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Singing grannies give Russian folk music big boost

Published time: April 09, 2012 17:04
Edited time: April 09, 2012 21:04

Buranovskie Babushki (RIA Novosti/Valery Melnikov)

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A group of crooning village pensioners has got Russians singing along and is set to have a shot at greater stardom at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

­“Any granny has to be able to sing, dance, smile and have fun,” Galina Koneva, a singer from Buranovskie Babushki, told RT. “We’re no stars, we’re just ordinary grannies.”

“Buranovskie Babushki”, or “Buranovo Grannies”, have put their village in the Central Russian Republic of Udmurtia on the map, winning hearts with tunes in their native Udmurt language and English.

The newly-minted celebrities, whose combined age is over 600 years old, sport traditional costumes and birch bark shoes. That is exactly what their fans like, claiming this unmistakably ethnic feel represents the real Russia. Indeed, in this country, folk songs and dances, with their colourful costumes, fiery moves and heartfelt lyrics, have never fallen out of fashion.

“These songs come from our ancestors. They’ve always been a huge part of village life, of our roots,” Zhanna Rusakova, artistic director of Slavyane Folk Band, told RT. “That’s how people expressed themselves. It’s all about our traditions that represent something for every generation. Russia is not Russia without its folk songs.”

In Soviet times, folk tunes were even specially promoted as “the people’s music” and received important state support, with the aim of rivaling Western pop culture.

Today, scores of performers have made folk songs and dances their speciality, like the Moscow-based band “Slavyane”, or the “Slavic Singers”. Another award-winning song-and-dance company revives and promotes the traditional culture of the Cossacks of southern European Russia.

“The Cossacks have songs for both wartime and peace, songs about battles and about festivities,” Andrey Tolstyakov, artistic director of the “Volnaya Stanitsa Cossack Ensemble”, told RT. “It’s important to get the details right. We’ve got the uniforms that were standard in 1914 – the blouses, the boots and special hats called papakha. A Cossack always kept all his documents in it, so if he ever lost it, it was only together with his head.”

After a string of young Russian pop stars, it is now time for more mature folk to aim for Eurovision glory. The singing grannies from Buranovo get their shot at the big time in late May in Azerbaijan.