Russia and Eastern Europe: home is where the heart is.

18 Oct

While Russia and Eastern Europe as a whole currently have one of the most eclectic music scenes, spanning everything from jazz to instrumental hip-hop to electro-acoustic compositions, there is one thing that it all has in common – a strong and definite sense of identity.

An interesting example of this is Eja. A young composer from Novorossisk, Russia’s main port on the Black Sea and the home of wide open, endless vistas that at first appear to be dreary but on a second glance, can hold some of the most beautiful views in the world. Eja uses this to create ambient music inspired entirely by his own surroundings; the bare Russian landscapes around him. He gives a voice to the silence of the somewhat barren environment, allowing the bare buildings and docks to inspire peaceful, sweeping music that instigates a sense of something greater.

Zapaska, from the Ukraine, have a different aesthetic but the same sense of identity. They take the melancholy atmosphere from the traditional folk songs they’ve grown up with and use that to again reflect the local surroundings – one that musician Nechitailo describes as ones of “cataclysmic events and enormous pain.”

In a typical Ukrainian folk song, Nechitailo goes on to explain, everything is awful – a Cossack is dying somewhere and a girl will cry. And so, as a son of these native lands, Nechitailo’s songs are sad too. The music has an air of hopelessness about it, of despair, and yet, under all that, a solid sense of preservation. It carries on, because what else can they do?

Contrast this with the work of Sasha Almazova. At a first glance, her latest single “Voda”, a jazz/hip-hop crossover track has very little in common with Eja’s speechless ambience. Yet the Russian identity still remains a strong part of both, with Almazova choosing to write her lyrics exclusively in Russian. The transferral of the jazz samples into Russian opens up the genre to people who wouldn’t usually feel included or able to relate, and makes it into something relevant in a way that it wasn’t before. Almazova’s choice to cross traditional jazz with the new hip-hop uprising reflects the fight going on in Russia to break away from the constancy and form new and spontaneous expressions.

The main conflict faced by Russian and Eastern European artists is the problem of independence versus success. The creative freedom to express themselves is not one that any of them want to give up lightly but many of the bands seek for more than just a small local fan base. Without wanting to sign their soul over to a big business, so to speak, it’s difficult for bands to break through in the Russian and Eastern European scene but many do not want to leave the place that holds such a strong part in their music – their home is as much of part of the band as any of the musicians.

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One Response to “Russia and Eastern Europe: home is where the heart is.”

  1. Nicole Froio (@nicki_) October 18, 2011 at 1:59 PM #

    weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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