The 14 songs on Kezeren Koiht (Ancient Custom) have everything required of first-rate folk tales: Dreams and journeys, peril and gore, omens and clairvoyants, love sagas that end well and badly. But where the Brothers Grimm had the perfect family name for their collected works, a suitable adjective for Merema’s collection should perhaps reflect the ensemble’s honorable purpose: Survival of the culture and languages their stories represent. Merema is based … More Merema: Kezeren Koiht
Siberia is renowned for vast panoramas and extreme temperatures but it is also rich in sound. Over the past 15 years the folk trio Vedan Kolod has been introducing world audiences to the region’s acoustic qualities, from whistling forest winds to echoes of time to their own spellbinding blend of voices and traditional instruments. A family band from Krasnoyarsk, roughly the halfway point on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Vedan Kolod has a repertoire … More Vedan Kolod: Wild Games
There’s more than a touch of Gogol in the Russian ensemble Otava Yo: There’s humor, symbolism and archetypal characters that serve as anchors for artistic brilliance. Group leader and co-founder Alexey Belkin explains that the band’s work reflects “not so much folklore as a twenty-first century attitude toward folk music,” brought to animation in layers of respect and self-parody, with instruments that run from traditional zithers and pipes to worldly violin … More Otava Yo: Do You Love
The song Shpatsir in Vald (A Walk in the Forest) has everything—poignant dialogue between lovers about to be separated by war, a dulcet Russian waltz melody and the spellbinding voice of Sophie Milman (video 1). The lyrics were penned in 1944, but the song wasn’t released until 2018—and therein lies a story. The Soviet Union, World War II: A team of ethnomusicologists led by … More Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II
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 … More Otava Yo: What Are Those for Songs!
The history of Russian rock music could fill volumes, but much of it can be summed up in a single word: Akvarium (Aquarium). Launched in 1972 by Boris Grebenshchikov and friends, the band—unapproved by Soviet culture authorities—initially played in apartments, recorded albums on homemade tapes and sometimes hitched rides to distant gigs on freight trains. As the Soviet Union and Russia … More Akvarium & Boris Grebenshchikov: Greatest Hits