Commentary: A Q&A with Daryana Antipova and Tatiana Naryshkina of Russian World Music Chart

I first became aware of Daryana Antipova and Tatiana Naryshkina in 2020 when the German label CPL Music pitched their compilation album Folk & Great Tunes From Russia, containing a couple of tracks by the Siberian traditional folk ensemble Vedan Kolod of which they’re both members. The following year Daryana and CPL sent me the follow-up, Folk and Great Tunes From Siberia and Far East, which was equally superb, as well as Vedan Kolod’s memorable album. That was the year Daryana co-founded Russian World Music Chart as a vehicle to promote folk music from Russia, Siberia and adjacent regions and countries that are under-represented on World Music playlists.

Since then Daryana and many others who create and work to publicize Russian folk music have left Russia and settled elsewhere. In late 2023 she and Tatiana agreed to contribute reviews to A Green Man Review as their busy schedules allow. When the results of the Russian World Music Chart were released, I asked them if they’d mind answering a few questions for our readers.
Gary Whitehouse, music editor

Green Man Review: Congratulations on publication of the Russian World Music Chart for 2023! I’ve heard most but not quite all of the releases on the list, and there’s a lot of good music there.

First, about the Chart itself. What is the process for compiling it? Who is eligible, what is the nomination process, and the voting process?

Daryana Antipova: So we have about 20 journalists worldwide voting for the best 10 albums. The “rules” have been changing, as well as the number of RWMC panelists, since 2021, when we created this Chart. In 2021, we voted for Top 20, and in 2022 — for understandable reasons — just for top-10, and we were not sure if we wanted to continue the project. Still, only two panelists left us (including one overwhelmed with PhD research), and two joined. In 2023 one more journalist joined the voting process and our small community, and we again voted for the top 10. In 2021 I collected releases from 2021 in just a week: 39 albums. In 2022 — 34. In 2023 — 52 (including EPs, for which I decided to create a separate category).

So in general, the compiling process is me searching for new releases among folk musicians and inviting them, partly because I’ve had some former national and international projects running — so musicians ask me if I can do to help them with promotion — and I ask them to apply to participate at RWMC. I collect releases from January to November and make posts on our social media; in November, 20 panelists vote, and in December, we have the results. Until 2023 it was all virtual, but in 2023 we were invited to announce and present offline in Moscow with our partners, the cultural fund “Veresk.” They celebrated their 20th year, and Vedan Kolod performed in their first Arbat club in 2006. So yes, most of my connections come from my work with Vedan Kolod. Journalists vote for top 10 where 1 is the best, and so on. Then I count. Most of the folk music charts work like that. Also, I invited Tatiana to help me in 2023 with posts, spreading the word about releases from RWMC in the blogs she’s been writing for (one of them has more than 100,000 subscribers). Also, she’s the only presenter and voter from Russia because the rest immigrated in 2022. All panelists including and Irina and me, “work” for RWMC for free.

GMR: Daryana, you were instrumental in creation of this chart along with Irina Brykova, right? Why did you want to do that, and how did you go about it?

DA: I had a harrowing experience with the previous project I was involved in. I left in September 2021. I had a newborn baby on my hands, a stressful remote job with night shifts, I lived far away from Moscow in a small city, and I just realized I didn’t want to be manipulated anymore and needed to start something “my own,” where I can build a healthy relationship with people who will be involved in this project. The pandemic and kind of “unhealthy” atmosphere in Russia, plus motherhood, just showed me that I would probably not be able to travel, present Russia at different conferences, and enjoy the international world music community as it used to be before 2020. I need to build a bridge between Russian folk musicians and the world music industry to keep that disappearing connection.

