Russkaya Muzyka

Traditional Music From Russia

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There's not a lot of Russian folk music available, especially CDs that feature polyphonic singing on peasant and Cossack songs from the country's southern regions. That alone would make this valuable. The fact that it's also very good is a bonus. With six voices -- three male and three female -- Russkaya Muzyka create a glorious sound that's pretty much all vocals, although "Zavidochka" is aptly called "couplets accompanied by music." They have not only songs, but dances, too, such as "Sukhotushka-Sukhota," but it's really the songs that catch the ear. They can mix things up a bit: for instance, just having a pair of male voices on the moving "Tumanushki" or the full-on, stirring opener; while the plaintive "Zarya" is positively an invitation to start on the vodka. The singing is superb throughout, full-blooded when needed but also capable of restraint and delicacy. The polyphony itself is spot-on and glorious, and the music is completely folky, with no concession to the mainstream (just listen to the drinking song "Oy, Toy Zily, Kto Pye Gorilku," with its very basic hurdy-gurdy and percussion accompaniment, for an example). But it stands tall on its own terms, a powerful testament of a tradition, a region, and a style.

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