Smorodina Reka - “Predvestye”
Updated: Jan 12, 2022
Smorodina Reka was formed in 2019 by me, Alexandra Sidorova (the lead vocalist and mastermind of the project), and our first song was “Oi, to ne vecher” («Ой, то не вечер» which means “Oh, that evening”, and it’s a Cossack folk song).
The only person to help me at the time was Alexey Vinogradov, who is currently the lead guitar of the group. He is a brilliant arranger and composer, who also has his personal melodic death metal project “IN VISION”.
The next songs were “Kalinka” («Калинка», an interpretation of a widely known Russian song by Larionov) and “Polyushko” («Полюшко», a mix of two famous Russian songs “Polyushko-Pole” (meaning “Field, lovely field”) by Knipper and “Ach, tyi, step’ shirokaya” (meaning “Oh, you, wide steppe”) which is a Russian national song).
Unexpectedly we received a super strong reaction from the audience and invitations to perform at some festivals. That was the moment when the two of us understood: it’s high time to find the remaining band members. Soon we found Olga Zaboronok and Alexandra Zaipold (back vocal), Andrey Mirny (second guitar and sound engineer), Anna Yerilina and Fedor Vetrov (violin) and Vladimir Nehayev (drums) and started writing other songs.
Summer 2020 was the beginning of our active rehearsals altogether and in October we already performed seven songs at the “Fantasy Folk Fest”. We had a 30-minute program, the performance went pretty smoothly: it was obvious that we had enough material to release a debut album.
That’s how “Predvestye” («Предвестье» which means “Foreshadowing”) was born.
Where did the name come from?
Smorordina Reka (that means “The Currant River” in Russian) - What River is it?
The Currant River is a mythical boundary between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. Our ancestors called objective reality “Yav’”, and the abode of the netherworldly – “Nav’”. People who lived in Ancient Rus were pagans and believed that souls of the dead pass through that river to enter “Nav’” and only a true warrior with a pure heart and thoughts is able to enter it and then return to our mortal world alive and unharmed.
The description of the Currant River differs in various epic poems and legends. In one of them it is described as river of black water, in another one it is a fiery river, bubbling with pure flames, which makes the Currant River an almost insurmountable obstacle on the way of Russian heroes.
According to the legend, there is a bridge above this mythical river which is called “Kalinov Bridge”. In Russian there is a world “nakalivat’’” which means “incandesce”. The bridge is called so because it is incandesced by the fiery waters of the Currant River. It is impossible for an ordinary man to walk across it. And a hero is usually forced to sacrifice something to the river in order to do so. The Currant River often speaks in a female voice, letting only the worthiest travelers pass it.
By the way, the berry of the same name has nothing to do with the name of the river.
The inspiration to create such a unique project. To combine Russian Celtic traditions with more modern arrangements.
I just wanted to create something beautiful. But the problem was that there already exists a great number of folk bands and it’s super hard to be unique and attract the attention of the audience by deservedly outstanding and worthwhile material.
My soul belongs to folk, I worked with folk bands for more than 10 years and we’ve released approximately 5 albums together, so for me it was no question that I want to have a folk band myself.
“Smorodina Reka” is MY project. From the beginning to the very end. It’s my most cherished and beloved child. I had a dream to form my own group for an indescribably long time and now I’m super inspired by the reaction of the people who listen to our songs.
It goes without saying that there were (and still are!) risks. For instance, a great number of various bands made covers on “Oi, to ne vecher”. Still, I had a strong desire to change this song: in terms of the structure and harmony. Plus, show my own vision of it. And, as a result, it really became an absolutely different and vibrant new creative product. And that’s exactly what people like about it! The fresh interpretation that differs from all that they’ve heard before! Believe me, I know it from the horse’s mouth: I chat a lot with our listeners in social media. They all say that they couldn’t expect anything like that from a song, which, as they used to think, they know by heart.
Speaking even about the song “Kaninka” that’s super well known by each and every Russian, the majority of people simply don’t recognize it. I’ve changed the harmony, so the perception of the song started differing strikingly from the original.
But I don’t want you to think that we only produce covers! There are songs we’ve written ourselves.
I had an intention of creating something like a Russian “Wardruna” but with commercially popular sound and production style. I didn’t want to make something as authentic as their songs: their arrangement is super minimalistic with narrow range of musical instruments (we’re not speaking about their concerts where they perform with a whole orchestra).
