Inna Zhelannaya, Frontwoman of the Russian Progressive Ethno
By Artyom Lipatov, well known Russian music critic
Her last name sounds provocative in Russian – ‘zhelannaya’ means ‘desirable’. It looks like a bad-taste nickname for a pop singer. But no, she is not a pop singer and yes, it’s her real name.
It was many years ago when I a got cassette tape with first Inna Zhelannaya’s record from my friend, now well-known rock critic Sergey Guryev. It was recorded in some private underground studio in Ukrainian city of Sumy and no one could imagine what music Inna will play 25 years later listening to this 25-minute album. But it was really a fresh, new, very feminine and very depressive sound for 1987.
Now Inna is a well-known world music diva. In the end of 1980’s she entered Moscow’s new wave/rock band Alliance together with Sergey ‘Ded’ Starostin, musicologist and performer on ethnic woodwinds. Together with Alliance leader Igor Zhuravlev they produced a vinyl record ‘Made In White’ that won 1994 Gran Prix of Radio France International. She tried to marry deep Russian folk with energetic, springy rock – and did it.
With her strong voice, talent for songwriting, understanding of ethnic song, and will to combine all this, she had to be a winner. Her first solo album ‘Vodorosl’ (The Alga) was a borderline between rock and world music. She gathered very interesting, very unique musicians – Starostin, bassist Sergey ‘Grebstel’ Kalatchow, another ethnic woodwind player Sergey ‘Klyopa’ Klevensky; together they became The Farlanders – a band that really impressed world music aficionados around Europe. The Farlanders produced several albums released in Russia and Germany – Farlander CD entered World Music Charts Europe, they played all over Europe and in US, they even entered the line-up of famous WOMAX festival… Inna and her band appeared in radio and TV broadcasts in UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland and Czech Republic. Peter Gabriel, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Robert Fripp (King Crimson), well-known producer Joe Boyd gave a very positive, even ecstatic responses of Inna’s music.
But every success story has a reverse side as a medal: after 10 years on the road The Farladers split. Happily it was a great new challenge for Inna. Now she works with a combo that consist of Sergey ‘Grebstel’ Kalatchow on bass, Oleg Maryakhin on sax and electronics, Dmitry Frolow on drums; soundmaster Vladimir Goubatov is last but not least member of the band. Inna sings authentic folk songs but now her music is much more different and hard to define. It combines elements of progressive rock, jazz, trance, electronic, and psychedelic. Inna is trying to find a bridge between tradition and modern times. Today she’s not the melancholic singer-songwriter but a real frontwoman standing at the mike during the show and it seems that her unusual voice is drowning – no, is bathing! – in almost aggressive, hard rhythms of her music.
Here’s a short conversation with Inna Zhelannaya
– Do you regret anything from the times when you were starting out?
– Definitely not. You must not regret the past – it’s better to engage in today. There’s a lot things to do now.
– What did you feel when your first professional record was released?
– I did not touch my record for weeks after it was released. That’s because I never liked the last thing I did. When you begin the real-life process, after recording – concerts, rehearsals, etc. understanding comes that it was too early to record! But it’s released – so I had to take it easy.
– Tell a little about the period of European tours, releases, – the period of fame?
– It was hard physically. We had our own van, we drove ourselves, not enough sleep, just 2 or 3 hours a day, played intensively, never had a private space and private time – but it was really cool.
– If you had a possibility to change something, to live some part of life the second time what will you change?
– Nothing. It only seems that if you get a second life you’ll live it differently, more usefully, without any errors. But it’s an illusion. I’m a fatalist.
- Бай (Lullaby)
- Вымыслы (Figments)
- Иван – Марья (Ivan – Maria)
- Косец (Mower)
- Мысли (Thoughts)
- Пшеница (Wheat)
- Пьяная (Drunk)
- Девки (Girls)
- Русалки (Mermaids)
- Самосадик (Samosadik)
- Валентинушка (Valentinushka)
- Зима (Winter)