I’m a Beautiful Golden Flower

How Ira Smelaya, a vlogger from St. Petersburg, became Russia’s main Tatar and why she should be sent to Eurovision.
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Right now, Ira Smelaya lives in St. Petersburg, originally hailing from Naberezhnye Chelny. She is half Tatar but her Youtube blog bears the name “Tatar Days” (Татарские будни) – there, she describes her life consisting of beauty, shopping, food, her husband, and recently, the process of filming her videos. The channel has almost half a million subscribers.

Her husband, Ilya Prusikin, is the vocalist and mastermind of the band Little Big, who have made a claim on rethinking Russian stereotypes a la Die Antwoord and have performed thousands of concerts all over Europe. In fact, Ira Smelaya’s videos can be considered a branch of this project – they are all made by the same team. Tatarka will be opening for Little Big during his March shows in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The lyrics for Tatarka’s first song, “Altyn” (Алтын) were written by a Kazan rap duo, Ittifaq and co-founder of the label Yummy Music, Ilyas Gafarov. In 2007, Ittifaq released his first record with the help of Oscar Records. Since then, the pair have been planning a second album, reigning as the main act in Tatar rap. So when producer Eldar Dzharahov began looking for a lyricist on Twitter, some came out and suggested Gafarov. The music was written by a St. Petersburg beatmaker, Victor Sibrinin, who works for the Royal Vibes studio.

Tatarka — “Altyn” “Алтын” (Golden)

Ilyas Gafarov put together a clever text, with a collection of words like hype, vibe, like, Instagram, where they instersect with a rapid spitfire in Tatar:

What are girls made of? Maybe made of stars,

Maybe made of moonlight? (Who knows?)

Our friends are diamonds (that’s right),

Our friend, Instagram (that’s right)

But it’s worth it to look into my eyes – I’ll eat you whole.

Of course, it’s easy to memorize the first refrain in the chorus: “Безнең кызлар ут” (Our girls are fire.) The second, “Мин алтын матур чәчәк” (I’m a beautiful golden flower), was created in St. Petersburg.

The video, filmed like a cell phone commercial, has over 15 million views, with today’s often referenced gop-style, boyish cars, puffy coats, sporty shades, gold chains, and promenades through the St. Petersburg metro.

The video’s viewers are divided into two camps: those who understand Tatar and those who don’t. Many of those from the second camp have expressed that they want to learn Tatar, to understand for themselves what Tatarka is saying. Those that do understand the Tatar lyrics have split off further into two separate groups. One side has perceived the video as viral: a beautiful woman, in stylish clothes, reflects on the topic of youth music in a language  which has not seen anything of the like. In fact, any girl from Tatarstan who has seen Katya Clapp and Pharaoh’s video could relate to Tatarka and find it conceptually native.

Their language – pidgin English, their image – four stripes of a knock-off Adidas tracksuit. Those from older generations have begun discussing the degree of Tatarka’s accent and how much this video can help promote the Tatar culture. How many people will take up learning Tatar after having seen “Altyn?” In the Tatar press, the song and its performer were discussed meticulously. Here is a telling quote, “I have a question for the author of the lyrics from this video – What’s the point? Has this song contributed to the growth of Tatar culture? Of course not, and the author clearly understands this. This video was made to be viewed on a mass scale, for likes. It’s filled with whatever today’s youth is watching. I didn’t see a point in the video. There is no Tatarness in the video – first of all, one shouldn’t expect nationalism from a half naked woman, and second of all, it seems like she doesn’t know Tatar and she doesn’t look like one. Probably, she picked the Tatar language because she has Tatar friends. It’s possible that she sings in Tatar to bring attention to herself, as in, I’ll be there first one to sing in Tatar and I’ll be popular.” The reasons for such detailed attention to the video-meme, which isn’t pretending to be serious, are clear. The Tatar language’s minority status for the moment renders it less of a communication tool and more of a self-identification agent: many Tatars do not speak the language but clearly connect themselves with the nationality through relatives, cuisine, clothes, and music, and therefore, treat strangers who exploit their symbols zealously.

Besides this, it’s unlikely that someone will get upset by the portrayal of Russians as clinical scumbags who only drink, shoot Kalashnikovs, dance Hopak, and let a drunk tear fall, as they watch the church domes Little Big’s grotesque videos:

Or take pride in the fact that Little Big’s Tel Aviv brothers, repatriates from Moscow, Orgonite, propagandize boiled buckwheat with Tahini, and shisha, put together from nesting dolls.

It’s clear that these are not cultured manifestations, and the videos are made specifically by specialists for viral videos. Members of Little Big’s musical family are connected not through a national language or folk songs. Their language – pidgin English, their image – four stripes of a knock-off Adidas tracksuit that they had to wear as kids. Their medium, a cell phone, now used as a video camera and a television. Their cultural code is western pop music. The “Altyn” video has done more for attracting attention to Tatar culture in Russia than the long-term program for developing the language with methodicians, books, and national holidays, after which no one really managed to learn it. The irony is that the joke worked in exactly the way it wasn’t supposed to.

