Atlantic Waves 01dec09: Russia

Otava Yo is a new folk project from St. Petersburg. Otava Yo mostly plays Russian folk songs and tunes which were popular when their parents were young. Bagpipes, Russian gusli, fiddles, guitar and percussion –  Otava Yo plays powerful dance-like music which could be called Russian Beat. At times the music of  Otava Yo can make you laugh, even if you aren’t a Russian speaker.  Otava Yo recently produced a new album called “Once upon a time.” In 2009  Otava Yo toured in Latvia and Mexico.

“By far the best new discovery” at Globalquerque 2008, says Dirty Linen. Reelroad crafts a sound that is fresh and modern, catapulting Russian folk music on to center stage of the new folk sound.” World Music Central, January 2009.

Reelroad plays traditional Russian music in an original post-folk style in concert halls and festivals throughout Europe and Russia. In 2008 the band crossed the Atlantic to perform at world music festivals in Mexico and the United States. In early 2009 Reelroad celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Reelroad’s repertoire favors obscure folk songs from northern Russia and central Siberia, music driven underground for decades. Reelroad has two styles of performing Russian folk music. The first echoes the village with the sound of Russian instruments such as the gusli (zither), zhaleika (fife) and kaljuka. Traditional vocals are prominent, due in part to Reelroad members Anastasia Karaseva and Aleksandrs Dmitrijevs, founders of the authentic village choir “Dubinushka.” Acoustic guitar, violin, flute and bagpipes round out the sound. In the second style, developed for the large stage, Reelroad projects and amplifies the village sound with bass guitar and drums. All seven Reelroad members are musicians. Four serve as vocalists as well, singing in traditional Russian village voice. Anastasia Karaseva plays the tin whistle, pandereta and Irish harp. Alexey Belkin manages Reelroad and plays Galician and Scottish bagpipes, zhaleika (fife) and winged gusli (psaltery). Aleksandrs “Kep” Dmitrijevs plays acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica. Natalia Vysokikh is a professional violinist. Alexey Skosyrev made the fretless bass guitar he plays, as well as Anastasia’s harp. Svetlana Kondesyuk, a graduate of the Academy of Arts, plays the flute and Galician bagpipes. Denis Nikiforov learned to play the drums in the army, studied at the Academy of Arts, and works at the famous Hermitage museum.

In addition to concert performances, Reelroad teaches Russian folk dances in clubs and dance schools. The band welcomes dancers of all skill levels and aims to dispel the belief Russian folk dances are boring or difficult.

93 Atlantic Waves 01dec09