menu close-menu

In the new special issue “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow” we talked to the participants of the Belarusian indie scene of the 2010s: Timur (B. O. M, Unhuman Remains), Dima (Life on marx), Yaroslav (Sun Finds Its Eyes) and Sergei (B. O. M): about Belarusian independent music, which after the events of 2020 found its continuation in Batumi.

What did you do in Belarus? Musically, and in general?

Timur: for the last ten years I was playing in a band called Unhuman Remains. Before Anton Krivulia’s departure from Belarus I participated in his movement Sunrose: Magical One-Cell Music, in a few roles (because it’s a multi-component project, rather even a movement, a genre of music), Moss (live lineup, before the project turned into dream-pop). Once upon a time there was a beautiful shoegaze-punk-rock band Gentle Bombardiers, where I played on a fictional instrument with an effect pedal and microphone. And even earlier, in my youth, I tried to make electronic and noisy music under the name Baby rattle.

Also in Belarus I had a young family, a small child, although everything was unfortunately close to divorce. Now I finally moved to Georgia, as did my ex-wife. In my free time I do music, little by little I play guitar in several projects.

Dima: since 2015 I have been playing in the project life on marx (guitar ambient/drone/electronic). I also have a side project Dcomas, where I play experimental electronica with Sergei Mokrinsky (phlegm87).

Before that I played in Zombie Zoo (progressive psychedelic rock), Clover Club (indie-rock, together with Natalia Kunitskaya from Mustelide project), Dear Pegasus (dream pop) and Today Never (together with Evdokia Shukshina, known from ducia project).

And so in Belarus I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary: I lived, worked, fell in love, wrote poetry and prose.

Yaroslav: Before emigration I travelled through swamps and forests, studied nature and culture, participated in various creative projects related to music, literature, cinema, folklore and other. I also loved cycling, reading books, and socialising with people.

My main musical project-band the Sun Finds Its Eyes, where I act as the author of lyrics and artistic director. Sometimes I took direct or indirect part in the project of its Dazzling Radiance, and in the last year and a half or two years in Minsk I was happy to help Paulau Pit from N.R.M. with his new projects, mostly as a literary consultant. I also wrote lyrics for ultra black metal bands Child of Inhumanity and Beelzebub, and shot music videos and did artwork for doom death band Beyond The Darkness.

Sergei: In general, I shoot documentary films and reports…I also love the countryside and nature. I bought a car and for 4 years I drove almost 200 thousand kilometres around Belarus. Then I really liked travelling. Now, on the contrary, I want a house, because I have been travelling constantly for more than a year.

Music has always been more like a personal therapy and an inner passion: I put a little bit of it into my movie projects. My musical debut took place thanks to the guys from the B.O.M. and my bagpipes, which Ales Los once made for me. So to say I directed my “mastery” in Belarus for the sake of this important moment, for which I am sincerely grateful to the guys. After all, I would have remained a nameless musician *ha-ha-ha*.

One of your projects was B.O.M., which existed back in the ’00s. Tell us about this project, because it gave rise to many others? What is the evolution of your projects?

Timur: The author of the idea – Anton Krivulya. He describes it like this:

“Magical One-Cell Music addresses the idea of a pre-human history of music. Musicality, as was proved as early as by the great Helmholtz (Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik. Braunschweig, 1863), rests on the physical laws of transmission and interference of waves, which in turn are subject to the simplest principles of proportion. Our perception of musicality, consisting of the horizontal proportion of rhythm and the vertical proportion of harmonic relations, depends on the oscillatory movements of Stereocilia cells in the receptors of the organ of hearing. Thus the capacity for musical perception can be speculatively attributed not only to higher animals but also to the simplest organisms, which have the ability to perceive acoustic resonance.

