This Wednesday, Punekaris will get to listen to music from the verdant terrains of rustic Russia. Russkiye Umeltsy, the ensemble of Russian Folk instrumental players, are set to tour the city in an event organised by Poona Music Society in association with the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Mumbai and Russian Centre for Science and Culture, Mumbai.
Russkiye Umeltsy translates to “Russian masters” and is an ensemble of top-notch musicians. It’s members are solo performers and winners of international and national competitions.
Through their creative programmes, the ensemble showcase the rich Russian ethnic culture. It includes Pavel Lukoyanov, who plays the unique age-old Russian musical instrument Gusli Zvonchatye, vocalist Ekaterina Suslova, Evgeniya Popova on accordion, Irina Kuznetsova on domra and Alexey Vorobev on balalaika-contrabass.
Popova has a very interesting story to share on how these geniuses came together. “To perform at a concert in Moscow, I had to find musicians. And, naturally, I called my friends and they called their friends and we also sent out posts on Facebook. We also fixed the time for rehearsals via the Internet. And that’s how we ended up with the five member ensemble. After that show, we decided to stay together and from time to time meet and rehearse.”
She adds that the peculiarity of their ensemble is that they get together mainly for various tours and trips. “It’s great when you can combine a concert with travelling around the world, and even more so with a vacation in wonderful countries like India,” adds Popova, laughing.
It’s been three years since these professional musicians came together. “Russian music is characterised by very beautiful lyrical melodies, warm-heartedness, light melancholy and subtle sadness as well as rollicking dances, fun and groovy tunes. Of course, there are also very dramatic and tragic songs. Sometimes all that can be combined in a single song. Sometimes it happens that the music is fun and easy, and the lyrics frightful or tragic. So when you play Russian music we bring a musical image, emotions and feelings to the forefront,” explains Popova.
Their love for the art and dedication to music keeps the ensemble going year-after-year. “The driving force behind our act is the great love for music (not only Russian music, though). And, of course, our dream is that a lot of people around the world get to know Russian songs and the wonderful Russian Folk instruments and fall in love with Russian Folk music,” she adds.
The ensemble considers Indian music to be unique as it offers a dramatic contrast to European music. “Unfortunately, we do not really know much about it. We hope that during this trip we will have the opportunity to listen to Indian musicians,” she says.
“In the Soviet Union, people enjoy watching Indian movies. And the music became very popular and many of us sing Hindi songs. We also watch Indian films and many of us grew up on them. I dream of playing with Indian musicians one day,” says Lukoyanev.
Quiz the group about what they have learned over the years of performing all over the world and they admit that they bring back CDs with recordings of traditional music from each country they tour. “Familiarity with the music of other nations helps us better understand our own culture. We are looking for similarities and differences, trying to penetrate into the inner world of music and to understand the characteristics and patterns,” states Popova.
Since this is their pioneering trip to India, they look forward to introduce audiences to the world of Russian music. “This is the first time we will be performing not just in Pune but also in India. Our programme will include popular Russian Folk songs, dance tunes, ballads, songs of Russian Gypsies and original bard songs. There will be plenty of surprises. You will hear the music of Vivaldi created using Russian Folk instruments, get acquainted with the ancient folk rituals and besides Russian Folk music we will play music of other nations as well,” sums up Popova.