Plato Newsroom #9
Summer and little spicy selection of Belarusian music
Greetings, friends! Here is the ninth episode of the Newsroom project — news podcast about fresh Belarusian releases by Radio Plato team. My name is Kornej and today we continue our overview of summer 2023 releases. Part two has a definite folk slant, although other types of gems abound. In today's episode:
- Debut single from the Trava band – "Kupalinka" gets another treatment;
- Experimental folk electronics from Sneguole;
- Drum'n'bass version of folk song "Pcička" rendered by T-Trider and Akvaleria;
- nostaligic pop stylings of Zakharik;
- acid electro by Abibok;
- Łajtovy's audio epic;
- Majestic improvisational work by Kolorit Kulmana.
Electrofolk duo Trava debuts with the single and video for "Čornaya Nočka" – their interpretation on "Kupalinka"
We begin today's musical journey with the debut track from the band Trava. The duo was founded by Belarusians Stasia and Igor in 2022 in Vilnius. The band is currently based in Warsaw. Trava defines its musical direction as digital folk. "Čornaya Nočka" is the debut single of the musicians.
Igor: The song "Čornaya Nočka" began with me buying a new Bass Station synthesizer and composing a riff on it. This is the first song where I wrote the arrangement completely on my own. The thing is, I have played bass guitar in bands before and was used to collective song writing.
Stasia: As for "Kupalinka", it's an interesting story. When Igor invited me to collaborate on a track I had a friend staying over who had served time in Žodzina (following the 2020 protests – Radio Plato). She was telling me how all the girls sang "Kupalinka" there. It's a song that everybody knows. So for me as a folk singer "Kupalinka" used to be more pop, especially since it's a modern rendition and not a true folk song. But here it gained a whole new power for me, new layers of meaning: the night is not just dark, it's pitch black, symbolic of these extremely dark times we find ourselves in.
By the way, while we were writing this episode of Newsroom, the band premiered a music video for the song shot in majestic castle ruins and beautiful scenery. Check it out and make sure to follow Trava while we're waiting for the dark night to end.
Sneguole blends electronics with folk singing and neoclassical composition on their second EP "Žyta Pałavieje"
The next bead in the necklace of the summer releases of 2023 is the "Žyta Pałavieje" EP from the Sneguole project. This is a solo project of violinist Anastasia Popova, in which she recycles archival recordings of folk songs from different regions of Belarus and combines them with magical experimental electronics, ASMR sounds, IDM and bass stylings as well as academic music. This unlikely combination brings astonishingly unique results. I'd have to say I have personally never heard anything quite like it. "Zyta Pałavieje" is the second mini-album by Sneguole released by Menka label. Here's Anastasia detailing the story behind its creation:
– The album was created over the period of about 10 months. Pretty long, perhaps, especially for a 4 track EP. But that's how long it took me to come to the completeness of it, with nothing else to be changed, added or removed – when everything is in its right place.
Initially, there was no specific idea, there was just a great desire to create something. It was August 2022 – a year has passed since the last of my active musician friends have left the country – the band Vuraj, thanks to whom I had some kind of musical life. It was the time I was about to succumb to the apathy and melancholy. And only art could save me.
It was at that time that Danik, our drummer, texted me urging to do something together. So we began working on our first track "Šyrokaja Darožańka". In the end, nothing much worked out with Danik, and the final version features drumming by Alaksiej Maksimaŭ, but that was what started the whole process.
It was not immediately clear that this would be an album or an EP. Everything somehow lead to this gradually. Over time, I kept finding interesting archival recordings that were inspiring me with ideas for more tracks. Gradually, a small album began to take shape.
The song "Oj Ty Žavoronko" sung by Siarhiej Doūhušaūj is the second version, because I was extremely dissatisfied with the first version's arrangement, but really liked the song. I decided to give myself another chance and I do not rule out that sooner or later there will be a third version.
Flutist Volha Poliakova played an important role in the creation of the album. First of all, it's just pure magic how well she fit into the sound palette of the album, and secondly, her support was of great importance to me. And I want to thank Kaciaryna Arakčejeva from the band Astroūna, who periodically agrees to participate in my musical quests and adventures».
Drum'nbass folk hybrid by T-Trider and Akvaleria
Folk is a great source of inspiration for Belarusian musicians nowadays. And it's great that authentic Belarusian folklore is alive with modern interpretations. Here's another great example. The track "Pcička" is a drum'n'bass meets folk exploration. It was made by established Belarusian musicians, active on the scene for decades. They are T-Trider – a DJ and producer since the early 2000's, once resident of Elektrokids clubnights in Minsk with somewhat of a cult following, and Valeria Akvaleria – singer of Kriwi and Harotnica. We asked Valeria to tell us about their work together.
– We have known each other for years. We used to work in the legendary Padzemka underground music store in Minsk together. I was behind the counter while Vitalik was bookkeeping in the back. I have been in Poland for two years when I realized that Vitalik is here as well now. So I messaged him saying we should do something together.