That which wasn’t expected is proven by Tatarka’s second video, “U Can Take”, which premiered last week and has already accumulated over three million views. In it, Ira Smelaya quips in Tatar, “I’m brighter than a star, harder than a rock, my tongue is my flag. Who’s richer than me? I’m on the street, I’m a beautiful golden flower.” But the chorus is then performed by Ilya Prusikin in English, and yes, the video calls for attention with an aggressive beat, and neon footage, shot in Thailand. Understanding the words isn’t imperative, and visual nationalistic clues aren’t present – so you can relax.

Regardless of the fact that Ira Smelaya’s assets consist of only two videos, Tatarka deserves to be sent to Eurovision, and maybe there she will achieve success much like Buranovskiye Babushki.

A chic sound – subtle in sound and image for foreigners, works with the viral nature of the song. Maybe European hipsters will remember the word Altyn and that Russia isn’t just “matryoshka, vodka, Putin,” but a multinational country.

Russian version: Radif Kashapov

Original article: http://www.colta.ru/articles/music_modern/14068

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“It’s Not Strange. You’re Just Not Used to it”

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This year Pussy Riot came back in a big way as a musical collective – although they never left. First, “Chaika” «ЧАЙКА» (Seagull), premiered in February. And in October, three new videos, with the most remarkable being “Make America Great Again,” looking more like a 2017 news report than an imaginary dystopia. Nadia “Tolokno” answered our questions regarding Putin, Trump, the past, and the future.

 

Trump has already seriously affected US and world politics – he has created a new standard in politics. He is impatient and always ready to explode, he insults his opponents and journalists, threatening to put those who stand against him behind bars. He isn’t ashamed to comment on women who don’t appeal to him as “fat pigs.” The women he does like, he just grabs their crotch.

Trump’s political idea of a “a strong leader,” are those such as Putin and Assad. Putin’s political scientist, Sergei Markov, a few hours after Trump’s win, told The Guardian, yes, we helped out a bit with the American choice with Wikileaks.

There’s the Russian dark force and the American one. Trump has woken the latter. He swept out the crumbs – complexes and fears –  from under the rug, as they were collecting for years. He’s made racism great again. He’s given confidence to his power and his righteousness to the white Americans who never truly agreed with the civil rights movement from the 1950s and 1960s, which proclaimed equality between people of different races.

For the white Americans who were infuriated by the influx of immigrants from Mexico, Asia, and India, following the liberalization of US immigration law in 1965. White Americans from small and rural towns experienced a loss due to globalization, which led to the erosion of the American middle class. And this is where it’s imperative to understand that Trump is only a symptom.

The ghost wanders around Europe (and America).The ghost of the ultra-right populism. Germany, France, Hungary, Great Britain, Scandinavian countries. The question is as follows: will we be able to find an alternative to the current version of globalism? The conservative politicians suggest building a wall at the border, banning abortions, climbing into a casket, closing the lid, and bolting it up from the inside. Are there better options?

 I know you decided to work with Jonas while you were still in prison. Is the idea and subject of the video yours, Akerlund’s, or is it a joint effort? How did you two get along?

We met with Jonas in 2014 – at that time I carried the idea of a video that would illustrate the parallels between the ideals of American Republicans’ retrogressive wing and the political system that Putin has built.

The kindling of fear towards others, failure to value gender equality, the censure of same-sex marriages, the desire to ban abortions and sexual education, but simultaneously focusing on religious education, subordinating, taking progress a step back.

From the Russian side, in the video, obviously there should have appeared a Putin type character. In the Republicans’ retrogressive wing there hadn’t been a bright, unifying figure. If only Sarah Palin, but she has been somewhat forgotten. There is a clear memory of her astonishingly idiotic participation in the 2008 presidential election. In 2014 there wasn’t a sufficiently cheeky, shameless, impudent, dirty American politician who would absorb all the most vile ideas of the retrogressive republicanism into one. In 2016 we got such a politician. Be careful what you wish for, as my cell mate  would tell me.

The plot of the clip is “Make America Great Again,” which we filmed May 1, 2016. Jonas came up with the idea of me playing all the parts, and made a papier-mâché (piñata) Trump doll that I tear apart.

Jonas paints his nails black, is attentive to his interlocutor – principled in questions of aesthetics. He doles out awkward glances (Swede!) He owns a church building in Sweden and is rebuilding it into his own house. The living room will be in the altar.

The styling was handled by Jonas’ wife, B. Akerlund. B. is responsible for my favorite Gaga looks, as well as those for Beyoncé and Madonna. She is talented, strict, loves white collars and ruffled knee-socks.

I’M A STRANGER EVERYWHERE I GO, NOTHING BELONGS TO ME. BUT ALONG WITH THIS, I OWN THE WORLD.


 You travel so much, which begs the thought that Pussy Riot’s revolution, is truly worldwide. Where are you right now and what are you doing?

Right now, I’m staying in Los Angeles for a week. We are writing song, petting a husky, and drawing.

I’m also looking for answers: How did it happen, that Putin managed to put together a band of ultraright, reactionary politicians – Trump, Le Pen, Orban? Why is half of American cheering Trump on? How does China view Russia? Why is the most humane and effective prison system in the world in Scandinavia, and how did they get there? What does it look like, that famous Protestant work ethic? Can one feel it?

