FolkWorld Live Review 12/99:

East West Contacts in Wuppertal

Russian Folk with The Farlanders and Poslednej Chans

By Michael Moll

Ten years have passed since the wall came down, opening the divide between Eastern and Western Europe. And still, you will not find often official events of Eastern European music. Nevertheless, most Germans hear regularly some great music from Russia: As a welcome addition to the atmosphere of German pedestrian precincts, you can find these days regularly students from Russia busking in our cities, presenting traditional, classical or whatever kind of music on quite a high standard.

The Farlanders; photo by The Mollis This autumn in Wuppertal (Northrhine-Westfalia), Eastern European culture was put for the fourth time on a higher agenda: From September to November 99 the town organised a series "East West Contacts" with concerts, theatres, discussions and exhibitions, this year with focus on Russia and Poland. And, yes, there was even some superb folk music on offer!

The Farlanders are an exciting example of a modern, cool and innovatove presentation of old Russian music traditions and today's folk compositions. Being in Russia a popular band, they are used to play in front of packed clubs full of dancing young people. This concert in Wuppertal's "Färberei" had meanwhile a different atmosphere, being a sitting audience and more a concert room than a club. Still, they captured the audience with their great blend of music styles.

The centre of the band is the attractive female singer Inna Zhelannaya with her guitar, "one of the best known and most successful singer/songwriters in Russia". Her songs sound to Western European ears sometimes a bit exotic, at other times quite familiar. She has an impressive and intensive voice; her singing style has something hypnotic in it.

The repertoire of the Farlanders consists of traditional songs from all over Russia and Belorussia as well as compositions of Inna and the band's bassist, Sergej Kalachev.

The Farlanders' Inna Zhelannaya; photo by The Mollis Much of the traditional material is collected by Sergej Starostin, one of the most important music experts of Russia. He has been presenter of the show "Global village" in Russia, and has travelled for that purpose all around Russia to record songs and singers. He has also studied folklore. In The Farlanders, he plays clarinettes, flutes and other wind instruments. Sergej Starostin is joined by another great wind instrument player, Sergej Klenvensky.

The most exciting and unusual moments are created with the combination of two wind instruments. The combinations of two clarinettes sound beautiful and give a full sound; clarinette and tin or low whistle work also extremely well together. The two musicians also have a range of effective wind instruments that they have built themselves; most of them are oboe-like instruments, others are cow horns. They also have bagpipes.

Additionally to the singer and the two Sergejs playing wind instruments, The Farlanders feature a drummer/percussionist and a bassist to give the modern and edgy feeling to the music. Stylistically, folk is combined with rock, jazz and other styles. The result is exciting and danceable modern folk music. If you like to have a label, I suggest Neo Folk from the Edge of Europe, with both "exotic" sounding music and very European sounding stuff. Their live performance is also well worth to see.

Poslednij Chans; photo by The Mollis From the serious music of the Farlanders now to a highly original folk rock comedy act from Moscow. Poslednej Chans (= The Last Chance) present a show which is a high standard artistic ensemble. With their ludicrous kind of comedy and humour combined with effective mimic art, they interact with the audience. The music combines rock and trad music and may not be pigeonholed. As a whole, the show is like a beautiful painting, a still life, maybe a bit ludicrous, but still very satisfactory for the observer.

The show starts with a young musician coming on stage, a banana in his hand. He starts peeling the banana, and eating it. The audience waits for what might happen now - and what happens? The musicians gets another banana out of his trousers and eats that one as well. Then he starts playing on little percussion instruments, with the other musicians now coming as well on stage. They play together some experimental music; suddenly the young musician runs off the stage through the audience. Later on he comes back, lays himself down on stage to play children's mini keyboards.

And believe it or not, there is also some high quality music - although the music always remains only a part of the whole ensemble. Instruments in their repertoire are among others guitar, bass balalaika, accordeon, diverse percussion, double bass. And they sing a lot as well.

Poslednij Chans' Alexander Samoylov; photo by The MollisPoslednej Chans is always Alexander Samoylov - who started the band 25 years ago, in 1975 - plus a couple of young people talented both as actresses and musicians. Already before the wall came down, the Last Chance started to play in Western countries as well, and made quite a success.
It is difficult to describe the main appeal of Poslednej Chans - you need to catch them live to experience them yourself! It is something on the edge of folk music, it is an artistical affair, but it is superb! In Wuppertal all in the audience loved The Last Chance, and they had to come back several times for encores - although the audience consisted of only maybe 15 people!

These two concerts have been a strong proof that there is a lot exciting stuff to discover in Russia's folk music scene. These two bands are highly recommended!!!

The Farlanders' CD was reviewed in FolkWorld No. 11

Photo Credit: All Photos by The Mollis
(1) The Farlanders: Sergej Starostin (Right) and Sergej Klenvensky; (2) The Farlanders' Inna Zhelannaya; (3) Poslednij Chans; (4) Poslednij Chans' Alexander Samoylov

To the content of FolkWorld Articles & Live Reviews
To the content of FolkWorld online magazine Nr. 12

© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 12/99

All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission.

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Home
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld