Gently brushing the ancient tradition of Mordovian folk music against the grain, opening up to new musical influences and saving the dying languages of their homeland along the way: Merema prove on their second album “Eryamon’ Koytneva” (translated: Spiral of Life) that they continue to develop artistically. The ensemble around “boss” Ekaterina Modina confidently shows on its new album that current electronic sounds are perfectly suited to the traditional folk songs of Mordovia.
The five-member folk ensemble Merema was founded in Saransk in 2010 and has set itself increasingly ambitious goals in the following years. The members describe Merema as an “ethnographic folklore studio”. They conduct field studies in the Mordovian villages and thus want to preserve the traditions of their home region. For these are under threat: recently, only about 40 per cent of the inhabitants professed to be of Mordovian nationality. Russians make up the majority of the population. To make things even more complicated: The Mordovian population consists of two ethnographic groups, each of which has its own written language. These two groups are called Ersja and Moksch. Mordovia, by the way, is located in the “European” part of Russia between Moscow and the Volga. Football fans may be familiar with the capital Saransk, one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Merema (which translates as “legend”) travel across their homeland, looking not only for old folk tunes, but also for folk art and old traditional costumes. During their performances, the ensemble members wear traditional costumes to pay respect to their ancestors. “Many people in our homeland no longer speak the old languages. Remnants survive at most in the remote villages,” Ekaterina Modina reports. Young people today are often embarrassed about their origins in the Mordovian region.
Merema also uses commercially available Russian kitchen utensils as musical instruments. The traditional drums of the region are no longer produced in the country itself. “You can buy African drums from us, but not our own,” Modina reports.
On “Eryamon Koytneva’” there are numerous traditional folk tunes from Mordovia, which Merama has rearranged. What is it all about? Above all, it’s about celebrating family and friends and enjoying life! The rousing “Come Kin, Meet Us” celebrates the arrival of the bride: two families unite through marriage, what a celebration! The spirited “Come My Friends, Come” is also about a successfully arranged marriage in the countryside. The whole village celebrates exuberantly! In the cheerful, flute-sounding “Let’s Go Steal Some Turnips, My Daughter In Law”, two female family members are up to mischief and set out to steal turnips.
Year of Release: 2020
Year of Release: 2023