Soft Belarusian Nights: Ana Zhdanova On Her New Album & the Minsk Music Scene

 

It is a pretty well-known fact to anyone who has visited Belarus that it is a lot more than just “the Last Dictatorship in Europe.” This is a country with a pretty progressive music scene, with artists like Ayva, Mustelide, and Šuma contributing to an exciting and dynamic scene equal to any of its neighbours. This is thanks to a pretty welcoming and supportive environment in Belarus, helped in so small part by friends of Post Pravda, 34mag, who consistently promote Belarusian bands to a larger national and international audience.

One of the more interesting releases to come out over the past year has been Ana Zhdanova. Her rich cerebral textures and atmospheres have shaped her first solo album, Appetiizer, released in 2017. Ana has been involved in music for some years now, initially with her band Bonehider. Her music is perfect late night listening, with her vocals gently washing over you with a brightness and colour only evident in those moments of nocturnal wonder. We spoke to her about recording her new album and the current Minsk music scene.

How did you get involved with electronic music; from composing to the point of releasing your debut album which boasts such quality production?

This story is not that short. I started my first pop band when I was 17 and, looking back, I realize I didn’t know a lot of things technically but I always knew what my sound was like.

I’ve always learned on-the-go, through meeting so many cool guys who would talk about techno, punching kicks, sticky snares,“drops” and sandy hi-hats. You listen carefully to everything. You think you know something but then you turn on your “blank” mode and the magic starts to happen. One day it comes to this point where you have to share it with others.

 

Can you describe the path to defining your sound and to building these atmospheres? I’ve heard you performing some other styles with your acoustic guitar.

Yes, I began performing using only my guitar and voice, and I still play with this kit.

It’s essential that you face this need to embrace more with your music.

I cannot say I tried to define it in any sophisticated way, it’s more about a feeling.

 

When it comes to the lyrics, I would say they’re more introspective, but at the same time very immersive. How is your creative process for this synergy between melodic, atmospheres and your lyrics?

I think it all comes from a very strong emotional message that I usually put in my songs. There’s no secret recipe.

I throw it away in a trash can if it’s not sharp enough. I could definitely produce more songs, if my heart could stand it.

 

How would you describe the DIY scene in Minsk, based on your experience through this process of launching this album? Talking about support, feedback and platforms to present, new projects.

The launching was the easiest part for me (thanks to the guys from the Ezhevika label). I feel a real support from the media, who provide content about the underground scene in our country and the whole feedback is mostly positive. Our community is small and friendly. Besides having the official release with Ezhevika, we’ve made a “free download” version with 34mag.net and through that we’ve possibly met a fresh audience.

 

Would you say that there’s a circuit to share and help new creative projects to flow between the regions and the countries in Eastern Europe? Or have you faced some obstacles as a musician?

I see the situation changing. I will not mention regions because I don’t know exactly what the situation is elsewhere, but definitely we have more opportunities now than it used to be 5 years ago. I see musicians successfully performing at showcase festivals and creative agencies taking cups for their projects. As you may know, we have many talents here in IT. But the saddest thing is not beyond the country. Strong minds leave Belarus when they see their work is much more appreciated abroad than at home. We have no cultural support and censorship is way too strong.

 

About electronic music, I think there are very interesting proposals nowadays in countries like yours, the development of an own sound. What is your perception of this, and what has been the answer from this brand new album?

You could make everything now by yourself. That’s a real thing.

You could be a bedroom singer and build a real audience for your concerts but there’s a lot of trash also, isn’t there? As for me, there hasn’t been much cool music appearing in the last few years. And when I say “music”, I mean something tasty, privileged, prepared and self-identified.

I always look for an identity in music but I often don’t see it. There’s a lack of it obviously, and when I produce my thing I think about identity first of all.

You never know what the future beats are until you’re in the future.

I feel there’s a voice inside a musician’s head. You follow it, you produce something, but when this voice has nothing to say, you’re better off not making music.

 

Which are your expectations as an artist?

I want to be heard, of course. I want to see my music making somebody’s life better and my life possibly too… I want to lay down on my sofa somewhere in Malibu sipping a strawberry milkshake and writing down the lyrics about love, life and my lust for it.