Farlanders - Russia meets Europe
The Farlanders had a great concert in Berlin, on the first of April. The band gave a demonstration, what a mixture of jazz, folk, rock, darkwave and songwriting from Russia can be: it was overwhelming. Their latest CD "Moments" also leaves this impression. It is a live-recording, made only with a mini-disc-player, but it is more authentic and supporting better energy than a technically perfect tape could do. Hopefully the Farlanders have a successfull future before them.
Alexander Cheparukhin, percussion-player in the band since 1999, also acts as the speaker and promoter for the group. Carina Prange talked to him in Berlin. It was a foggy afternoon, a demonstration of kurdish people went down the Kottbusser Damm just after the interview ...
Carina: You are travelling around with the Farlanders - and are actually not a member of the band. Why is this so?
Alexander: First of all, I actually do play with the band right now. I played percussion on the CD, that´s a kind of a new function in the band, giving a little bit more drive to it. Why I´m travelling here? - I want to use the opportunity to make some more promotion especially for the russian community, for the Farlanders, because outside of Russia the group is almost unknown. Also we have several more activities scheduled like "ZDF-Morgenmagazin" and some newspapers, radio - we play music on "Radio Multikulti" tonight at eight o´clock ... It was my decision - though Jaro Medien suggested it - to stay here for three or four days, then I return to Moscow and from there drive back to Germany in a bus with the whole band. It´s two thousand kilometers, just like two hours easy flight, or maybe forty hours driving.
Carina: Can you please tell me some words in general about the latest CD of the Farlanders ("Moments")?
Alexander: I think this is definitivly the best CD, although it was recorded - you know how? - Just a few days before this CD was recorded I bought a portable mini-disc player and started to make recordings of concerts. And at the same time it was the debut of our sound engineer, and it was his fourth concert, this one in Bremen. And finally the concert was great, the club was full of public - it was, I think, the best athmosphere during all our concerts in Germany. When we came home we were surprised, that the athmosphere was somehow preserved on the mini-disc.
A friend of us told us: ‚Listen, all these ideas that it is not possible to make a CD from a mini-disc, that´s just a sound-engineers mafia´s invention. For actually it is possible, if the sound is o.k. if the balance is o.k. and you see that it really sounds." Then we decided to release it. It´s very occacional, we did not plan to make a mini-disc recording and then to release it. By the way - before we made very expensive multi-track recordings in the U.K. We hired a very good sound-engineer, we hired a very good studio, belonging to the new vocalist of Genesis. And finally, for two thousand dollars, everything was done perfectly. But athmosphere and drive were better on the mini-disc we recorded "for nothing", so we decided to choose this one.
Carina: How did that happen that you are playing with the Farlanders?
Alexander: You know, on all my travellings all around the world I collected some ethnic drums. As a fun between the concerts the guys and I were playing. I didn´t want to really play with them in the beginning - it was just my funny hobby. But I played and got better - then we noticed that the rhythm was really good, and finally they told me: "Let´s try!"
Carina: What would you say - is there a special feeling in the music that is typical for Russia?
Alexander: I couldn´t say it´s typical russian. What we do there is, we use very ancient authentic russian folklore. And Sergey Starostin - I think he is the best folklore specialist and investigator in Russia. So he brings a lot of authentic stuff to the group - for instance like this one we are just hearing. But then we use arrangements which usually don´t change the rhythmn, don´t change the spirit, but sometimes there are some kind of unusual invasions, for example, this is a very ancient russian song, but you definitively could hear some even "klezmer" moments there, kind of jewish, kind of oriental, because this is just the nature of clarinets, the nature of some of the woodwinds used there.
And actually it goes like it goes, noone says: "O.k., let´s take a russian melody - a very old one - and add some oriental flavour to it." It just appears like it appears. Nobody ever "counted" the music of the group, nobody ever really said:"O.k. let´s change it to this direction, because there´s a better market", or something like that. Right now, there is a certain movement toward using electronics, but just because we have a guy who is a very good sound-engineer. He is not travelling with us now, because at the moment he´s on tour with a German band, the "Tab Two". So we got some new songs that are not on the CD, where we use samplers and stuff. I think it´s harmonic, we do not use it as a fashion, it´s just that we started to like these sounds. We got a "side project" of our woodwind player, which is completely with samplers and electronic beats, plus live drummer, me on percussion, bass player and Klevenski on dozens of woodwinds - it´s like "woodwind-paradise".
Carina: The young people in Russia - I think - listen to this music?
Alexander: Actually yes and no. In comparison with the pop-groups we are not so known. The biggest pop-groups sold millions of CDs. All the Farlanders CDs sold about 3000 copies, but it is very stable. All the year, every month more or less the same quantity, small but stable. Inna Zhelannaya and the band are like well known in narrow circles. Most professional musicians like the band very much, and some of the normal intellectual public, not like punks or conservatives, just like very regular students. But not so many. If we make a big concert in Moscow, maximum will be just like 500 people. But a big star in Moscow can play like 30 concerts with 5000 people in a row. So there is a big difference. But what we discovered is the very interesting fact about provincial russian cities and many cities of the former USSR.
There the culture is still mostly russian - like in Moldavia - the overwhelming majority speaks russian and has connections with Russia, but because of poverty, because of borders, because of these corrupt border guards in Moldavia or everywhere - what makes even driving there a nightmare - they feel cut from the rest of Russia. They really suffer from being cut and culturally isolated. So when the group came there it was like real stars came. But the star status was not so important, it was that the people were really waiting for this, they were singing songs ...
I was amazed, because usually people of the band are not recognised in the street, usually nobody knows, we are not so popular. But there everybody knew them, because there was a really passionate promotion. People were so spiritually connected that it was an absolutely great concert. - We decided we should explore provincial Russia ...
CD: Farlanders - Moments (Jaro 4230-2)