Svjata Vatra’s folk expedition to the Carpathians 2009!

In the evening of the 24-th of July Svjata Vatra gave a successful concert at the Viljandi Folk Music Festival, but not many people knew that once off the stage the band, with a small entourage, was heading to a culture mission to Romania and Ukraine.

Among the people who took part in the expedition apart from the members of Svjata Vatra Ruslan Trochynskyi, Kulno Malva, Juhan Suits, Kalle Kindel, Dmitri Dmitrenko and manager Terje Trochynskyi were cameramen Erik Norkroos and Veiko Taluste, who were filming the expedition for a documentary movie, the director of Viljandi Culture Academy Anzori Barkalaja who introduced the academy on the trip and established new connections in Lviv, and photographer Vallo-Andreas Hallik.

The trip was highlighted by two festivals, one in Romania and the other in Ukraine, but our main mission was an expedition to the Carpathians.

Our first destination was Târgu Mures in Transilvania, Romania. Târgu Mures is a culture capital of Romania like Viljandi is in Estonia. There Svjata Vatra had a concert at the Félsziget festival in the evening of the 26-th of July.

The Romanian Félsziget is an affiliate festival of the great Hungarian Sziget festival and the promoters are the same. One of them, Dan Panaitescu found Svjata Vatra in March at the Tallinn Music Week showcase, held in the capital of Estonia. The invitation to the Félsziget festival soon ensued.

Svjata Vatra opened the last day of the festival on the same stage where later in the evening performed Haydamaky. The headliner of the last night was the world renowned British electronical music band The Prodigy. The thing that made the Félsziget festival special was the variability of music styles from folk and rock to club music.

After the concert Ruslan Trochynskyi gave an interview to an American journalist who admitted that the show Svjata Vatra put on was by far the best he had seen at the whole festival.

The next day we decided to take a day off to see some sights in beautiful Transilvania before heading to Ukraine. By nightfall we settled in a motel where we met the elder of a gypsy village. He invited us to his brother’s house where two accordionists were already waiting. Our musicians were delighted to jam with the locals and Ruslan Trochynskyi was so fired up that the gypsies had to struggle to keep up with him. But the locals were most inspired of the marvellous bagpipe solo that, for everybody’s delight, ended under the table after someone had accidentally misplaced the chair our musician used to sit on. Everyone was laughing their heads off, but the bagpipe continued playing. Need I add that our hostess kept an eye out that the guests should have their glasses conctantly full of cherry liqueur. We were all having great time.

On the next morning we started towards Ukraine. Our first mission in the Carpathians was to visit the Hutsul region Bukovina where lives a renown musical instrument maker and musician, 69-year-old Myhajlo Tafichuk whose family ensemble has performed in many places around the world.

Myhajlo is a blacksmith by trade but has made musical instruments his whole life. He is dedicated to making traditional Hutsul instruments like bagpipes, horns, various whistles and trembitas. He also makes drums and tsymbalys, zither-like instruments played with wooden sticks.

As a young boy Myhajlo dreamed of making a hurdy gurdy, but it was three years ago that he actually made his first one. By now he has made six of these. Myhajlo is a true folk musician who plays only by ear. He doesn’t read sheet music, but plays excellently on all the instruments he makes. As it happened Myhajlo had made a Hutsul bagpipe for Ruslan and the band also bought a trembita from the master. These instruments can soon be heard at Svjata Vatra concerts.

Having left Bukovina, we went straight to the centre of the Hutsul region, Verhovina. There our cameramen filmed the singing of Sofia Susjak, mother of the local cultural activist Oksana Susjak.

Sofia Susjak positively spends her life singing as she puts everything she sees into a song. The singing style is like a folk-rap that is made up of the things that are happening around the singer and things that worry. The tunes and rythms of the songs are ancient, but text is always new.

In the beautiful garden of Oksana and Sofia Svjata Vatra also filmed a video for their song „Poiss nagu ponks“. A video for the new song „Zillja Zelenen’ke“ was shot on the suspension bridge over the rapidly flowing river Cheremosh.

On the next day day, the 31-th of July Svjata Vatra had to perform on the Svirzh World Music Festival – the biggest world music festival in Ukraine this year.

On the first day Ruslan Trochynskyi taught estonian dances on the dance stage. The instructions given in ukraininan language were welcomed warmly, but the true hit was the estonian flatfoot, taugh by Kulno Malva and acompanied solely by the bagpipe of Juhan Suits. Despite the sizzling hot weather at 34 C°, everybody danced the flatfoot bravely for nearly half an hour. It was amazing to see so many people dancing at noon on the opening day.

After the dance lesson we went to see the lovely historical Lviv. Artist Oles Dzyndra showed us the oldest local monastery building where lie the Lviv historical archive and the college of music. In the basement of that majestic building is the new arts centre Muzei-Idei, founded by Oles himself. Oles Dzyndra also told us about the movie, art and handicraft festivals that he is organizing. We hope that this aquaintanceship will be beneficial to Viljandi Culture Academy as well as Svjata Vatra.

From Lviv we drove back to the festival site and saw many interesting bands like the melancholic Litle Cow from Hungary, Ukrainian punk-rock band OtVinta and our Latvian neighbours Auli, who were very well received by the local public. The starry night in the mountains and the temperamnt of the audience gave us all a night to remember.

In the morning of the second day we learned that the organizers were in debt to the company that owns the stages and the festival might be cut short. Svjata Vatra went to the soundcheck, but had to wait for the approval of the organizers before going on stage.

In the mean time it became clear that the organizers were no longer answering their telephones and there were rumours that they did not plan to pay the bands. Musicians that had come from all over the world decided to perform despite the organizers and thanks to the sound engineers, who were also working without pay, the concert on the folk stage could begin.

And so Svjata Vatra opened the second, revolutionary day. People were cheering and singing along.

As the day went on, a large jubilating crowd gathered in front of the stage: people were sitting, eating and partying everywhere you looked. It suddenly felt like Woodstock had been called to life. This party was ours, the bands’ and public’s: organizers had already fled.

Now Svjata Vatra is at home again and arranging the materials gathered on the expedition to form it into two documentaries and two music videos in the studios of the Viljandi Culture Academy.