camping. A cousin of his had visited Clare around this time and sold him on the location because of its natural beauty.
“Me being full of adventure, I packed my fishing rod, a sleeping bag, a tent and said, ‘I’m going to go into the wilderness’. I didn’t do any research and when I arrived in the city centre of Dublin, I had no idea actually where Co Clare was,” Vladimir laughs. “I had no smartphone at the time. I was like, what do I do to find those fields and those rivers full of fish?”
Vladimir didn’t end up going to Clare, he stayed in Dublin. At the time he spoke little to no English. After a couple of weeks he ran out of money.
“I just didn’t want to call my parents asking for money and I didn’t want to go back to the university straight away, because I didn’t think I’d enough time to think. I wanted to prove myself, because a lot of people were laughing at me, saying, ‘You’re 19, you want to go somewhere and you have no English, how do you think you’re going to survive?
“I saw a couple of musicians busking on Grafton Street and I just thought, look, I have nothing to lose, just give it a go. Thanks be to God I had my violin with me. It was just a last minute decision. Originally, I wasn’t planning on taking it.”
I basically went in to the wild river and started learning how to swim
Busking – something born out of desperation – actually ended up being a transformative experience for Vladimir, as it rekindled his love of music.
“That’s where I realised I do want to do this [music]. Even though we were on the stage before – we were travelling with the family ensemble around Europe when we were kids. I just didn’t get [the love of performing] as much as when I did it on my own,” Vladimir explains.
“I basically went in to the wild river and started learning how to swim. It’s slightly the opposite way to how it should be done in life, but we are here and we are healthy. I’m actually very happy with everything that’s happened. It’s an adventure, it’s a journey.”
Having found his mojo again, Vladimir started passionately pursuing a career in music. Perhaps even at times too passionately. Up until 2010 he had to return to busking on and off to pay off debts from concerts that didn’t make money.
On an upward trajectory since, Vladimir and his brother Anton have toured the UK with Katherine Jenkins and also supported Il Divo at the 3Arena.
A new family music tradition was also started by Vladimir.
[...] a regular corporate client asked Vladimir would he play on Zoom for her husband’s 80th birthday
In a normal, non-COVID-19 year, the family ensemble would all gather in Ireland at Christmas and play several concerts around the country.
This year, like very many musicians, Vladimir is missing performances, but he came up with a novel way of connecting with people. Having done a few live streams on social media, Vladimir was disappointed in not getting audience reaction to these performances.
Having put several different ideas on the table, nothing was working out in terms of virtual concerts. That is, until a regular corporate client asked Vladimir would he play on Zoom for her husband’s 80th birthday.
Following this, Vladimir and Anton decided they would do private concerts for families this Christmas and new year on Zoom. Anton flew in from Switzerland, self-isolated, and they are now performing personalised concerts in a purpose built studio in Vladimir’s home.
Last year, I had to rent a 70-bed house to accommodate everyone, because of course we all want to stay together
Vladimir is very much enjoying the experience. He is also pragmatic when reflecting on not having his whole family in Ireland this Christmas. They have been coming for the past 11 years and the group grows each time, with aunties and friends all starting to join. For the past two years their 90 year old granny from Moscow came.
“Last year, I had to rent a 70-bed house to accommodate everyone, because of course we all want to stay together.
“Even now practising all the Christmas tunes with Anton, it’s great to have him here, but we’re thinking of everyone else, they’re not actually going to come here. It feels strange.
“It’s not the fact that I’m not going to be on the INEC stage or the National Concert Hall, it’s the fact that the family’s not going to be here.”
Even though situations may be different, Vladimir is making the most of things as they stand, and hoping soon live performances will return.
Oh, and he also made it to Clare eventually too!