When one has spent more than ten years of their life in Ukraine and has made many different friends from many different walks of life, but primarily those who are involved in the development of contemporary Ukrainian cultural life you start to miss those friends a great deal when you are far away from that environment. This feeling started to come upon me surprisingly just this past Saturday as it was Mykolaya, or St. Nicholas Day, that day that St. Mykola brings children gifts. This longing for those friends happened the day after I got together with some guys I went to high school with, one of them I hadn’t actually seen for nearly as long as it has been since I finished high school. While the three of us had one common bond it became apparent to me that I lived in a completely different world than they do. The time in Ukraine was like a self-imposed exile from my home in Canada in a new home with new people and in a new place, and there was nothing wrong with this, it was a period in which I needed to really live through it was more than anyone I knew in Canada could live through in a life time.
Now I am once again in exile, another self imposed exile that is required for work on a book that has been incubating in my mind for over a year and half now. I have started writing and there are are episodes of that book that are directly related to Ukrainian music, some of which I have mentioned in passing on this blog. But it has been an extremely long time since I have actually written something here, and when I did write it was not about a happy event, but the passing of one of those musicians that I met and who I considered my friend. All his friends will miss Andriy Valaha, but they must continue and move on.
So even though the album came out so long ago, and Mis’ko Barbara of Mertviy Piven’, gave me a signed copy of it some time ago, when he told me about Dana and Shockolad, in the spring I never really had the time to sit down and listen to Made in UA. A compilation of songs to the poetry of Yuriy Andrukhovych, I knew that when I finally did sit down and listen to it, it would be when time was something I had and serious listen would be possible.
That time came over the weekend, as I was in the midst of writer’s block, and jumping between writing an episode on my first encounter with my Ukrainian cousins in 1985, in Leningrad of all places, and an episode from nine years later which is related to Barabara, and other musicians from L’viv, when we all met in Ternopil, a city so different than Leningrad.
Now just a little about Made in UA. Just like I was searching for something contemporary and new back in the late 1980s, getting a little tired of traditional folk music, there were others who were searching for something new and refreshing on the Ukrainian music scene, and 20 years one of the bands to appear on the contemporary Ukrainian music scene was Mertviy Piven’, sure there were others, but anyone who has been following what has been going in Ukrainian music there are probably less than a dozen bands or individual musicians that have been active all these years. One of them is MP, but also coming out of that boisterous period as the Soviet Union was crumbling there were others, Eduard Drach, Maria Burmaka, Plach Yeremii, and while I’m not going to mention those that went the way of the Dodo, there are few that made it on to the scene then that are still around.
If you want something that is a mix of the sometimes in-your-face poetry of Andrukhovych and something that regardless of their twenty-year history, pick up Mertviy Piven’s Made in UA. I had fun listening to it, and there were even a few tunes that were a little contagious.