I was already a member of the Transglobal World Music Chart. I saw how Marija Vitas from Serbia created the Balkan World Music Chart, and the idea of the Russian World Music Chart was obvious. So, while walking around with the stroller, I called Irina Brykova, who I knew from one of the conferences I ran in 2018, and invited her to participate. She’s a great singer, a beautiful young woman, very hard-working, intelligent and smart. Of course, we planned to apply for some grants and support to bring a stand to Folk Alliance International (I visited in January 2020) and Womex, but… it is what it is. Russia has 190 nationalities living there, and a lot of minority and indigenous people with their own music and bands. As a journalist, I’ve been reviewing them for years (since I was 14 and started writing for a local newspaper), and I just wanted to share my knowledge with everyone else. Folk music from Russia and former USSR countries is sooooooo underrepresented in the world.

GMR: Is there more Russian folk music being made and recorded right now, or is it just becoming more visible to the world outside of Russia? [Or maybe just more visible to me, due in part to your own efforts! – GW]

Tatiana Naryshkina: Of course, more music is being recorded; it’s just that there are more opportunities for this. Many people record at home and upload albums online without publishing them physically. Again, by going online, you can listen to musicians from anywhere in the world.
DA: It’s not really becoming more visible. The war with Ukraine cut us off from the world for … I don’t know how many years. Let’s face the truth — it wasn’t known before that, either. And no, I’ve been following releases for ages, and I would say the dawn was in 2007 – 2013. In my opinion, the whole industry had crashed by 2022, and now there are just small sprouts.

GMR: There is a lot of variety in the music on this chart. I see everything from very traditional (“authentic”) folk to folk rock, electro-folk, vocal polyphony, psychedelic folk, dark gothic, folk pop, and more. Has this been the case for a long time, or are musicians exposed to more influences through online sources, streaming, and other factors?

TN: They seem to be experimenting more with folk motifs and music than before. At one time (around 1990-2000), musicians engaged in folk singing were more attracted to folklore and authentic sound. They tried to sing, imitating grandmothers and singers of the past. It is understandable — thanks to Soviet ideology, this music was looked at as “remnants.” Therefore, the musicians raised the archives, delved into the topic, studied, and learned to sing like that. But performing the same songs in the same manner, you will not be able to stand out. In addition, as you know, what needs to develop is a museum exhibit. And now, many are reconsidering folk art in conjunction with other possibilities. Plus, they look at each other and adopt ideas. However, in my opinion, electronics now prevail in Russian music, and I get a little tired of it.

This was the basis of the idea of this chart. To show the beauty and diversity of Russian music (a lot of people live here), which, as it was a closed country, unfortunately, has become one again… In addition, many bands are world-class and have toured and traveled the world a lot. And sometimes you will find such exciting groups which we have not heard of!

GMR: Is there anything else you want our readers to know about the Russian World Music Chart?
DA: If you want to hear some new sounds, you’re always welcome to check our Facebook or Instagram (both are banned in Russia, by the way). Or A Green Man Review 😀! [Which, as far as we know, is not yet banned in Russia – GW]
TN: Russian Russian folk songs probably turned out to be funny, as only one Russian band is in the top 5 of the chart (singing in Russian and Russian folk songs). And those are processed for different tools and electronics.

GMR: Congratulations again, and thanks for your time. I’m looking forward to more good Russian folk music in 2024!

Daryana Antipova is a musician and writer originally from Russian Siberia. She is the drummer for the Russian folk music ensemble Vedan Kolod since its beginnings in 2005 and a founder of the Russian World Music Chart. By profession a children’s author, she has published three books in Russia, worked as a journalist at The Moscow News, as well as in geopolitical news, until the media was overwhelmed by state propaganda. She and her husband and young son now live in Bloomington, Indiana, where she works for Indiana University’s Russian Flagship Program.

Tatiana Naryshkina is a folk singer, musician, writer, and teacher. In 2005 she and her husband founded the Russian folk music ensemble Vedan Kolod, in which she plays many instruments and is lead singer. She is member of the Russian Folklore Union and the Russian Musical Union (Guild of Composers) as well as a panelist of the Russian World Music Chart and Transglobal World Music Chart, and a co-founder of the NarVal musical instrument workshop. She has written for Folk Galore magazine, World Music Central online magazine, and various folk music blogs.

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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