Urban Soundtracks: Minsk According to Mustelide

 

Mustelide, aka Natallia Kunitskaya, has for a long time been one of our favourite musicians at Post Pravda. She has often been referred to as ‘the Electronic Princess’, due to her influence on the Minsk music scene- an influence that has grown considerably in the past couple of years. Both of Natallia’s albums, Secret and SPI, encapsulating her trademark dream-like bedroom electronic sound, have received acclaim in both the former Soviet Union and further afield.

Natallia embodies many of the key characteristics of what is less so an aesthetic than a movement of artists from across the former USSR, unshackling themselves from their predominant culture and joining the global musical culture. This is hardly to imply that they have assimilated. Rather, Natallia and others have melded ideas from outside the former USSR and utilized technological shifts to create something that is equally international and a distinct by-product of their post Soviet upbringing.

Fantastically, the mix that she has created for Post Pravda is exclusively comprised of Belarusian artists. The tracklist, included at the end of the article, offers an ideal primer for anyone interested in Belarusian music. Furthermore, Natallia explores sounds far outside her only milieu through this mix to showcase an amazing diversity.

Natallia was also kind enough to speak to us about her work and where best to get drunk in Minsk. NOTE: We eventually got very drunk together.

 

Thanks so much for speaking to us. Before I say anything more, I should say right away how blown away I was that you managed to put together a mix composed of entirely Belarusian music. Not that I didn’t believe there couldn’t be so much good music from Minsk and Belarus, but that I simply didn’t know any! Either way, it’s clear that you find some inspiration in Belarusian music. Can you please tell me some past and contemporary Belarusian artists that have influenced your music?

I’m actually also a bit shocked, that the mixtape I’ve done for you turned out so good. To be honest, I have never listened to much Belarusian music. I’ve just learned what my colleagues were doing but my Walkman hasn’t had a lot of music from here. So, it was kind of a challenge to take on a motive of only the music from Belarus, but then I was surprised that there’s really a lot of cool stuff, which I’d forgotten or didn’t notice.

I can’t say that there are any local artists that influence my music, but there are still some musicians from Belarus who have inspired me. I know them all personally, so the inspiring factor is our communication first of all.

Like the producer Ivan Kilin from Ayva, for example. I met him when I was playing in bands as a keyboardist and wasn’t producing music alone. But he did, and he was an example for me, that there are no barriers to creating music in your own bedroom studio, making your ideas come true. One more special person is Alexei De Bronhe, an electronic producer and musician. First of all, he makes awesome music but also promotes his weird community, Grave Board Clan, which represents the underground electronic live scene in Belarus.

There are also other musicians I played with that have inspired me. Sveta Ben, the vocalist from the band Silver Wedding, where I played as a keyboardist. She is a genius really, a unique artist. Also Slava Koren from the legendary Belarusian rock band Ulis. I was 17 when I got into his band, and he taught me many useful things about music philosophy.

 

This project of getting different artists we like to create soundtracks for their native city is in many ways intended to provide an insight for those who’ve never visited the city. Minsk is a city that rarely comes up in the Western media or attracts Western tourists. What do you believe defines Minsk? In what way does it distinguish itself from other cities?

Minsk is the evidence that a parallel reality exists. You can see a huge monumental and conservative tractor factory with the portraits of the ‘Workers of the Year’ hanging on its walls, for example. And 10 meters away, around the corner, can be an underground contemporary art gallery or a club full of young freaks dancing to techno or experimental music. You can meet an old lady looking like an unfriendly witch and in 15 minutes, if you communicate with her, she’ll offer you a roof over your head, food, everything she has, even if she doesn’t have anything. So, Minsk is a city of contrasts.

All my foreign friends notice that our people are in a special way very warm, close and kindhearted. But you won’t get that from the first contact; it’s not like abroad. All our emotions are very sincere, not forced.