Meanwhile I wanted to create something resembling a soundtrack: powerful and ambitious.
I had a sympho-metal project that became practically a sympho-folk one, as I do like the atmospheric sound that can be heard in our album.
Our debut album “Predvestye” is about traditions: not only Russian, but Scandinavian as well. That’s our way to pay tribute to traditions: we want people not to forget to respect their family and ancestors, traditions and history of their motherland.
And, most significant, we want them not to forget Russian national songs. Speaking about traditional folk songs, you should dive into the lyrics of these songs to understand the deep, extremely profound and vise hidden messages in them.
Are such traditions still carried out or are your preserving /celebrating something that needs to return?
Even though Russian traditional Slavic holidays are still celebrated we feel the necessity to make people think about them more often. If our traditions inspire us and makes us stronger, they should never vanish.
The idea behind calling the Album "Foreshadowing"? Foreshadowing of?
It’s about the foreshadowing of death. Anyways all our songs are more or less connected with this topic.
The best example is “Kolyibel’naya” (“Lullaby”). There was a Russian tradition to sing “death lullabies”. You can literally come across the following verses in them: “ay-ey-ay, you will die today”. That’s exactly how children were lulled. Of course, there appears a question: why? Well, the answer is pretty simple: our ancestors believed in evil spirits who can steal the child. And they wanted to trick them: if the spirits hear that the child is already dead, there is no point in stealing it.
And our “Lullaby” has the same vibe: it’s generally quite gentle but becomes tense in some parts. We don’t want our listeners to forget that evil spirits are wondering around (ha-ha-ha). Again, it’s kind of tribute to the Russian traditions. On the one hand you hear some sweet lyrics based on the verses of a classical Russian writer Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov who called it “A Cossack Lullaby”. On the other hand, the music doesn’t have a positive vibe: it’s mystical, practically an acoustic black metal.
The idea to re-work more modern songs?
We’ve made an acoustic cover of the songs “Voluspa” by Wardruna and “Rose” by Eluveitie. I do respect these bands from the very bottom of my heart and their music always succeeds in touching the quivering heartstrings of mine.
Your vocals are formally trained and the inspiration that brought you to this music?
Yes, I’ve been receiving a classical music training from the age of seven and graduated from Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. I studied opera classical vocal, yet I’ve always been interested in folk singing. I’ve never studied it, just tried one day and it worked out pretty well!
Your lyrical inspiration is steeped in tradition is there anything else that influences such as nature/art?
Of course, I’m deeply inspired by Russian extraterrestrial nature. I do love some painters such as Vrubel’, Bilibin, Vasnetsov, Shishkin, Aivazovsky. It’s easy to guess that composers do inspire me too: Edvard Grieg is my love! His quotes I use in our songs “Vecher” (“Evening”), “Kalinka” and “Polyushko” (“Lovely field”).
The idea to use traditional language only.
At the moment we don’t have such a goal, but maybe in future we’ll think it over or even try.
The idea to use a choir to create a unique personal state.
Yes, the choir also serves to create a national tint, because Russian folk music has initially included several people singing simultaneously. Olga Zaboronok and Alexandra Zaipold have also graduated from Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, they are my colleagues, professional singers, work as choirmasters themselves and know everything about polyphony and how to perform it in a technically correct and beautiful way. I’m blessed by the fact that such amazing professionals agreed to work with me, and they can be heard in all our songs. They’ve created all the back vocals themselves and even if you listen to the concert recordings, you’re going to hear them as well.
Is the songwriting process?
It goes without saying that the process is not easy as we are perfectionists super concentrated on literally each and every detail. We record live instruments and chorus, pay attention to all the nuances related to the harmony, structure and the quality of the song. What’s more, when we record our songs, we’re in a kind of a stream or flow (I mean a state of mind). We do love solid, charming melodies, and we struggle to polish the lyrics for it to express our vision of the world and our life principles.
Plans for the Future
On the first of December we’ve released our new single “Drevneyu Tropoi” (“The ancient trail”) with a new lyrics video. And it’s guessable that we’re working on the new original song now. In January and February, we are to perform at some festivals in Moscow. And, of course, release a new album as soon as possible.
Top 6 Albums of all Time?
1. Eluveitie - Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion
2. Blackmore's Night - Dancer and the Moon
3. Nightwish - Once
4. Dzivia - Rujnuj
5. Аркона - Слово
6. Myrkur - Folkesange