Belarus: Interview with Belarusian singer Lavon Volski from NRM

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Belarus:
A concert is a cry for freedom

Interview with Belarusian singer Lavon Volski. He is the lead singer in the rock and punk band N.R.M. – the Independent Republic of the Dreams – which is based in Minsk.

Interview by Ingo Petz

While tv pictures of the demonstration in Minsk against the presidency of Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been going round the world, and similar demonstations for solidarity with Belarus has taken place in other European countries and in USA, new focus has been put on how rock music has suffered in the country in the recent years.
Singer Lavon Volski (spelled ‘Ljavon’ in Belarus) – leader of the rock bands N.R.M. and Krambambulya – has been banned from performing outdoors or in concert halls after he performed at a demonstration for the opposition, and produced a protest song which included the line “The sun will never rise in this country”.
Because of his lyrics and songs which have become anthems of the opposition youth, Lavon Volski is considered the main figure in the Belarusian-speaking underground scene, an idol for many young Belarusians. In more than 20 years he has made music, first with Mroja, then with N.R.M. – also called The Independent Republic of the Dreams. The band is labeled as being “critical of the regime” and is taboo on the White Russian radio.

Ingo Petz: Is the name “The Independent Republic of the Dreams” in itself a message to the government of Belarus?

Lavon Volski: This is our way of finding a stronghold in a time where it is not easy for any artist to survive. We have created a virtual state for ourselves and our friends in which one can hide away from the Belarusian reality. In this virtual state we often parody absurd acts of the Belarusian leaders. For instance, we will soon be holding a referendum. We are a state in the state. We can’t accept the values of the present Belarusian state, and it doesn’t accept us either. Our music is not played on the radio or tv, but there are many likeminded people out there.

How should one view the new 75 percent quota for Belarusian music which the authorities have given in January 2005?

We know of the existence of lists with names of artists and bands which are “unwanted” in radio and tv. On these lists are bands such as N.R.M., Neijro Dubel, Palac, and other musicians. Why? Because on 21 July 2004, the 10 year annivesary of Lukashenka’s precidency, we performed at a demonstration of the opposition. Even though the demonstration was given an official permit, all the bands who performed there were then blacklisted on the radio. With the new 75 percent quota which the government has implemented (the radio must play 75 percent national music, ed.), in order to fill out the air time, they are forced to play artists who can’t even pull a crowd of 400 people at their concerts.

In the song ‘Kumba’ you portray the president Lukashenka as some sort of a fool. You have not been imprisoned because of this?

Listen, this song is not about Lukashenka. The voice of the man in the song might resemble Lukashenka. But it is a song about young men who take interest in sport, vodka, criminal romanticism and girls. In our country we have quite a lot of this type of people.

Can you survive economically as an artist in Belarus?

Apart from N.R.M. I also have other projects which are more or less profitable, both in Belarus and outside the country. Besides, I paint, and I write – though this doesn’t give me much income. Somehow, I manage to survive anyhow. In Belarus, life is difficult, but interesting.

Has there been a development among the Belarusian youth since 1994, and if so, which role has the Belarusian rock music played in that development?

The Belarusian rock music has had a great influence on several generations in Belarus. But time passes, and one has to think about one’s carreer and one’s life. Quite a large number of people have immigrated to the West, and many have turned their back to their ideals. But the new generation is listening to us, even so. Because a concert in itself is a cry for freedom. Unfortunately, presently there are not many rock concerts being organised here in Belarus.

Your father, Artur Volski, was an author and a dissident from the western part of Belarus. Was the role as a rebel already placed in your cradle as a baby?

Of course, my father has had great influence on my work. An immense influence, actually.

NRM is very popular in Poland as well. Why?

Because we give over such a strong energy. Our concerts are very emotional. You can instantly feel that we come from a country where there still are things we need to struggle for. Somehow, that struggle of ours appears to be more serious than the struggle against, for instance, McDonalds.

In your lyrics you often ironically describe Belarus as a “Country of the Potatoes”?

Masses are the same everywhere. You can betray, cheat, confuse, or anaesthetize them. Don’t tell me that there has not been similar instances in Asia and Europe during the last century. What is said about Belarus today, stems from the Sovjet Union and the Empire of the Zar. In more than 300 years we have been living under the flog.

Why haven’t you left Belarus long ago?

This is our country. Here lives our likeminded, and our families. We all hope for change. If we leave the country, there are many thousands in Belarus who will also want to leave their job positions and give up on their ideals. This is not what we’d want to see happening.

In 2005, Lavon Volski was on tour in USA. The programme of his concerts consisted partly of his own songs that had never been performed for any audience before.

This interview is shortened and translated from German with permission from the author and Belarusnews.de


Lavon Volski

Photo by Dimitri

Source:

Belarusnews.de – 6 March 2006 (in German language):
‘Folge 1: Wir sind ein Staat im Staat! Ljavon Volski, S

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