Urban Soundtracks: Minsk According to Ayva

 

Minsk in the past decade has been undergoing some dramatic changes. Reconstructed after the WWII pretty much according to Campanella’s idea of the City of the Sun, it is now gradually starting to lose its massive totalitarian glow, these changes being powered, on the one hand, by predominantly Russian/Asian investors erecting illogical architectural monsters that seem obviously out of place, while on the other hand, there is another force that is shaping the face of the city in its own way: the new generation of enthusiastic progressive youth that take over the old industrial buildings to turn them into clubs, bars, creative hubs and studios and create their own Minsk – the one with a more European, fresh countercultural vibe.

Ivan Kilin, also known as Ayva, an electronic musician raised and based in Minsk, should be named among those who the Belarusian culture scene can be proud of. Weaving his impressionist and introspective soundscapes, he creates the heartwarming atmosphere of coziness and sunshine in our Sun City even when no sun is out there. Ivan reflects on who and what makes Minsk a special place to be and gives us a different perspective as to what this city is like: a space that can be cozy, quiet and meditative. Dig the mix he’s made for us to feel the vibe. Don’t hesitate to follow his Soundcloud!

 

The face of Minsk has been changing quite visibly in the past few years. A certain feeling of moving forward is starting to appear; the urban culture is developing; the hang out hubs, clubs, bars, festivals, and civil initiatives are popping up – as if the process of gradual recovery from the Soviet past has eventually been launched. Do you feel this development is active enough for a city of 2 million inhabitants? Or is it just happening in a natural way?

I believe it’s a natural process. The world view of the new generation is different, and the young people are constructing their environment in a new way. It refers not only to the physical objects, but to relationships as well.

 

I sometimes get the feeling that the progressive/creative kind in Belarus is a large family where everyone knows each other. It is like a small world that exists on the sidelines of what is beyond it. And as we mainly rotate in this kind of environment, there is a risk of losing objectivity as to what is actually happening. We might believe that we are really moving forward, but is it really the case if we look at it on a larger scale?

I don’t think I feel something like this. I’m not a frequent event-goer, but when I do go somewhere, I nearly always end up meeting some new interesting people with original views and fresh ideas.

As to the scale of this movement and development, it is hard to be objective, but for me a certain marker here was the Mustelide gig earlier this year. A year or two ago, you would always meet the same crowd at her shows. There would only be 30-40 people, and you would know most of them in person. This year at her live gig, the club was so packed that the bouncers just had to close the doors at some point, and stopped letting people in. The audience has changed, too. To me it indicates that this movement exists and it is not limited to just a narrow group of locals.

 

Outside of Belarus, except for our close neighbours maybe, those who don’t mix it up with Belize or Belgium most commonly associate our country with our president’s last name, potatoes, and the title of the last European dictatorship. But alongside that, there are people that bust these stereotypes. They help create a more presentable image of Belarus as a developing country that has something important to say and show. I believe, to a large extent, that those are the people of arts and culture, like the Belarus Free Theatre and Svetlana Alexievich. How would you assess the role of creative individuals in the formation of the country’s image? Which of the local contemporary musicians, writers, artists, etc. would you call significant?

It is difficult to overestimate the role of creative people in the formation of the country’s image. What is important here, is to learn to notice and appreciate them in the noise of the daily routine. I will mention just a few, but there are many more and telling about all of them would demand a large separate article.

Back in the days when I was only making my first steps in music, I was stunned by the band called Gurzuf. They were creating a perfect blend of musical ingenuity and emotion.

As for the painters, my favorite is Leonid Shchemelev. When I saw his work The Warmth of the Earth for the first time, it had me frozen to the spot for ten minutes. After that, I especially went to the National Art Museum thrice, just to take another look at it.

And I also cannot help but mention another creative area, which is science. We have our own ‘rock stars’ in practically every scientific field, and all of them have publications in reputable scientific journals. Currently, there is a trend for lectures and workshops in popular science in Minsk, and this trend has been growing quite actively. Not least since we have a lot of people that can give first hand talks about science, and they’re really good at it.

 

What do you love Minsk for? What is there about the city that would make someone who has never been here come, and why is it worthy to come back to for those who have left?

People. They are special here. It is definitely worth to come here for them. And it’s worth coming back here for the same reason.

 

You grew up in Minsk. Do you remember the city of your childhood? How much has it changed since then and do you like these changes?

Yes, I remember it well. I guess, with time, it is becoming more convenient and interesting.

 

Which places in Minsk do you like to go to and why?

I like taking walks by the Komsomolskoye Lake. I love the building of the Children’s and Youth Palace. When I was in primary school, I used to go there for the choir club. During the breaks we would run around the halls. The architectural planning of this building is quite outstanding: lots of passages, staircases, halls, balconies – it’s like a huge labyrinth. If you come there in the evening, you’ll find yourself in a very special, almost meditative atmosphere. The halls are always occupied by parents waiting to pick up their kids after various clubs. And as the club classes normally last for an hour or so, there’s no point in going away. So all parents just quietly sit and wait there – reading, knitting, talking in whispers. And these halls in such moments are just filled with so much harmony and peace.