Traveling helps in the search of answers. Sometimes. A trip teaches you to take in a different, incredible culture. It steers you away from the reckless condemnation of that which seems strange. No, it’s not “strange.” You’re just not used to it. I was born in the small, industrial, icy town of Norilsk. It’s like a different planet. Pluto. For Russians, I’m not even talking about foreigners. I came to Moscow when I was 16. Yea, I’m one of those people who were told that Moscow isn’t made of rubber. It was exactly for this reason I was seriously upset at one point. They don’t see me as one of their own and they never will, but do I need that? And I decided that, no, I don’t. I’m a stranger everywhere I go, and nothing belongs to me. But along with this, I own the world.

When I arrived to the Mordovian camp, they brought us to a room where the colony’s deputy head was conducting a survey of those arriving.

“Which town are you from?”

“Hm,” I hesitated, because I’m from Norilsk, but I’ve been living in Moscow since I’m 16. “A citizen of the world,” I said.

The deputy head didn’t like that. “You’ll be a citizen of the world behind the fence, an undead, but here in Mordavia, you are condemned.”

I kept insisting on my views. I corresponded with Zizek during my time in Mordavia. I received letters in Chinese. And no, I didn’t understand them, but I received them still.

 It’s very cool that Gera travels too. Has she already been to the US?

She has. Summer in LA – Disneyland, Universal Park, aquaparks and Death Valley. When Gera was four, while I was in jail, her and her dad Petya traveled to New York. She recently impressed me with the details from that trip. She remembers. I learn from her, how to look at the world. Openness, readiness, to take in the new, and agree to experiment. Permanently abolishing the idea of condemnation (except maybe for the condemnation of cooked onions). She tries to understand everybody. That’s how kids grow and learn, understanding and receiving the new – that which at first seems strange. The problem of the mature world, is that adults lose the enthusiasm and willingness to fall in love, and in the end, begin to act like cynical rams. In that moment, where you lose the two abilities – to be surprised and to sympathize – that’s when you become a cynical ram.

 With every year, you are inspired by the art and fight for the rights of all people, of all genders and origins. Why do you think it is that Pussy Riot’s ideas not only escape aging, but become more and more relevant with each day?

Thank you. I think some people become inspired by Pussy Riot exactly for the same reasons that it pisses others off: straightforwardness, frankness, reckless dilettantism.

 And the most important question: what makes you the happiest in life?

Reading. Music. My daughter Gera. The limitless nature of the universe. The willingness to fall in love with people and buildings. My trainer and the goal of learning how to do 30 pull-ups.

  Thank you!

Questions: Sasha Amato | Photo: Amanda Merten

Original article: http://www.interviewrussia.ru/music/nadezhda-tolokonnikova-eto-ne-nenormalno-prosto-ty-ne-privyk_

Беспокойство|Unease

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Here we have post-punk and a gentle, sorrowful feel from the group Unease («Беспокойство», Bespokoistva) Regardless of the rather bedroom-like recording that managed to escape just the first track, and the ever-interrupting bass rumble, they make diving and delving into this emotion very much possible. The vocals are reasonably average for the genre – tracks like “Work”(«Труд»), or “Gully” («Буерак») remind us of that. However, some musical turns are not so obvious – the song “My Sadness Bothers Me” («Меня беспокоят мои расстройства») has a sort of psychedelic flare madness and a synth noise which adds strangeness to the atmosphere. So for now, one can say that we’ll be awaiting something more solid and ripe, but the beginning is promising.

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Original article: https://vk.com/muzstorona

OLIGARKH


The St. Petersburg project, OLIGARKH, is at least three years old, with two records under their belt, performances in Russia and Europe and now a new EP titled, “Get Up and Go.” Their music grew from fringe-electronica until it became a big, even conceptual idea to rethink the old – but the point is still the same: to create eclectic tracks, from house to trap, stuffed with various unbelievable samples from Tchaikovsky through to folk, and from ethnic to Ligalize*.

The idea to saddle “Russianness,” to drag something from there, from the past, and sit it on the express of contemporary music is nothing new. On the contrary, it’s the most exploitative phenomenon that exists now in Russian music, from the underground to the mainstream. Surprisingly, the folk approach is not the most popular, but presenters of prominent projects  (you could recall Buranovskiye Babushki*,and even Neiromonarch Feiofan*) generally are projects for novelty and entertainment, although everybody shares their music in a dead-pan manner.

With “Get up and Go,” it feels like there is less ambition, like there was with “The Greatest  Russian Folk Album,””Anatoly,” or the track “Swans” on “Rethinking of Russian Classics.” So listening to the EP is much more delightful and enticing – you can readily hear the remarkable  approach to taste and understanding, enthusiasm, and talent. The quality of production in “Get Up and Go” is very different from the average Soundcloud dance content, but if you take away all the wonderful samples, the essence doesn’t change profoundly, but rather, this is all still Neiromonach Feiofan – funny, shocking, of high quality, and there for to entertain.