I've wanted to make a track out of this tune for a long time. Originally I dug it up from Uładzimir Bierbieraŭ's audio archives. The genre of this folk song is moot, it was annotated in the archives as a spring song, but it sounds more as lyrical to me. It comes from Padniaprouje (the region of Belarus along the Dniapro river – Radio Plato). It has fun lyrics with some words that sound like trasianka (version of Belarusian heavily contaminated with Russian words, considered to be widespread in rural areas all over Belarus – Radio Plato), but in general it has a positive ending. It's quite a contrast to many of the Belarusian folk songs, especially of lyrical variety, many of which have a gloomy mood, singing about the hardships of being a woman, etc. And this one is about how great it is to live the man you love.
Miensk landscapes and missing your loved ones in Zakharik's video
One of this summer's notable songs is a single by Belarusian singer Sasha Zakharik. She has been singing jazz, funk and soul for a while, performed live with the acclaimed fusion jazz band Apple Tea, took part in Eurovision national selection and nowadays makes dreamy light pop under the alias Zakharik. By the way, she was a guest of our Editorial Podcast show — look it up on our mixcloud. Early this summer she released the song "Vazhnyi Chelovek" and accompanying music video. It's about Miensk and missing the dearest people in your life. We pass the mic to Sasha herself:
— I wrote this song back in march 2021. It was supposed to go on the album planned for beginning of 2022, but the year started the way that music went into the background for me. So we put it off until better days.
The song is dedicated to my best friend Kristina. She left the country in August 2020. Missing her I wrote this song. This summer I realized I have to release this song. I had spent some time away from home, with the people who also had many of their friends and loved ones emigrate and we were all missing them so much. And that was the push for me to release this song as soon as possible. So, when I returned home we shot this beautiful video showing my favorite spots in Minsk. I think that this song resonated with many people because we all have people we are missing.
Łajtovy releases a concept album about lucid dreaming
Next up is Łajtovy, a true Newsroom regular. We did several reviews on his experimental, abstract rap and this summer he put out another release – what sounds like an audio epic under the title "voda i ee otsutstvie" (“water and its absence"). Here is Łajtovy with more details:
– The album was conceptualized when about half of the material for it was already recorded. It's not a case of having a concept first and then working on it gradually. It's like a snapshot of a difficult period in my life. And this snapshot contains my pretty raw attempts to reflect on this period.
It was supposed to become a movie, which we even shot the first scene for. The film would have been called "Pesnya ab viasnie" and the storyline would mirror the album: lucid dreams, serendipitous encounters in them and a split, parallel reality».
Bouncy electro by Abibok
A dash electro to spice up today's episode. Belarusian producer Abibok releases "angst" EP.
Techno-jazz improvisations by Kolorit Kulmana
My personal favorite comes as cherry on top. Kolorit Kulmana with the album "Lost-and-Found". A rich palette of sounds and rhythms, fine balance between avant jazz sensibility and electronic dance tropes, and, most importantly, it's all completely improvised and recorded in one take. Let's hand it over to the band to talk about the whole thing.
— Kolorit Kulmana has three main band members: Roma, Dima and Sergei. We all met taking part in Minsk Improvisers Orchestra – an open free improvisation collective. At some point we decided to play together combining various improvisational methods with electronic rhythms and loops. Our signature sound began taking shape from the very first rehearsal together. We even came up with a term to describe it: techno-jazz paradox improvisation. Sometimes we discuss overall concepts, structures and the choice of instruments, but the general idea remains unchanged: one-take improvisations, spontaneous and unpredictable. The way things turn out, the least planned pieces sometimes sound the most cohesive.
This album was recorded during our last live show in Graffiti club in Minsk in summer 2022, shortly before it closed down. The atmosphere was pretty weird at that gig. The place was not the most fitting venue for us from the very start. Moreover, that night we were supposed to open for a rock band from Brest — two completely different genres. The attendance was low. Generally, the mood was kind of sombre, end of an era. In addition, Sergei almost lost a synthesizer leaving it at a bus stop, which actually inspired the title "Lost-and-Found". We managed to record the show on multitrack and when we listened back to it later, we realized that this is, in fact, a very solid set, worthy of a release.
That's it for today. This was the Newsroom podcast — the music news show by the Radio Plato team, where we gather info about the news of the Belarusian electronic music scene. The podcast is brought to you by our team: Reemotto, Stwone, Helga, Krik, Schmoltz, Nadya Ya, Stereobeaver and KorneJ. Cover art by chernova.ya.
If you're a Belarusian making music, share it with us on social networks and we'll share it with the world in our next episodes. Subscribe to the podcast on streaming platforms, support us on Patreon, or simply Paypal us a donation – this helps us do more cool stuff. See you on the otherside!
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