Soulful voices

[b]Legendary Pesnyary dominates radio broadcasting and concert grounds once more[/b]Members of Pesnyary spend two thirds of their life touring, annually performing 80 concerts at home and abroad. The band has many fans in Russia and in neighbouring countries. Six years ago, when the founder and leader of the group, Vladimir Mulyavin, died, it seemed that Pesnyary would die with him. However, the band has survived and is going strong today, being played on the radio and drawing crowds to concerts as they did 40 years ago, when they first formed.
Legendary Pesnyary dominates radio broadcasting and concert grounds once more

Members of Pesnyary spend two thirds of their life touring, annually performing 80 concerts at home and abroad. The band has many fans in Russia and in neighbouring countries. Six years ago, when the founder and leader of the group, Vladimir Mulyavin, died, it seemed that Pesnyary would die with him. However, the band has survived and is going strong today, being played on the radio and drawing crowds to concerts as they did 40 years ago, when they first formed.
Andrey Usanov is the youngest and the brightest ‘nightingale’ in the ‘Pesnyary’ ensembleToday Pesnyary comprises 20 members: 10 artistes, 2 sound supervisors, 2 accountants, a costume designer, a stage setter and others. Of the ten artistes currently performing on stage, only two date from Mulyavin’s time. The changing voices have not changed the image of the band but have lent it charm. As ever, Pesnyary draws thoughtful listeners from all over the Former Soviet Union.
In late summer, the band began touring Belarus and Russia with a new concert programme — Volnomu Volya (Freedom for the Free). The tour aimed to revive popularity and prove that Pesnyary isn’t just from the past, but exists today in Belarusian music, embracing deep traditions. Who are today’s Pesnyary? We spoke to Vyacheslav Sharapov, the Director and Artistic Leader of the band.
A new voice by Andrey Usanov has appeared in the group. He sang as a true nightingale at the Slavonic Bazaar. Where did you find such talent?
I saw Andrey last year at an army song contest in the district centre of Smorgon. Usanov had finished musical college and was called up for military service; however, he didn’t give up his hobby. He stood out from the other entrants during his performance at Smorgon’s House of Officers.
Pesnyary has gained much with the arrival of his golden voice.
We’ll continue to progress further. It’s more interesting and spectacular when several bright voices perform on stage. We could manage with fewer members, but the diversity of our participants
enriches our concert programme.
Do you have your eye on anyone else?
We’ll soon make a co-operative proposal to Andrey Kolosov of Gomel — a laureate of this year’s ‘Slavonic Bazaar’. Although he didn’t win first place, I see him as the best performer. He suits us because he is naturally musical — very important for joining ‘Pesnyary’. We don’t just sing, we represent Belarus and its traditions. Our band has been creating and preserving a definite style for 40 years. Whoever joins us needs to fit in naturally, not just meeting the image of ‘Pesnyary’, but feeling and behaving suitably.
Your new album — Volnomu Volya — contains Belarusian and Russian songs. How do you choose the language and manner of performance?
This album is primarily oriented towards Russia, where most of our listeners reside. It’s natural for us to perform many songs in Russian; we don’t just sing, we speak to the audience, so we have to respect this and be understandable. Meanwhile, our new album — using Yanka Kupala’s verse— is soon to appear completely in Belarusian.
Does the band’s status as a state group influence its work?
Our status only proves that ‘Pesnyary’ is more than just a group; it’s the country’s calling card. We should do all we can to maintain the quality of this brand at a worthy level. We aren’t totally reliant on the state. We’re given a building and definite opportunities for development, but we have to earn money ourselves. Annually we earn up to Br400m [around 100,000 euros].
Pesnyary now boasts new costumes in black. How did this idea appear?
Famous designers liaise with the band. Additionally, ‘Pesnyary’ possesses a rich collection of historical costumes, copying original authentic designs. They differ significantly from those worn by most folk bands. We prefer to have costumes which remind us of Belarus’ rich historical past. Our songs and our appearance show that Belarus has a beautiful, golden soul.

By Viktar Korbut
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