Ligalize: Russian rapper and hip hop artist

Neiromonach Feiofan (Нейромонах Фейофан): A drum and bass project from St. Petersburg

Buranovskiye Babushki (Бурановские Бабушки): Ethno-pop band consisting of eight elderly women

Original article: https://vk.com/muzstorona

Photo: oligarkh_official Instagram

Blue Bardot x Afraid of Virginia: Glintshake

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Glintshake is really something else – The entirety of the band. Two amps tall. Forty acres high. Six pounds wide. It’s evident – they’re all played out. Keeping it to a beat of 5/8. They write songs. Directly to your mailbox. “Fifteen to five,” “Hands are Former Legs”. Their crystal glass sound will shatter your glasses. Their fire will burn down your bouillon.

I walked up to them and asked, “Hey, is it true? Your band’s name…is it a combination of the first letters of your name? So we have Katia, Zhenya, Egor, Lyosha…”

Zhenya: No, actually I just wrote out some words. And with Katia we decided, “Oh, Glinthshake’s not bad.”

All the listeners who keep up are aware that Zhenya gets the inspiration for his poems from greeting cards. You know, the ones you get at the Rospechati *? For your grandchild’s birthday or your favorite son-in-law. Do you have some other sources of inspiration besides the most obvious?

Zhenya: Yes I do. Like for example, we’ve recently gotten into Kandinsky’s poetry. He’s of course not as short spoken and figurative as a greeting card but he’s got some very interesting writing. Very visually forward. Like he is painting a picture through words and even letters themselves.

Katia: Well, Kandinsky was a hell of a synesthete. He even has paintings with titles like “Composition V,” “Composition X.” Like he was creating music, but with paint. And the poems are kind of like that.

And who was Zhenya inspired by in terms of guitar?

Zhenya: Well probably Adrian Belew from King Crimson. He’s a fun guy.

Who else?

Zhenya: You know, I guess Page, at 15 years old made quite the impression on me. Technical fuckeries always drove me crazy. In the spirit of say, Blackmore. Why would you even bother? It becomes a kind of competition. Not music. I was always fond of those who could work with sound. More so than the technical game.

If you had to perform in front of your former classmates, where would you hold the gig?

Katia: I would play in the school cafeteria – that would be cool!

Zhenya: Very!

Does the cafeteria have some memory attached to it?

Zhenya: For me it’s butter stuck to the ceiling. Well, you know, you take a knife, put some butter on it, pull it back…and shoot it towards the ceiling. And there it hangs. For a long time. Then it falls on somebody.

Katia: We just threw potatoes around. Mashed potatoes. We would grab it by the handful and throw ’em.

Zhenya: The cafeteria is a dangerous place.

Katia: No, the cafeteria is cool. The aesthetics are great.

Zhenya: Our cafeteria had a mural about physics, chemistry…by way of social realism.

Katia: Our entire wall was Vasiliev.

Zhenya: Like Splean*?

Katia: No, Konstantin Vasiliev – that guy who painted warriors, knights…

And what about a venue? Where would you like to perform?

Zhenya: I always wanted for concerts to take place somewhere where it would be unsuitable.

Katia: Like the metro. I would like to play, for example on the Komsamolskaya*. It’s very beautiful

Zhenya: Assuming that the sound there would be OK.

Katia: And filled with normal people. Regular people.

Zhenya: It’s actually very cool when you come out to the public. One time we played with Stoned Boys. At the City of Moscow Day celebration. On the Revolution Square. It was totally far out. Tajiks dancing with bags, they were old grandpas…I mean, the music was strange, wild, but people took it very sincerely. Walking around, being out, and then all of a sudden – something caught them. That’s awesome.

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Did you go to music school as kids? To go and have a laugh or to actually learn something yourself?

Zhenya: My mom told me, “It’s cool if you know how to play an instrument.” I agreed.

Which instrument did you have?

Zhenya: Classical guitar. Which I hated. Because a classical guitar is a special kind of whack.

Katia: I first enrolled when I was six. First on the piano, and then I switched to choir. But the funniest part is that once I finished, I enrolled again. For the guitar of all things. Not classical, but Estrada. It was hilarious! I remember the first song that I had to learn was “Autumn” by DDT (Осень, ДДТ). It was a total fail. I never listened to any of that. I mean never. It was incredibly dumb. Anyway…

Zhenya: Katia learned about DDT from within.

Katia: Yea.

The other day, my little brother came to me and asked, what is Russian guitar constructivism. I didn’t know if I should hit him on the mouth or sit down and discuss it all like adults. How would you explain this to your little brother?

Zhenya: It’s kind of a silly thing really…

Katia: It should have been approached like a thing…

Zhenya: Actually we were talking with Osmolovsky. He’s a well-known artist. For example, at 19, he would go out to the Red Square and spell out “Dick” using his friends as material, even climbing Mayakovsky…He’s done a lot of stuff. So we were getting into it one time, and it turns out he was a huge Glintshake fan. At that point we were trying to hype up our German tour. And he said that we had to come up with something for the poster. So that everyone would get it. That it would be something interesting. That’s when we came up with the thing about Russian guitar constructivism.

