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Pesniary (1971)

Białoruś kojarzy się nam ostatnio przede wszystkim z reżimem Łukaszenki i to jest zrozumiałe, ale też miejsce gdzie pod koniec lat 60-tych powstał bardzo ciekawy zespół Piesniary (Pesniary). Jest to jedna z najważniejszych grup - no powiedzmy - w pewien sposób rockowych, ale przede wszystkim folkowych. Łączyła ona i sprytnie przemycała w swojej muzyce elementy muzyki progresywnej i aż trudno w to uwierzyć - psychedelicznej. Na szczególną uwagę zasługują piękne harmonie wokalne. Myślę, że czas więc pozbawić się atawizmów i zapoznać się z tą ciekawą propozycją.

Rushniky (1971)

The group was created in Belarus (Byelorussia, the USSR) in 1967/68 as Liavony ("The Jesters") by the folk enthusiast Vladimir Muliavin (1941-2003), who became band's constant leader. In 1969 it was renamed to Pesniary ("The Folk Tales Narrators/Singers").

The main specialization of the group was folk songs' adaptation on modern rock instruments (and also violins, flutes, sax, folk whistles, lyre) with heavy accent on vocal harmonies. Their musical approach (not the sound, though) was somehow congenial with that of Steeleye Span. In the very beginning Pesniary were inspired by The Beatles; they (then Liavony) even performed "Yesterday" and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" with Russian lyrics. But in general, Pesniary don't sound like any of the mentioned bands. They were certainly pioneers of such music in the Soviet Union. The demanding selection by Muliavin resulted in an unusual amalgam of multi-instrumentalists with incredible voices, a unique band in the USSR (and in the world too) at those times.

The peak of the band's popularity, albums were sold in millions of copies (don't think they became millionaires, the one and only record label in the USSR, "Melodiya", paid only symbolic money to artists; on the other hand, artists didn't pay for studio time, promotion, etc). The band often appeared on TV and radio and constantly toured. Pesniary played 2 - 4 concerts almost every day, but it was hard to buy tickets, they were sold out very fast.

Byelorussian folk songs (arranged by Muliavin) were the base of the band's repertoire. But there were also songs by Vladimir Muliavin (with lyrics of good Byelorussian poets) and songs of Soviet (Russian and Byelorussian) composers, arranged by the band. Arrangements are very important, because everything Pesniary performed was made in their unique way. It isn't a mistake to call the band co-authors of songs written by other composers. It is the period when the band was in constant progress.

Oy rana na Ivana

In 1976 Pesniary were the first Soviet rock band toured in the USA. In the middle of the 70s Vladimir Muliavin decided that it's time for concept works. Two big suites were created:
  • "Pesn o dole" ("The Song of Fate"), 1976-1977, music by Vladimir Muliavin, lyrics by great Byelorussian poet Yanka Kupala. Unfortunately it was never recorded in studio, only some live recordings exist and still wait for their time to be published.
  • "Gusliar", 1979, - a poem-legend to the Yanka Kupala's poem "Barrow", music by Byelorussian composer Igor Luchenok. "Gusliar" has been recorded on LP, in 2000 the label "Boheme Music" released it on CD.
The line-up was extended up to 15 musicians for these programmes. The following musicians were the core of the band in the 70s:

Vladimir Muliavin - leader, vocals, guitars
Leonid Bortkevich - vocals, lyre
Anatoliy Kasheparov - vocals, bayan
Vladislav Misevich - sax, flute, whistles, vocals
Valeriy Dayneko - violin, vocals
Leonid Tyshko - bass, backing vocals
Aleksander Demeshko - drums, vocals
Vladimir Nikolaev - keyboards, backing vocal, trombone, sax
Cheslav Poplavskiy - violin, vocal
Anatoliy Gilevich - piano, keyboards, backing vocal
Vladimir Tkachenko - guitar, violin, backing vocals

They usually considered as band's golden line-up.

In 1980 one of lead singers with unique timbre, Leonid Bortkevich, left the band. It was the first dramatic line-up change, because he sung many band's hits. The replacement, in the face of Igor Penya, was found, but the band lost part of their fans. In this period the band created several songs-oriented programmes. All of them contain great songs, incredible vocal harmonies are still there. With Muliavin as a leader the band always had its instantly recognizable sound.

Such gifted musicians as Igor Palivoda, Boris Bernstein, Oleg Molchan, Oleg Kozlovich (Averin) paid, in different years, their contribution in the band's repertoire as arrangers and composers.
But the popularity decreased, many times there were line-up changes (more than 40 (!) musicians came through Pesniary from 1969 to 2003)

In 1999 Vladimir Muliavin invited Leonid Bortkevich, who lived in the USA since 1991, to join the band and take part in band's 30th anniversary concerts. Bortkevich left USA and stays with the band till now.

On 14th of May 2002 after terrible auto-crash incident Vladimir Muliavin was hospitalized. Doctors made their best during several months, Muliavin often contacted with the band and hoped to return to the stage, but on 26th of January 2003 he has died. Leonid Bortkevich is now the leader of the band, being blessed by Vladimir Muliavin to continue the work of his life. (progarchives)

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