Our today’s review is a musical greeting from the “Dub up My Groove, Baby” channel. The black bar and the hidden name are sad symbols. Behind them lies the bitter aftertaste of what has been happening in Belarus, the country which is rapidly turning into a scorched earth instead of becoming prosperous and modern. This applies not only to politics, but to actual music as well.
Desperate in despair
I’ll start with the sad feeling. While selecting interesting names for my review, each time I was immersed in regret and melancholy. Such is the contemporary scene of Belarus. Some musicians hurriedly left their country, others changed their message or gave up their creative work, and there are even more tragic stories. Those who are on the radar today, all these resurfaced post-punk bands, are so boring that I don’t even want to talk about them.
Historically, music in this country has evolved without any pattern. The lack of infrastructure and even lack of demand have forced artists either to flounder at the bottom of their snobbery, or to cut corners managing to get themselves out to neighboring countries. Somehow, mostly semi-legally.
Let us turn to the Belarusian musical geography of the 21st century. The features are obvious. Gomel is driven by metal concerts of early Behemoth and local Gods Tower, TT-34 and Rasta. Grodno is filled with hardcore and Igor Banzer’s Mister X passion. Mogilev has its own local scene. But, naturally, everything is moving to Minsk under the action of centrifugal force.
The opportunity to export creativity was established by young Sasha Bogdanov, who organized the festival “Mojno” in Moscow and St. Petersburg back in 2011. With everybody whoever he could reach taken on board, he and his jumble of ensembles broke the notion that Belarus is limited only to the “Pesnyary” band. After that, Bogdanov conducted the Cassiopeia and the Silver Wedding, opened the cultural center “Corpus” in Minsk, and tried to question the established stereotypes in every possible way.
An important fact, music journalists are not in demand in this country. They create a niche, which they feel comfortable inside, and… that’s it. The project experty.by had died at the same time as another one, ultra-music. Sergei Budkin has been trying to draw attention to the Belarusian sound in cooperation with Belsat chnnel, but the coverage is not pulling up.
One cannot expect something like what Bogdanov had been doing to happen nowadays. In their own style, the members of the “Soyuz” project try to systematize somehow what they have been accumulating. That’s how “Long Play Belarus“. But times are not the same now…
Interesting but not enough known
Here are the best Belarusian bands in my humble opinion.
Ivan Kirchuk has managed to assemble a triumvirate that has become the greatest and brightest phenomenon of belmusic. The trio turns to the root sound and reinvent original music. It acquires a subtle readjustment and gets deep meanings, thanks to the lyrics and the strong voice of the author.
Any concert by Troitsa is both a lecture and an exorcism of blackness from the soul. As part of his work at the Institute of Culture, Ivan is in charge of ethnography, such a unique matter in our digital age. The band itself is always welcome at large and artisanal European ethno festivals. The pandemic inevitably broke the activity of the team, so now it is somewhere near us, no one knows where exactly.
In terms of the music, Troitsa is beautiful in each album of theirs. From the “Жар-жар” album, the accent is noticeably shifted to experiments. The material undergoes unpredictable metamorphoses in order to produce a treasure.
The most soulful band, I believe. Its leader Alexander Kullinkovich sends his audience greetings from the nineties, which can be easily found in the songs like “Переехала комбайном”, “Резиновый дом” and, of course, “Охотник и сайгак”.
At one time Neuro Dubel tried to enter the Russian market, but it didn’t work out. That makes it better, because it has almost always held a formalized “cult” status within the boundaries of Minsk. Uncle Sasha’s concerts with authorial recitations between songs were something worth living for. Neuro Dubel is the purest reflection, so kind and sweet that you want to take it in your hands, launch it into your heart and not let it go. Kullinkovich simultaneously starred in music videos and movies… He lacked attention somehow, but he was never going to go under the radar. What a great band it was.
Port Mone Trio
It’s more about the sound. The album “Dip” was released at the turn of the noughties, and “Khmeleva Project” appeared 3 years later, with the then not yet promoted DahaBraha. A little later the trio’s phono library was polished with their own “Thou”. Port Mone rolled with Bogdanov and on their own, in the search for themselves and locations in warm Minsk. Nevertheless, high up never gets to take off.
Today Port Mone is a legend that runs through the fingers. Alexey Vorsoba improvises on his Warsoba project, the rest of the band, including Ilya Cherepko-Samokhvalov presents fresh project “Polyn“. Great stuff, I’d say.
This is more about the image. The entertainer of the underground, who changes clothes almost more often than Mamyshev-Monroe, but remains somewhere around. Imagine him in his tailsuit, walking through the mud in the direction of the “Empty Hills”. Near him was Georgy Dobro the entertainer, and post-academic shouting was attacking the microphone.
Now Sergey is busy with the True Litwin Beat project, understandable and close to any Belarussian in its rhetoric. The band deserves the prefix “super” for sure, as having the guitarist Evgeny Belov (“Red Stars”), old bearded bassist Alexander Pomidorov, Artyom Zalessky (“Silver Wedding”, “Gurzuf”, “Cassiopeia”) behind the drums. All of this appeals in its simplicity at the concerts. The ultimate punk.
The Worst Friend
I can’t do without my native Gomel, so I present to you one of the most interesting bands in the city. Just good music without any genre distinctions. I steadily associate “Worst Friend” with “a sprout breaking through the asphalt”.
In the 90s and 00s, Gomel’s swirling music scene had came to an end. Multiple cover bands had appeared, playing in beer restaurants, where yesterday’s death metalists and bluesmen flocked.
“Worst Friend” is clearly not one of those. It’s more for the soul, for expressing yourself through an offbeat sound that conveys with itself a subtle feeling. It’s like realizing your feet aren’t nailed to the floor, and that feeling stays with you for a long time. And “Strange People Are Dancing Strangely…”
Listen to Belarus
And here’s my special playlist, for those of you who want it all at once. It contains thу songs by heroes of my article, and a number of other names as well.
Heroes of the article
- Ivan Kirchuk. In 2016, M. Tank University (BSPU) did not renew his contract. He went to the Institute of Culture then. His dream is to open a museum of folk instruments. Ivan got a stroke in the fall of 2021.
- Igor Banzer. He was sentenced to 1.5 years of imprisonment in an open institution. At the time of writing, he was transferred to an ordinary-regime colony.
- Alexander Bogdanov. He got 10 days in jail for “resistance to police officers”. Alexander is now in custody under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (up to 5 years’ imprisonment). In August-September 2020 he had been walking around with a DJ deck and had been staged raves right in the middle of the city protesters’ flow.
- Ilya Cherepko-Samokhvalov. Was arrested for 15 days in November 2020.
- Alexander Kullinkovich. Died in 2018 due to problems with lungs. He was 46 years old. A year later Yura “Paskuda” Naumov, the band’s second vocalist, died.