You are often compared to Zvuki Mu, Aguzarova, Auktyon…Which are you most like?

Zhenya: Damn, that’s really difficult. Any kind of comparisons are difficult. On the one hand, the person think, “Oh I know what this music is! I’ve already heard it a hundred times.” But on the other hand, if you take the band “Bravo” and “Glintshake,” and you ask, “so how are they similar?” It’s unlikely that he’ll get to any conclusions. Like, people would write that the track “Hands Are Previous Feet,” is similar to Auktyon. I don’t know. If you’ve only listened to Auktyon, then…maybe.

Katia: To me it seems the reason they think that is because the track came out with a picture of ЦДХ, and I was wearing a jacket, and everyone took this as a reference to Garkusha. Although I don’t think we have anything in common with Auktyon…

Zhenya: I don’t think the comparisons are bad. Anything is better than Radiohead.

Katia: The comparisons are cool, it’s just…

Zhenya: We’ll survive. Although some comparisons are discouraging. Like there is a comment on YouTube, my favorite, on “Fifteen to Five,”“reminds me of good old trip hop.”

Katia: Oh really?! I never saw that.

Do you have any other favorite comments?

Katia: My favorite comment – on a guy’s YouTube channel, who films our concerts with this funny camera…anyway, it’s a regular digital Olympus camera, but you only have 600 pixels. And it has a wild zoom. So we made a Readymag with our videos, and there’s a comment, “I’ve fucking had it with your modern art, for fuck’s sake.”

In one of your interviews, you said that the goal of Glintshake is to make your own musical language. Sergei Kuryokhin had the same goal when he created Pop Mekhanika. He used shovels, armor, sticks of some kind, Tsoi…to create a musical language. What are you ready to use?

Zhenya: I think every musician should aspire to this. To find one’s own musical language. Like Olivier Messiaen, who would record the songs of birds and transcribe their notes. He learned to write music, roughly speaking, from birds. And that seriously differentiates him from other composers. 

That’s regarding the musical tongue. What about the musical mouth? Otomatone. Tell me about your experiments with that.

Katia: I wouldn’t say that it’s some sort of brilliant musical instrument. More like, a toy with a rubber…how would you say it?

Zhenya: I don’t even know.

Katia: Actually it was a gift I got in America. When I had my residency. They told me it was a “sperm sax.” We were laughing about that a lot. I was playing with the guys, there was a double bass, another sax, a Theremin, and me. We played at some school, an art school. There was a huge stage, lots of kids, parents…and the guy who introduced the group, saying that I play the “sperm sax.” And there was a pause in the auditorium. They all looked at each other and then laughed. One of our leaders fell over! She thought, “Oh, God, we’re done, why did he say that?” But it was really funny.

You know, musicians, they sometimes go through a puberty stage: when they’re young, they play in increments…then they regret it. Do you regret anything right now?

Katia: I read this cool interview with Anthony Kiedis. I was still in school. Back then I was listening to a lot of RHCP. And there, he says that he’s not embarrassed about anything that he did in his youth. At that moment, I thought that he really had nothing to be embarrassed about. And I thought, “Wow. That is so cool! This guy did so much shit, and then says, well, yea, I was like that.”

Zhenya: You couldn’t have been better.

Katia: You change, and that’s normal. And to deny yourself of the past – it’s so stupid and narrow-minded that I don’t get why you would do it.

Ok, and a final question. But it’s very important! 93% of Virginia readers are people who wouldn’t know what to do if their closet grows a nose, or they find that in their sleep, their arm has rolled off under the refrigerator. What advice do you have for them in the future?

Zhenya: The most important thing – don’t listen to Matrixx.

***

Rospechat'(Роспечать): A Russian company specializing in the distribution of periodicals and related products. Established in 1994 as a result of corporatization of the Soviet subscription and retail trade monopoly agency “Sojuzpechat” (Союзпечать)

Splean (Сплин): is a popular Russian rock band. They were formed and released their first album in 1994. Since then, they have remained one of the most popular rock bands in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The band’s name is derived from “spleen” (in the sense of “depression”), and the “ea” spelling in English is a pun on the spelling of the Beatles. It was borrowed from a short poem by Sasha Cherny, which the band set to music.

Komsamolskaya (Комсомoльская):  a Moscow Metro station in the Krasnoselsky District, Central Administrative Okrug, Moscow. It is on the Koltsevaya Line, between Prospekt Mira and Kurskaya stations.

The station is noted for its being located under the busiest Moscow transport hub, Komsomolskaya Square, which serves Leningradsky, Yaroslavsky and Kazansky railway terminals. Because of that the station is one of the busiest in the whole system and is the most loaded one on the line. It opened on 30 January 1952 as a part of the second stage of the line.

***

Original article: http://a-o-v.me/glintshake/

Original interview by: Аркадий Долина (Arkady Dolina)

Photos courtesy of Glintashake

 

Saint God

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We had a seven hour difference between us – them in Tel Aviv and myself in Boston. Tim and I had been corresponding for a couple of weeks trying to decide when we could find some time to talk in a chain of emails titled “Privet! We’re a Shoegaze/Garage duo from Tel Aviv.” We decided on a Tuesday evening, I would call them at 7 PM (2 AM for them.) I was surprised, but happy about their flexibility as they assured me they were night owls.

