Hits of the past for the future
<img class="imgr" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-478.jpg">[b]Yuri Vashchuk, Oksana and Anatoly Vecher revive folk songs with second life[/b]<br />The Belarus 3 TV Channel’s unique Forward to the Future project, hosted by Yuri Vashchuk and Oksana Vecher, travels to Belarusian villages in search of folk songs; these are then performed by famous artistes, using modern musical arrangements.<br />Some singers were skeptical about the idea of arranging ‘songs by grannies’ for the pop stage but gradually became keen to work with Mr. Vashchuk, as Yuri notes. “On seeing the results, the skeptics began using the songs ‘born’ in our programme at their concerts. Some even admitted to having created true hits.”
The Belarus 3 TV Channel’s unique Forward to the Future project, hosted by Yuri Vashchuk and Oksana Vecher, travels to Belarusian villages in search of folk songs; these are then performed by famous artistes, using modern musical arrangements.
Some singers were skeptical about the idea of arranging ‘songs by grannies’ for the pop stage but gradually became keen to work with Mr. Vashchuk, as Yuri notes. “On seeing the results, the skeptics began using the songs ‘born’ in our programme at their concerts. Some even admitted to having created true hits.”
Alexander Tikhanovich, Yadviga Poplavskaya, Inna Afanasieva and Irina Dorofeeva — top Belarusian pop singers — now happily use folk songs in their repertoires. Moreover, some have even united as pairs or trios to perform folk compositions: Alexey Khlestov and Yevgeny Chalyshev sing Saint Evening together while Talaka is performed by Olga Plotnikova, Inga Kiseleva, Yuri Vashchuk, Oksana Vecher, Yevgeny Chalyshev and Andrey Usanov (successfully broadcast on radio at the moment).
Of course, over the years, various artistes have attempted to revive folk songs in a modern style: Vladimir Mulyavin was among the first. However, to do so successfully is a challenge, since each district has its own melodies and lyrics. It requires a particular singer and style to perform them. The programme’s director, Anatoly Vecher, emphasises, “We find all our songs in rural areas and it’s luck whether we find an elderly woman who remembers the melody to accompany particular lyrics. It’s worse when we need to invent something ourselves, as we risk losing authenticity. At present, folk art is losing its ties with the traditions of former generations. Many folklore collections have been published but you really can’t sing lyrics without a melody. Of course, bold modern composers will invent their own but we aim to find authentic materials.”
Forward to the Future compositions combine the beauty of Belarusian language with grannies’ diverse voices, interwoven. Interestingly, many folk songs hail from the Lyuban District. Mr. Vecher reveals, “A deep layer of authentic Belarusian music has been preserved in this powerful region, where mostly folk — rather than amateur — bands perform. Local enthusiast Sergey Vyskvarko has helped songs from the Lyuban District ‘migrate’ all over Belarus. We once visited the Slutsk District and heard Lyuban songs; local villagers told us that Mr. Vyskvarko had brought them there.”
The Zhitkovichi District is another area known for its beautiful melodies and lyrics. In the past, Vladimir Mulyavin and composer Luchenok loved to visit the district for inspiration. Mr. Vecher and his colleagues also travelled there, finding some worthy melodies for their programme. As Forward to the Future is broadcast countrywide, various folk groups — usually comprised of old women or children (there are a dozen of them) — are able to enrich their repertoires.
However, a major problem exists, Mr. Vecher explains, “Female voices prevail in our programme, as there are few ‘male’ songs. We sometimes use them purely for recruitment. At present, I’m thinking of how to breathe new life into these compositions. We could have launched an independent programme for Forward to the Future, presenting exclusively male songs.” He adds, “Belarusians once lived in Siberia; the very old songs are found in that area alone, being already forgotten in their homeland. They’re a major cultural layer, which our diaspora has succeeded in preserving. We need to research and preserve them, and bring them back to life.”
Belarus 3 has taken on a truly lofty mission: to take care of the future of our cultural heritage. The value of this mission is clear, on hearing such Belarusian folk songs. Performed by professional singers, they bring something new to Belarusian pop music: a richer repertoire and a truly national character.
By Viktar Korbut