Kalina

The week-old war in Ukraine remains high in the global consciousness. In the past few days, I’ve heard some state that it is getting a level of attention never devoted to other illegal invasions through history. This may be true, though, in my opinion, it doesn’t change the fact that the world is in a dangerous place right now.

Sure, this kind of ground invasion has happened before without the swift, unified attention of North Atlantic governments, but that does not mean we should not be deeply concerned. There is a potential for increased bloodshed and mass destruction of residential areas, schools, hospitals and other crucial infrastructure, as well as the threat of even more unthinkable devastation implied in threats that are being made. As for the attention of world governments; well, any (and all) injustice deserves a bright light to be shone upon it, no matter where it happens or to whom, and by whomever.

This week a good friend commented on me featuring music of Ukraine on “Classical Sunday,” and so with her words in mind, I thought I’d stay in that vicinity another day. Wikipedia helped me find a long list of Ukrainian pop, folk and rock groups, and gazing at that list I randomly landed on Mandry, a band formed in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1997 as an acoustic threesome. The founder, bandleader and singer-songwriter Serhiy Fomenko, had already been active in Kyiv’s underground music scene and developed the group through some personnel changes, adding an accordionist, drummer and percussionist and replacing the original bassist. The five-member band played its first concert in 1997.

From what I read about the group, Mandry is committed to unification and cultural pride, having performed in festivals that commemorate the European Union and promote Ukrainian culture both locally and, in 2002, at the Hippodrome in London, England, for the Festival of Ukrainian Culture. That same year, they released their second album, Legenda pro Ivanka ta Odarku, on which today’s selection appears. Mandry participated in the Day of United Europe in Kyiv the following year. Then in 2004, they toured Ukraine in support of the presidential campaign of Viktor Yushchenko and performed for protesters in Kyiv following the election. They continued to play in music festivals throughout Ukraine and other countries and, in 2006, made a video for their song, “Ne spy moya ridna zemlya” (Don’t sleep my native land). According to Wikipedia, the band remains active today.

“Kalina” is a song I found (again, rather randomly) through casting out a wide search on YouTube. The piece exemplifies the band’s style, described as having influences from traditional, folk, reggae, punk, blues and French “chansons” music styles. The music video is entertaining and audacious, with a cranberry bush being one of the unusual items a procession brings into the performance space. Intermingled in the joyful crowd are folks in traditional Ukrainian costumes, and throughout the song, people are savouring bunches of tart, juicy cranberries that fall from above in a scene that looks almost hedonistic. Some eat the berries while others slather them on their skin. There’s also a barrel where a barefoot woman crushes the berries as if preparing them for winemaking. Toward the end, as if representing the loss of inhibitions as the party continues late into the night, some end up crushing berries on the floor. 

The juxtaposition of traditional costume and dance with post-punk partygoers creates an exciting and wild, celebratory mix that amplifies a salubrious joy for life I often fondly associate with Eastern European folk I’ve known in my life. It is quite a spectacle of celebration.

And as I watch the music video in the context of current events, I wonder what the people in the film are enduring, now, 16 years after Mandry posted it to YouTube… Are they all alive? Safe? Evacuating? Are the men in the video walking around Kyiv in street clothes with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders, ready to defend their city and the lives of their families, friends and neighbours against the heavily-armoured invasion? What will happen to these people from the party and, indeed, all the people in countries worldwide that are subject to violence and oppression?

May peace fall gently upon all, like the nourishing fruit in the film.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Here’s the music video from MandryUA’s YouTube channel:

With my best wishes to you,

Steve

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