I learned about them through various articles they had sent me, describing the sound of their music and their releases. Tim plays guitar and Shura can be found singing behind the drums. They had released two albums, Realise and Montefiore (2015 and 2016 respectively), and recently, a single and video by the name of Narasvette. The word means “At Dawn” in Russian, and the video is like a minimalist painting in motion. The star of the clip is Giulia Piana, and Italian dancer who had spontaneously agreed to choreograph the video. It was enchanting and strange, so I couldn’t wait to talk with them.

Now I knew all about their sound, but I wanted to know about them as people – as individuals. Where did they come from and how did this shape them? As artists and as thinkers. What did they want from music? And what did they want from life?


Anastasia: You are living in Tel Aviv now, when did you both move to Israel? As I understand, Tim, you are from Estonia, and Shura from Murmansk (Russia).

T+S: Yea that is right. I (Tim) moved at the age of six, and Shura moved when he was 13.

A: What made you come here? Your families? It’s interesting for me as well as I moved around a lot when I was a kid throughout Europe, but finally came to the states when I was eight years old and that was a big shock to me.

T+S: Our parents were looking for other horizons. Why was moving to the states a big shock for you?

A: It’s really different from Europe – Europe as a whole, even including Russia. the buildings are big and square, it seems there is importance on different things (it’s more about comfort than charm…) Europe is very charming I think. and the people too, they are very friendly here, but at first it seems intrusive because they like to talk so much and know everything. do you find a difference between where you grew up and where you are living now? or it’s not so much ?

T+S: Yea for us it was a shock coming to Israel, it’s a completely different climate, everything is different, the language…Before leaving, I couldn’t even image where it was.

A: Yea Shura you were a bit older so I image it was harder to adjust to a “new world.”

T+S: Ye for sure

A: And now, do you feel there is something missing for you? like a fragmentation? for me, when I moved to the US, I didn’t realize until much later that I lost most contact with Russian music (which I listened to all the time when I was little) – so this was missing for me.

S: Yea, I was really missing home a lot, and when I visited St. Petersburg a couple of years ago, I was surprised that Russian has really cool cities.

T: I wasn’t really connected to the Russian/Soviet “vibe,” I remember missing the snow and “Novyi God” (New Year’s) as a kid, but not much apart from that. I guess I felt more connection to the states, even though I hadn’t been there at that point.

A: What is it about the states that you feel a connection to?

T: The music and the culture mostly. I grew up in Israel and in the 90’s probably more than now, it felt like a “forgotten” state of the US.

A: That’s interesting. because the music and culture was similar? Or was it that you had access to a lot of US music at the time and this popular?

T: To me personally it was mostly the music. But there were lots of American channels on tv, and I think Israel really wanted to be like the USA in some ways. Financial, commercial, and whatnot. I remember seeing an evangelical preacher on CNN (I think) and i was kind of obsessed about it for a while. It was both entertaining and weird at the same time.

A: Hahah what about him made you like him? Was he like an inspirational figure?

T: No haha definitely not an inspirational figure. I was nine or something, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about. But it was really impressive how he was yelling and crying and the people in the audience were going mental about it.

A: And this was like an idea of the US for you?

T: I think my idea of the USA was that everything about it was big and vast

A: Yea that’s pretty accurate. Did you come and visit the states at some point?

T: Yea I’ve been there three times.

A: Whereabouts? And what do you think of it? Was it just vacation?

T: I’ve been to New York , LA, Atlanta, the virgin islands. I liked it a lot, it was exactly what i thought it would be. But I’ve never lived there for a long period of time, so don’t think I’ve fully experienced it.

A: Do you think it is someplace  you’d like to live? And what about the US vs Israel in terms of being a musician? I know you haven’t lived in the states, but maybe your ideas of it. What is it like being a musician in Tel Aviv?

T+S: Yea I think I’d definitely like to live there someday. The difference between the USA vs Israel in terms of being a musician is huge. Israel is a small country, there’s really just three and a half cities for concerts, and just a few venues in each city…It’s like an island with planes flying by, where your favorite bands rarely come in. Maybe now the situation has improved.

A: You do see it improving in the future? I have never been to Israel, it is hard to imagine for me… though I was living in Spain a year ago, and babysitting/teaching English to a little Spanish girl and the family was going to move to Israel (Beer Shiva) but then finally I came here to Boston.

T+S: Now it’s better, there are more well-known bands coming by, more underground, more places, and even Israeli groups have started playing more in other countries…underground bands are traveling to Europe, to Russia…

A: I do have a lot of questions about your music, but I still have a few about culture that i’d like to know about. it’s especially important to me and the website Blue Bardot because it is what I wanted to have when I was younger (access to music that came from the former soviet republics, because I felt like the US was very foreign to me) and it is a bit different now, with the internet…it’s all kind of becoming one world but I still think it’s interesting, like history through music maybe. And I know, Tim, you moved to Israel when you were quite young – do you still identify with being Estonian?