Some very interesting things are happening in our culture. There are so many unique artists and events in each of our cultural areas. But they’re hidden, like truffles. Under the ground of the system, the Soviet past and human fear pales.

 

There is a general ignorance of music from the former USSR within the West. The assumption is that the majority is just tacky plastic pop music with absurd music videos. Do you find being a Belarusian artist a struggle in appealing beyond the former USSR market and gaining interest in other parts of the world?

It’s a struggle on the one hand but it’s also a good reason to attract attention from abroad.  Nowadays, everybody is bored of the usual thing and something inaccessible is more attractive.

Sometimes, I really feel like a global cultural outsider. There’s a little mistrust, cause we’re like strangers in that cultural area. But if you then manage to surprise, to impress, the result can be amazing. It’s all in the element of surprise, you know.

And I like this feeling of surprising other people and introducing them to that hidden side of Belarus.

 

Lastly, Belarus has just introduced five-day visas. I’m coming for my first visit soon. Where should I get drunk?

Here’s my favourite bar route for foreign friends (Attention: this is for the true intention of getting drunk):

You can go first to:

Centraĺny ŭniviersam (praspiekt Niezaliežnasci 23)

It’s a big supermarket right in the center of Minsk in an old Soviet building with socialistic interior design and a marginal bar on the ground floor. It’s not even a bar but it has a long coffee table right in the supermarket faye. You can buy some food or coffee, but also cheap alcohol. Because of this, everybody gets drunk there. Especially students, local punks, freaks and very charismatic and gabby alcoholics.

After some shots of traditional balsams like Belarusky or Charodei, you can go on foot through the city centre along the main Niezaliežnasci Avenue to:

Ў Gallery of Contemporary Art (praspiekt Niezaliežnasci 37а). There’s a unique letter in the Belarusian alphabet “Ў”. The name of this gallery is devoted to this letter, and there’s also a very nice bar by this place. You can have some wine there and meet local artists or just random sweet people, and also feel the contrast after the first place.

Then you can go to: Zybickaja Street (vulica Zybickaja), through Janki Kupaly Park.

This is a street full of nice bars for every taste.

If you like extremely cozy little places with a Mexican spirit go to: el Pushka (vulica Hiercena 12)

If you’re a fan of football and talking, go to: 4-4-2 (vulica Zybickaja 6).

If you like Hookah and dancing go to: DIY bar (vulica Zybickaja 6)

If you’re hungry, just visit DEPO (vulica Zybickaja 6). You can have very tasty pancakes with every possible topping. Plus, they serve local cider.

At the end, you can have a glass of wine at the hip Svobody 4 Bar (plošča Svabody 4).

And then you must go to: Hooligan Bar (vulica Kastryčnickaja 16).

This is a bar with parties on Kastrychnitskaya Vulitsa, which has become the main place to hang out in Minsk. The largest parties and concerts take place in the factory hangar, adjacent to the bar.  On the way from Pieršamajskaja Metro station to this place, you can see fantastic street art and lots of other proof that the street, contemporary and underground art is alive in Belarus.

  1. NEW FEAR – Holographic Garden
  2. Залатая горка – Нова радасць стала
  3. hum flying bulletproof noodle – Полесьем
  4. Dirty Owl – prosopagnosia
  5. Bonehider – Warship
  6. dma – фтор
  7. Alexei De Bronhe – combo14
  8. Deech – Coldrex
  9. That Sky & Noise Beats – Flame
  10. Sang Sattawood – The thanatonautes
  11. radiokoala – 221 Fluorescence
  12. Taso x Dj Earl – Da capo al coda (Aslamin rmx)
  13. Super Besse – Посмотри на меня
  14. Kipah – Voguework
  15. Петля Пристрастия – Вечеринка
  16. Shuma – Пойду жы в лес
  17. life on marx – Афиши сонных дней
  18. Zombie Zoo – Moonlit River
  19. Мох – Цветам
  20. ayva – гирлянды
  21. i/dex – aurora