To judge a man by his actions…
There were many reasons for Black Ivory Tower to decide and contact Kamaedzitca for an interview. This Belarusian group, with its mix of metal, folk, oi, hardcore and even hiphop, has been on topping the playlist of multiple editors ever since we first wrote about them last year. Particularly their 2012 album Voiceless are your words is a mesmerising chrestomathy of otherworldly music. Whether it is the wide variety of music styles the band invokes, or the mysterious poeticism of their lyrics, the complexity of Kamaedzitca‘s art motivated us to contact the band to see if we could arrange an interview for our upcoming magazine. They complied, and we have since conducted what might very well be the band’s first interview by a Western-European publication.
What you see below is a fragment from our conversation with Aleg, the singer, lyricist and founding member of Kamaedzitca. The interview will appear in full in issue #3 of the Black Ivory Tower print magazine, which is being written simultaneously to issue #2.
D: On “The North tradition” off the Voiceless are your words album, you sing about the intertwinement of reality and legend. This is an essential fragment to me, as it demonstrates a mentality that is being lost in the world. In the present day, people fetishise science; they are so obsessed with facts and thinking within the system, that they lose the power of imagination. Modern society claims to be about ‘open-mindedness’ and ‘tolerance’, but at the same time it will dismiss, ridicule or even try to ban all ideas that challenge convention. Is the battle against this mentality on your mind when you sing about the unification of reality and legend?
A: Why, yes. Legends, old stories, myths, fairy tales, ancient songs; usually people treat such narratives as the fantasy of ancient ones; those ancestors who did not possess scientific knowledge to the extent that we allegedly do. But we would not formulate it as such. Because all this ancient knowledge eventually has a foundation that is built up from real figures, facts, events and persons. There is no past, present or future as such. This is eternity; our endless way towards the Absolute.
D: Nationalists from Slavic countries seem very focused on physical fitness. What is the most important motivation behind this development? Does it serve the pragmatic goal of being able to perform well in street fights, or is the purpose to attach an ideological or even spiritual dimension to corporal fitness? After all, it is clear that you and your bandmates do not go to the gym just out of vanity…
A: Neither sport nor straight edge – which is also part of our lifestyle – is an end in itself. It is natural and essential base for further development and perfection. Physical and intellectual development must go hand in hand. For example, you go to the gym and pump your muscles or you fight in sparring, then you come home and read a worthy book or go to the theatre. This is all part of the same process. We should not do one thing while ignoring the other. Pre-planned, comprehensive, harmonic development is what it is all about.
By the way, we do go to the gym in order to “be handsome”, as well. It is one of the many advantages in sports. After all, it is our conviction that sober, intelligent, but at the same time elegant and strong people deserve the respect of others.
D: I live in a country that consists mainly of urban areas and highways. Wild nature has ceased to exist; all forests were planted by humans, and the last bears were spotted back in the Middle Ages. We barely have a musical tradition that is still alive, and our language and habits are being sacrificed to appease the gods of internationalism.
One thing I notice about Belarusian bands such as your own is that you are heavily influenced by the traditional music of your country. Your latest album, xQzTN 3087, even mixed electronic music with folk. Then there are many folk bands, such as Stary Olsa and Horýn, who aim to recreate historical Belarusian music with as much authenticity as possible. Do you feel the connection Belarusians experience with their traditions is more intense than in other countries? Does Belarus, which is historically a rural country, perhaps have more direct contact with its native soil, thus motivating its inhabitants to respect it more?
A: Yes, we have always attached a huge amount of value to the preservation of cultural heritage, as well as remembering our traditions and, even more importantly, keeping them alive.
You may be surprised to know that paganism was an official (!) religion in Belarus until as late as the 16th century. And until the 19th century, there were many known instances of people in rural areas keeping and worshipping pagan idols in their homes. In Minsk, the capital of Belarus, there used to be an actual pagan site right in the centre of the city, until as recent as the 20th century. It was a huge rock around which the people would gather and a hereditary pagan priest would hold rites and ceremonies. So, when recently it seemed as if paganism had finally left Belarus for good, suddenly there appeared the youth, which consciously chose paganism as the foundation of its views and life philosophy.
And indeed, our proximity to traditional values and genuine paganism may very well be connected to the fact that Belarus is isolated geographically. Until the last centuries, this country consisted mostly of impenetrable forests, huge lakes, endless rivers and vast swamps, which collectively carved our territory.
Now, there are big cities everywhere, which has of course resulted in a huge increase in population and industrial farming. All of these changes drive the exploitation and killing of our nature irrevocably. Ecology is perishing. Nevertheless, when we compare Belarus to many other countries, we can see that our country still remains the land of forests, swamps and clear lakes.
As for the Netherlands, I actually visited that country when I was 15 years old. And I do remember the enormous difference in landscape and climate. But to be honest, I liked your country. The North Sea, the winds and its vastness! It coincides with my inner world. But I visited almost no big cities, because they are as overcrowded as any metropolis across the world. Still, your villages and towns are superb, because there you can relax and merge with the tranquil rhythm of life.
I also remember your windmills and medieval castles. I noticed that the mentality of the Dutch and Belarusians is something alike. It really is so.
D: In the Western metal scenes there is always much concern over the political views of band members. Non-political black metal bands such as Inquisition and Bölzer got in trouble because the band members were accused of expressing NS views in their private life (which was not necessarily true). Whenever I talk to people from Eastern Europe, I notice they do not care about this discussion, at all. Where do you stand? Do you think someone who does not agree with your politics can still enjoy the music of Kamaedzitca?
A: Sure. People need to realise that the mere fact of belonging to certain subculture will tell you nothing about a man’s personality. Instead, it are the deeds of the man that will tell you everything you need to know. Though they might be the source or inspiration of his actions, a man’s religious or political views in themselves do not suffice to make any definitive conclusions about him. To judge a man by his actions – that is what is really important.
Thanks to Aleg for his time and insight.
Text taken from Black Ivory Tower #3, ‘Resurrection of Heroes’, forthcoming.
Further reading/listening for interested tovarishy:
- Kamaedzitca‘s amazing song “Ocean of loneliness“.
- Belarusian folk music referenced in the interview: Horýn‘s song “Yshla yurova matsi mastami“.
- Belarusian folk music referenced in the interview: Stary Olsa‘s “Ballad of Grunwald“, on the legendary battle that took place there near the end of the Middle Ages.
- “To the gym for the Motherland” – Our extensive review of Kamaedzitca‘s magnum opus Voiceless are your words.
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