T: I don’t speak Estonian. I’m not of Estonian descent I was born there and my parents live there. The last time I visited there was in 1997.

A: so you identify completely with being Israeli? Or is there something else that you feel makes up part of your cultural identity?

T: I don’t really identify with either cultures. I feel like me I guess. I felt Israeli when I was growing up

A: Yea. I remember going to school and always being asked to explain and write about my identity and my culture so I guess I wonder what other people say who have moved around, especially other musicians. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

T: One of the first memories I remember about music was Nirvana – smells like teen spirit, I clearly remember seeing posters of the album cover everywhere and the song being played everywhere. I started listening to goa trance when i was 11 or so, oddly enough it what  lots of kids listened to back then. Then i started listening to heavier american and metal, prodigy, some rap. The last time when I visited Estonia, my older cousin and his mates were all listening to drum n bass and jungle, and I really liked it. But couldn’t really find it back in Israel and none of my friends were listening to it, obviously before the internet it was more difficult to find music.  I listen to all kinds of stuff really.

S: I listened to my friends’ cassettes. Metal music…I bought a lot of cassettes and brought them to Israel, and I shared them with all my friends. Now I love all kinds of music, different accents – the styles remain as a sort of backdrop, but what makes an impression is the performance and the talent.

A: Do you have some recent favorites?

T: I’ve been listening to a lot of Jungle and Reggae for a while. As far as newer music I really like Sonic Death from St. Petersburg, Russia. I like the last White Lung record a lot, as well as the new Aesop Rock.

S: Recently I’m listening to a lot of radio. I rarely go on the internet, I like underground music, which I follow in St. Petersburg and Israel. I love David Bowie, Black Mountain, Neil Young, and of course, I love listening to my Black Metal classics.

A: And how did you get involved in music, as musicians?

S: We began playing with friends from school, then got into groups with people who were musically close to black metal…concerts, meeting people, new rhythms came about, and the search continues…

A: And what are your goals in music? As a profession? And…personally?

S: Music is like a guardian angel who pushes you and dries you off. The experience of an artist and the stage, recording, and inspiration. There’s a desire to do good work, meet interesting people, and further down the line, be a snail on a hill or incline.

A: And do you have plans to tour in the near future? have you had any interesting or strange experiences playing a gig before?

T: Yea we have plans to tour in the near future. Russia and Europe are the closest to us. Unexpectedly to us we’ve had a couple of reviews in Brazilian blogs, as well as an interview. So Brazil could be a neat location to visit and tour

A: that’s interesting, I have found most of my readers to be in Brazil as well! so no crazy gig experiences to date as of yet?

S: Our first concert at our place where we put on shows, we played four times that one night. First for friends, then two groups walked in who came to visit us from a town called Balashikha (Moscow oblast, Russia), Gryaznyi Pol and Vtorye Vorota (Dirty Floor and Second Gates). Then, incidentally a friend showed up with a music journalist from Norway, and then some people from the street.

A: That must have been long night! And where is it that you play most often.

T: We played gigs in local underground spots in Tel Aviv, we’ve a gig coming next month in Jerusalem. But really, most of the time creativly since we started this band in late 2015 was spent on writing songs and recording them.

A: I noticed some of your lyrics are in Russian. is that the case for all your songs? do you both write lyrics?

S: We have a few songs in English, one in Italian. Many of the songs are based on previously written poetry. Of course in Russian I can sing more openly, and like in a more touching way.

A: That makes sense, i think different languages represent different parts of our personalities (I feel the same way about Russian too, but I think it’s easier to express myself in English now). Is it based on your poetry? or other writers’ poetry? how do you choose the poems then…and the music to accompany it?

T: Yeah absolutely.

S: It’s my poetry, I love poems, writing them, reading them. I choose poems that seem appropriate, Tim approves on some, not on others. We began writing music for the poems. For Tim it also brought out some unexpected guitar riffs.

A: Do you have some favorite poems or poets in particular? maybe some poems you haven’t used yet because you haven’t found the right music for it?

S: One song we wrote for Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods (on a Snowy Evening). This girl performed it, Sanda Budinsky from Providence, Rhode Island…

A: How did you find her?

S: Yea of course, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Rimbaud, Rilke. I feel very close to some translations of David Hume, and of course a great deal of Russian poetry…The girl now lives in Israel.

A: and you worked with another performer for your Narasvette video who was visiting Israel. how did that come about? how long did that take? it looks really beautiful too, with all the elements that came together

T: Thanks. We met in an exhibition up north, she was visiting Israel from Italy, her name is Giulia Piana. We have this connection with Italy, the culture, language, coffee etc… 😉 We had plans to shoot a video for a different song but once we met her we decided to write a completely new song, it was spontaneous, the song and the video came along together. It was shot by Sergey Maydin in one day. The location was chosen intuitively, it is located in a park in Tel Aviv. The sculptures are by famous Israeli artist Dani Karavan.

A: Was there something in particular that sparked your connection with Italy? maybe a film or a song? It sounds like you also speak a bit of Italian ?