If the universal nature of music is simple and can be conveyed in the language of physics and mathematics, the music of humans has an additional floor in which sounds are transformed into signs, musical forms become signifiers. In the end, the play of meanings subordinates the phenomenon of music, music becomes an instrument of ideology and politics. But music is too valuable a gift to be accepted so easily.

Frank Hamilton Cushing claimed that the Zuni people he studied for many years were able to think with their hands separate from their heads (A Study of the Influence of Hand Usage on Cultural Growth. 1892). In our practice, we try to go two steps down in evolution and try to imagine music for the individual elements of our bodies: hands, spinal cord and bone marrow, neurons as a loose community of cells, tissue cells. This will require us to discipline and abandon our human habits of imagery, of text, of expression. It will require us to give up the ambition to be musicians and artists and just reproduce a musical phenomenon without the human component”

I can only say that now, because of what happened in Belarusian society in 2020 and with the beginning of Russia’s war against the Ukrainian people, when the long-standing dictatorship finally revealed the fascism on which it is based, we have realised that Magical One-Cell Music is really political. There are no words because our voice has been taken from us, there is nothing to talk about, there is only this standing. Human, friendly standing, despite any provocations and propaganda.

We advise you to listen to the recording.

Photo from the personal archive of musicians

In Minsk you made your own music scene. How did it differ from other Belarusian scenes? What was, if I may say so, the main idea?

Timur:  It’s nice to know that we still did something for the scene, despite the frequent feeling of swamping and stagnation. But in fact, the Belarusian scene is very different from other cities in post-Soviet history. Perhaps we look a little more closely into the depth of human nature, and that is why talented musicians seek and find something general and universal in their work. Belarusian punk bands are widely known and respected in the neighbouring countries for their clear position and desperate form of performance. Experimental and electronic musicians, who are lucky enough to be heard, constantly surprise and keep listeners all over the world entertained. And pop and rock bands touch the soul and gather huge halls abroad. Not to mention independent national and folk music that gives you goosebumps. The problem and at the same time the unique peculiarity of the Belarusian scene is that it seems to be few and its essence is one big underground. This is even more relevant now, as those who have stayed in their homeland have incredible difficulties to be heard. Before the bans and lists, there was a feeling that no one really needed creativity, so those who did it did it with charm, without looking at such fantastic things as income or fame.

Have you often organised jam sessions or included them in your concert programme? What is the essence of them?

Timur: I rarely like this business. Music is usually good if you have something to express it with. I understand, there are times when you want to communicate through music, to hear and be heard by other musicians and to sound together – that’s what a good jam session is for me. When more than two musicians play together, it’s already a very powerful thing, as long as everything doesn’t turn into a show-off. Many great songs were born from improvisation.

Dima: Improvisation is what drives me now, especially in Georgia. Making music here and now, from the first take.

Yaroslav: My main project the Sun Finds Its Eyes was conceived as improvisational music, with a large cast of constantly changing musicians, such a very psychedelic musical and literary journey, with live dynamics, a lot of random decisions. I don’t think we’ve ever had a single rehearsal with the same lineup of musicians. And one of the key things for me, the thing that brings me joy is a certain novelty and clumsiness of the musicians when they meet for the first time and the musical canvas falls apart and comes back together again, breathes. Unfortunately, live, in packs and with a lot of improvisation we managed to record only one album “metaphysical meat grinder”, but there are tracks here that well convey the atmosphere of our Minsk rehearsals, for example Leather Carrot or Witch Train. As a rule, a song has a certain limited set of constant elements, for example in Witch Train it’s only the lyrics, each time it should be played in a completely different way, and in Leather Carrot there are lyrics, tone and the main bass riff. Everything else is improvisation, which is always played by a different set of musicians. In improvisation, in a new combination of people with different backgrounds and musical thinking, new music, live emotions are born – I just like to watch it or be a part of it.

Photo from the personal archive of musicians

What’s going on with the Belarusian scene now?

