Otava Yo: What Are Those for Songs!

February 1, 2016

OtavaYo3Russian Dressing

Listening Post 32. Just as Greenwich Village nurtured the American folk revival in the Sixties, so is St. Petersburg, Russia’s cultural center, the stage for a back-to-the-village folk group whose members dress like peasants and play like virtuosos. Founded by Alexey Belkin, Dmitry Shikhardin and Alexey Skosyrev in 2004, Otava Yo (Отава ё)—now five men and one woman—are known for witty banter, tight harmony and a musical palette of psaltery, fiddles, guitar, bass, drums and occasional fife and bagpipe. Their Soviet-era songs feature street cleaners and pilgrims, sailors and thieves, dreamers and drinkers. What Are Those for Songs? (Что за песни) offers not only colorful characters but also simple culinary pleasures. In Those Pancakes of Mine (ой, блины, мои блины), “Uncle Taras eats a dozen at a time/His son Fedot puts a blini in his shirt/Grandpa Pahom sits on his/The family feels their stomachs hurt” (video 1). In Little Apple (Яблочко) the fruit is a rolling metaphor on the uncertain roulette wheel of Russian life (video 2). Other album standouts are the spirited Girls Returning from a Pilgrimage (Шли девчонки с богомолья); They Will Recruit Me (Заберут меня в солдаты), about a reluctant draftee; and I Tell Me Ma 3 in 1, a traditional Irish song performed in English, Latvian and Russian (video 3). No wonder this rolling apple of a band gathers fans and sows joy wherever it goes. (Navigator Records)






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