S: The connection with Italy of a spiritual nature, but it’s equally pretty random. I was learning Italian, with the house coffee in the machine…and then, the name of our group is the Italian saying Santo Dio. Everything there is so good and beautiful, it’s kind of ideal.

A: Do you ever think about yourself in the future? Like maybe 10 years from now, and what you will be doing?

T: Personally or musically?

A: Both.

S: It’s difficult to look into the future, how will it be? Of course you want to record, play, shoot videos, and live creatively.

A: Yes that’s true. what’s been the most difficult or frustrating part in making music for you?

T: The tunes come together rather quickly and easily, so as far as music goes I can’t think of anything difficult or frustrating. We don’t always agree, and sometimes when Shura suggests something I can go “NO!! We’re not doing that, no way,” and maybe the next day I’ll sleep over it and say “Okay…Let’s give it a try.” But mostly the process is rather smooth.

A: And beyond the actual creative process? Music as a business? Once it leaves your privacy.

T: Obviously it’s easier when someone outside the band takes over the business side of things, but in the music business climate of today it’s not a given thing. Most unsigned bands can’t afford that luxury.

A: Do you take care of everything yourselves these days?

T: Yeah.

A: Aha. And sorry I missed it during our video, are you occupied with things other than music during the day?

T: I work in a recording studio. Shura has his own place called Etzabotz. Its an art studio that is also a concert venue. Apart from that he’s also working part-time in Pasta delivery.

A: Oh that sounds great. ok I have one last question for you guys. Why do you make music? Do you feel it’s something you have to do? Is there something you are trying to accomplish with it, for yourself or for others? Beyond expression?

S: I’ve noticed from myself, that if I’m not playing, then I’ll begin air drumming, or somewhere on a table. Music is a road that we chose above many others, there is a lot to that: pluses and minuses, people, meetings, adventures, just like on the other roads. It’s a language, and you want to be understood, or to hear something for yourself. The entire world, that has the power to change reality, erase borders, make somebody happy, and maybe most importantly, to feel yourself walking on this road, breaking, and in awe. The sun has begun to rise now where we live…thank you for the cool questions.

A: Perfect ending, narasvette! It’s been such a pleasure.

As we said our goodbyes, a rush of energy flooded me quietly. I ran downstairs, hungry for something. There was nothing to eat, and I realized it was almost midnight and I had to wake up early for work in the morning. It felt like dawn was here too, that I would look out and see flashes of the morning light peaking through the dissipating night. But it was just starting here. I would have to find a lullaby to put me down and get through the hours until the same sun would greet me.

https://saintgod.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/saintgodband

Oak and Just a Tree :: Spring

 

Guitarist from Moscow band Naadya lends her voice to a spring single

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Once upon a time, Masha Teryaeva would perform with Moscow indie pop band InWhite, and now she plays and writes music for the group Naadya. She also has her own project, Dub i Prosto Derevo (Oak and Just a Tree), in which she is searching for her own sound under the influence of favorite musicians, Blonde Redhead and St. Vincent.

In the beginning, Masha Teryaeva participated in the educational project known as Red Bull Music Academy, composing solely instrumental tracks for the electric guitar. Her new single, Spring, introduces the appearance of drums, modulated synthesizers, and Masha’s own voice. Everything grows – everything changes.

Masha Teryaeva:

Initially, the project was supposed to be instrumental, because the only instrument I could play at the time was the guitar. Then I grew a bit insolent and ventured into another plane of instruments. In fact, Spring showcases my ability or lack thereof to program drums. I also, for the first time, used my voice and spent five hours of studio time just for the guitar detuning. Range is the track which captures the first experiments with a modulated synthesizer.

And if Spring is a track with a long and difficult production, recorded at Ilya Mazaev’s studio, mixed in New York with Radmila Markidonova, with mastering in London studio Metropolis, then Range is just a home recording. I don’t really believe that Russia’s instrumental music can become popular, fill up venues, and be successful on a massive scale. That’s why I am selfishly carrying out the plan to create some kind of sounds through a microphone. I start laughing and the music is suddenly a bit less instrumental than before. Ha ha.

After returning from RBMA I was finally convinced that I needed to get my hands on some modulated synths. I’m close with musicians here that make up the electro scene of our country. Hours spent in the showroom of Fedor Vetkalov/Synthman, endless conversations, meeting Dima Churikov, who, besides other things, makes cases for modulators, and tons of tea with Igor Vdovin…I think the amount of first-rate interactions grew into a serious interest for modulated synths. And yes, I’ve got a few of Igor’s synths – only because he is a good-hearted person.

I have enough material for an EP but I’d rather record an LP right away. I haven’t had to work with big formats on my own – this is a goal that I’ll have to live with for the coming year, I think.

March 11 will be the first solo concert at the MARS gallery. It’ll be quite brief and probably with a supporting act – Maksim Prokofiev will be playing the drums, and we’ll do a cover of a Krasnoyarsk band Чемодан говна (Chemodan Govna – Suitcase of Shit)! Playing by yourself or with another person is more difficult, there’s more responsibility, but I want it!

the single Spring is on iTunes.

 

http://m.colta.ru/articles/music_modern/10261

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