Dima: I look at the stories in Instagram and see that the scene is not dying, concerts are held, releases are made. It’s an endless process of rebirth: generations change, bands change each other, but despite everything, they carry the banner of Belarusian independent music, so to speak.

Yaroslav: My friends who stayed in Minsk continue their creative and studio activities, but many of them have stopped rehearsals and live concerts.

Do you think that any person can do music or does it require an aptitude? Tell us about the concept of creating music? I mean, there are styles like robot, noise….. Do they allow non-professional musicians to touch the mystery of creating music?

Timur: anyone can do music who has a crush on it. There’s a mate who makes awesome music but never saves it or even intends to, he just likes to put samples together.

Dima: I agree, everyone can make music, technical skill doesn’t play a certain role – you can remember Throbbing Gristle or Pyotr Mamonov. The most important thing for a musician is to express his idea in his own language. On the other hand, a lot of creative people are copying, making a “product”, striving for popularity. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I touched show business a little bit in my time and realised that this way doesn’t suit me.

But again: “your own idea” should not be an indulgence for musical ignorance and arrogance. In any creative endeavour you need a balance between talent and awareness, as in everything in life.

Yaroslav: I started music shortly before thirty, having practically no musical ear. I just thought, I’ll be thirty soon and I don’t have a rock band, that this is not the way I would like to live my life. Now I’m already writing, playing instruments, I’ve recorded albums, I’ve met a lot of different interesting people in connection with music, I’ve gotten the opportunity for creative expression. A lot of strangers have written to me saying they really like what I do. I’m sure anyone can do music and other forms of art – but unless there is a natural predisposition – it requires a stronger desire and involvement.

Sergei: I can’t give you a definite answer. I believe that anyone can become a craftsman. And there’s no problem or shame in that, because it’s an important skill. But it is very difficult to create something that will be outside the sphere of craftsmanship, albeit professional. At least for me. It’s important to be passionate and not to impose your passion on others. Well, that is if others are not really attracted to it.

Photo from the personal archive of musicians

Can you call your scene independent or diy? Because, as far as I know, everything you did – from records to covers – you did by yourselves?

Dima: Yes, but the essence doesn’t change.

Timur: It’s hard to say what scene we are talking about. If we’re talking about the ones that left, then everybody is united where they feel comfortable now. It’s hard to judge the form and hang definitions. We don’t belong to any labels, we don’t earn money with music, we do creative work either by ourselves or ask for help from fellow artists and designers. Sometimes, if we can afford it, we pay for their work.

Why did you decide to emigrate?

Dima: I had to leave, there were a number of unrelated reasons. I chose Georgia because I wanted to see with my own eyes what my friends had told me about.

Timur: At that time some of my relatives had already moved to Georgia after the events of 2020. And I had been in the country many times since 2014. I had planned to move before, but work was constraining me because of a stupid ambiguous law, which does not properly specify whether it is possible to work remotely outside the territory of Belarus. After the war started, I decided that it was enough, it’s already hell, my family also agreed to leave almost immediately. The work finally allowed evacuation, independent relocation, and then liquidation of the office in Minsk.

Yaroslav: Even before the beginning of the war I planned to move to Batumi, due to the growing tension inside Belarus, connected with repressions after 2020. At some point, I noticed that when I went up in the lift I listened to whether there was someone on the landing, whether the door was being broken at night, etc. The beginning of the war was the final trigger, so we packed up and left.

Sergei: There was no unambiguous opinion about emigration. After August 2020, I moved to the countryside. It turns out as if I emigrated. On February 17, 2022 I bought tickets to Tbilisi, because before the war I received an invitation to edit my film at the University of Theatre and Cinema. And on the 24th the war started. It was a shock. I don’t remember the flight or how I took things out of the flat. I somehow came to my senses in Tbilisi in April. In June I finished mounting and decided to have a summer holiday at the sea in Batumi. And stayed here for a while. And now I don’t understand whether I emigrated or not. That’s why I am lost, I can’t find a place.