“Once you have Siberia in your system, you can never get rid of it. I spent my childhood roaming the taiga and I miss it,” says Russian folk music expert and musician Daryana Antipova. Her aim is to make the lively Siberian folk music better known beyond all clichés. And that works best with a sampler that presents what she considers to be the most important players in the folk scene.
Siberian folk music today is not about the “seemingly authentic” Soviet folk ensembles or professional choirs known in this country. To understand this, one has to look far back in history: In the USSR, the state saw itself as the “educator” of the country’s indigenous peoples. Moscow provided guidelines that fitted the official state doctrine. This policy had nothing whatsoever to do with the cultural tradition of the indigenous peoples. In the past twenty years, however, more and more independent projects in folk music have emerged from the ruins of the “official Soviet tradition”. In the regions of Siberia and the Far East, people still talk about the expulsion they experienced in the 1950s. At that time, Moscow pressured many Russian and indigenous inhabitants of the region to move to larger settlements with state-built housing. People were explicitly encouraged to “modernise” their lifestyle. They did try to link their traditions to the same myths and legends that had been passed down through many generations, but these efforts were not always successful. Another problem: traditional folklore is disappearing as fast in the 21st century as it did in Soviet times, “thanks” to ubiquitous globalisation that is levelling cultural differences, complains Daryana Antipova.
She herself got to know Siberian folk bands twenty years ago from a pen pal in Germany, of all places! “He sent me a cassette with recordings of the legendary group Hun-Huur-Tu from Berlin to Krasnoyarsk,” she recalls. And then there was the “Sayan Ring” festival and the first radio broadcasts by Artemy Troitsky about Siberian folk music. There are completely opposite developments today: In Moscow, concert-goers cannot name a single Siberian folk band. Occasionally, the name Albert Kuvezin might come up. On the other hand, Siberian folk music is becoming better known outside Russia. “When I was at the American Folk Alliance International in New Orleans in 2020, some local agencies promoting Russian folk musicians were already working with the bands like Alash, Altai Kai and Chirgilchin,” Daryana recalls.
Siberia is much bigger and more diverse than the three republics that are popular with tourists today. There are a large number of musical cultural institutes where folk art is taught. However, their graduates can hardly be heard live. Another question: Why is one Siberian republic more musically active than another? “We are lucky that musicians from the wonderful band Ulger have agreed to be represented on this compilation,” Daryana is pleased to say. The Republic of Buryatia is present through musicians like Zor and Inga. From the Republic of Altai are New Asia and Bolot Bairyshev. Ayarkhaan and Uutai are from Yakutia. The Republic of Tyva is represented by Yat-Kha, Khartyga and Alexey Khovaly.
The musicians from Russia’s Far East are unknown even to good connoisseurs of the Siberian scene. “I called Elena Tyurina, the project manager of Ethnicart, and asked her for help. So the compilation features representatives from Kamchatka, Chukotka and the Magadan region, with Olga Lastochkina, Oleg Napevgi, Yosif Zhukov, Gubernator and Lydia Chechulina. Musicians from the Omsk region and the Novosibirsk region, Krasnoyarsk and the Tyva Republic are represented by groups and musicians such as Vedan Kolod, Dmitry Paramonov, Oktai, Sretenie, KrAsota.
“The musical diversity of Siberian ethnic culture and indigenous peoples is huge. But if you can breathe in fresh frosty air together with the musicians while listening to their melodies, I am very grateful for that,” writes Daryana Antipova.
Year of Release: 2022