Intense sound constructions from Belarus

Gurzuf” is an extraordin­ary band hail­ing from Minsk, Belarus and at the moment they have brought their sound to at least half of the coun­tries in Europe. They are quite uncon­ven­tional both because of their set of instru­ments (drums + accor­dion) and style (they call it “accor­dion mad­ness” and play mash up of punk, hip-​hop, folk and clas­sical music). It was quite inter­est­ing to observe audi­ence reac­tion in one of their con­certs in Lithuania – most of the time people just calmly sat behind the tables, but at the very end people went quite mad and gave “Gurzuf” a stand­ing applause. Etiquette, com­mon in theatre, seemed quite appro­pri­ate there, because the per­form­ance, brought by Artem Zalessky and Jegor Zabelov was both artistic and sin­cere, just like in a small play.

Was Gurzuf the first pro­ject in which you are involved? What did you do before it – did you played some­where else? What was the the very begin­ning of Gurzuf?

ARTEM. Actually, we met while play­ing with other bands. Minsk has quite an inter­est­ing plat­form for musi­cians – it is not just a com­pany of friends. We play together, we work together. That’s how we met and that’s how everything started.

Is it the only band where you are play­ing now?

ARTEM. As musi­cians, we are inter­ested in dif­fer­ent view­points and vari­ous approaches. Music which we play is rich, and col­lab­or­a­tions with oth­ers gives us exper­i­ence, widens the hori­zons. Now it is the only pro­ject but we prac­tice with vari­ous other musi­cians, too.

You tour quite a lot. Why did you choose this way – many gigs, not too much time in the studio?

JEGOR. We wanted our music to become a career — when you only play and do not have to do any­thing else. The band was cre­ated for con­certs and tour­ing, we wanted to play in many places – it was the idea, and now you see the res­ult. Of course, now we look at it a bit dif­fer­ent. Active tour­ing is a hard work and in this way the cre­ation pro­cess suf­fers itself. Now we plan to spend more time in the stu­dio because we came up with some new ideas and mater­ial for recordings..

ARTEM. At the very begin­ning we star­ted as a tour­ing band and since we felt a need to prove ourselves in this status. That’s how we live for the last three years – we played in many places, fest­ivals and ven­ues in Belarus and other coun­tries, at the same time we made con­nec­tions with dif­fer­ent organ­izers. That was pri­or­ity to us. At the mean­time record­ing pro­cess is more import­ant, we ded­ic­ate our time to it and it is our cur­rent goal.

You released your album “Non-​existent movie” in 2007. Maybe you plan to release some­thing new soon?

ARTEM.Releasing album is a time con­sum­ing pro­cess. When we recor­ded our first album, we just put the same mater­ial as we per­form in live con­certs to it. There was no need to write some­thing new, and we had dif­fer­ent pri­or­it­ies at that time. First album defines our energy and style as much as it is pos­sible to do that technically.

First album was recor­ded in 11 hours, because one great stu­dio in Moscow said to us: “Hey guys, let’s record your con­cert mater­ial”. Nobody actu­ally records an album in such a short period of time. We attached micro­phones to instru­ments and played our reg­u­lar routine. Of course, some­times there were sev­eral takes, some­thing new was added and some pieces were changed, but the main idea was the same. We wanted to say everything through our energy vibes.

It seems that you have a very strong con­nec­tion with your instru­ments.

JEGOR. I do not really like talk­ing in inter­views, it’s quite hard for me.:) Accordion is a part of me and I can talk a lot about it. I can say that there is no other instru­ment which does such a big influ­ence to me. At the moment, I am just not able to stop play­ing, I do it every day – it is like an addic­tion to me.

ARTEM. Instrument is like an exten­sion for me. I can trans­fer my emo­tional energy through sound. Every drum piece, even the tini­est part of the set, has it’s indi­vidual energy. I try to trans­fer my energy through them. Music allows me and Jegor to tell things we are not able to say when using words.


Your song titles gives the impres­sion that you are inter­ested in abstract ideas – free­dom, love etc. What do you want to say through your music, do you have some main themes?

ARTEM. All of those com­pos­i­tions are included in album called “Non-​existent movie”. The main idea was to cre­ate an instru­mental music soundtrack for a movie which does not exist. Every com­pos­i­tion cre­ates asso­ci­ations – they are emo­tional thing, which is expressed without using words. Every per­son can cre­ate his own visu­al­iz­a­tion for our music. The main aim is to make them feel some­thing. This is an image for the heart.

JEGOR. Those titles could be totally dif­fer­ent, it is quite hard to name the sound.

ARTEM. While play­ing, we want to talk about people in gen­eral – that is our theme. In music we try to give emo­tions for people. People listen to the music because they like listen­ing to it. Through music we try to talk uni­ver­sally, but for us it is also import­ant to trans­fer our own feel­ings and energy. We play for people, we try to open their ener­getic chan­nels, make them to do some­thing – to feel, to love, to wonder.


You have made a soundtrack for a pup­pet play. How did you star­ted work­ing with theatre, do you plan con­tinue to do it? Maybe you have plans to com­pose music for a full length film?

ARTEM. Once we met a theatre dir­ector, he heard how Jegor plays and he liked it.

JEGOR. At that moment, I thought about that idea as a joke. I have never done any­thing like that before, I even didn’t plan to do so. For that play I had to write all score — not only for myself but for other instru­ments, too. That includes violin, cello, grand piano. That was the first time for me and I can say, it worked out well. Now that theatre dir­ector asks me to cre­ate music for plays all the time, for example, just recently he pro­posed oppor­tun­ity to cre­ate score for “Cinderella”.

ARTEM. Let’s say, we are look­ing for inter­est­ing offers. Maybe we are not in an act­ive search, but if he got an inter­est­ing offer, we are ready to join. For example, we recently got a pro­posal to work in some exper­i­mental cinema project.

JEGOR. One dir­ector sug­ges­ted us to par­ti­cip­ate in a fest­ival in Tallinn, Estonia. We are going to cre­ate music for one of their pro­jects – it is very inter­est­ing for us to see Gurzuf as a part of a film.

The last ques­tion will be about altern­at­ive music scene in Belarus. You said that there are many inter­est­ing bands play­ing – maybe you could recom­mend some­thing which our read­ers must hear?

ARTEM. First of all there are very many dif­fer­ent people there. You can divide them into dif­fer­ent parts of altern­at­ive scene — dance club cul­ture, vari­ous kinds of sub­cul­tures and cre­at­ive indi­vidu­als. In Minsk there are lots of great blues and jazz bands, some people play American, British music, metal or hard­core, you can say that the spec­trum is wide. Some bands are so unique and have so spe­cific vocals, that you can hardly define their style.

I think that is won­der­ful – it is always inter­est­ing to hear new approach, and it doesn’t mat­ter in what con­text or genre. Many great groups appeared from the peri­phery of the coun­try dur­ing the last 5 years. Before that, there were some prob­lems with try­ing to go any­where out­side the coun­try. Now many musi­cians tour in Europe, Russia or Ukraine and I think it is great.

Thank you for your answers!

GURZUF myspace: http://​www​.myspace​.com/​g​u​r​z​uff

Listen: http://​gurzuf​band​.com/​a​u​d​i​o​_​e​n​.​h​tml

Photographer: Aliona Bogdanova

Ilona Klimaitytė
About author:
Ilona Klimaitytė
From the very beginning, Ilona had a passion for event management, writing and a cold glass of beer. These three forces fit perfectly together with interests in postindustrial music, anthropology and weird cinema. At the moment, she is finishing her cultural history and anthropology studies and is writing thesis on the subject of industrial elec... Read further >
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