Mustelide is a young independent musician from Belarus. The chronicle of her grassroots tour is an example of how courageous people can find a kindred soul anywhere they go.
By Maxim Silva Vega
Mustelide (Natalya Kunitskaya) is a young independent musician, singer and electronic producer from Minsk (Belarus). Her songs sound very human and fresh, and they transmit the feelings and thoughts of modern intelectuals. Three years ago Natalya gave up her job in a bank and began to learn the music computer program Ableton. Since that time she has released two albums and has been invited to perform in the most prestigious Moscow clubs and also to participate in select European festivals. Natalya wants to write and play music - she feels that music is her destiny - however, as a young musician, she has encountered many difficulties on her road to success. The chronicle of her grassroots tour is an example of how courageous people can find a kindred soul anywhere they go. I feel proud to count myself as one of these people.
October 25th and 26th. 0 km. Prague. In the early rainy morning I meet Natalya. I am her designated tour manager and driver. We will have to drive many kilometers, and we are worried about what to expect on this journey. Natalya's music is not known in the countries we are going to visit. We are frightened and yet exhilerated. The first concert takes place in a new space with the Mediterranean decor called "Bougaivillea" (it's a concept store of handmade objects and ceramics made by artists from diferent countries). In this exotic space the Belarusian electronic ballads sound especially unusual. It's a quiet concert for friends mostly: a good start to a long marathon.
October 27 and 28. 351 km. Berlin. We get into the car and leave for Berlin. Mustelide has two concerts here. We stop and spend the night at a distant friend’s flat. The next day we walk across Berlin,visiting alternative clubs in former factories, eating falafel and enjoying the golden autumn afternoon in this extraordinary city.
Some Russians and Belarusians who live here come to the shows. Most importantly, the bulk of the audience is made up of locals. We make a conclusion that Mustelide's music is universal and can find its way into different cultures and mentalities. «Your music is understandable to people from different countries,» local promoters tell Natalya. The sound technician at "Posh Tekel" club is originally from Venezuela, who tells us about the difficult situation there. We share Indian food from the nearest small restaurant. The second concert takes place in a club with a Russian touch called "Kvartira 62.» Here the PA speakers are so small that they remind us of computer speakers, and at first we are worried about the quality of the sound. But soon we relax as the show sounds surprisingly good.
October 29. 346 km. Wroclaw. It is this year’s «European capital of culture». Huge sums were raised for this project, and many asked whether it was worth spending such funds for big projects instead of helping local initiatives in multiple towns. Our host and promoter in Wroclaw is Michal Litvinets - the owner of the bar "Art Cafe Kalambur" (one of the oldest bars in town). He invites independent musicians from all over to the city. Michal is tall and masculine; he reminds me of the heroes in the TV series "Vikings". During the show the audience dances and after they approach Mustelide to talk. We chat with Katya and Olya, students from Minsk who study fine arts and design in Wroclaw. When they learn that I am putting on a festival in Russia, they offer to help me create visuals for it. Michal is happy with the concert. «Come again and bring more musicians,» he says.
October 30. 722 km. Still Germany. In the Bavarian city of Augsburg lives our friend Helen, musician from St. Petersburg who helps us to organize a concert in a local club "Cafe Neruda". The day after the show is a day off to sleep as much as possible, enjoy the fall foliage, and eat some tasty vegetarian food made by Helen’s husband. He is also a musician and the founder of a non-profit organization which helps musicians to organize tours.
October 31- November 2. France. 1013 km. Our tour arose spontaneously, and we had very little time for preparations. We hadn't found anyplace in the southeast of France where we could put on a show (our way to Spain passed through here). When we prepared this tour we contacted many government cultural centers, but received few replies, or we were denied for dubious reasons. The budget of our journey does not allow us to spend a lot of money on hotels, therefore we deside to use the interesting website coachserfing.org by means of which people from different countries provide shelter to travelers. In the end, we don't regret it! We meet remarkable and very friendly people: in Grenoble a young couple treats us to home-made bread and in Montpellier a painter from Malaysia shows us paintings and ornaments of his own design. He tells us about his dream to cooperate with fashion designers. We drink wine on the well-known Kamarg beach and watch the sun set. Spain is awaits us...
November 3rd. 347 km. Barcelona. Perhaps it is the most successful and loudest concert (the sound equipment is outstanding and we have a nice crowd). "NIU" cultural center - an independent non-profit organization - had eagerly agreed to accept Mustelide on a visit. Before Natalya’s set an interesting electronic duo from Mexico plays, making the concert into an international happening. As usual, at the beginning of Natalya’s set the audience modestly stands along the walls or stays at their seats. But later in the show they relax and start to dance. We spend the night once again at a stranger’s flat and we quickly become friends. Our host Tim - from Australia - is a designer and engineer. We talk into the early hours about architecture, design, art and music.
November 4. 624 km. Madrid. In the Spanish capital there are not so many small clubs where it is possible to put on a live concert (in Spain it is rather difficult to obtain the license for live music). "Sirocco" club is an exception to the rule. My old friend comes to the concert - in 2002 Abel Hernandez's group performed by my invitation at a show in Moscow. Thanks to Abel we had reached Spanish state «Radio 3», and for several days they played Mustelide's songs. Now people in Spain know about her.
November 5. 526 km. Seville. We almost reach Africa. Our tour comes to an end in the cultural cafe "Gallo Rojo" ("Red Rooster»). The bartenders here fit the image of a modern hipster and they are incredibly pleasant people. They tell us they have never heard such cool electronic music performed live at their bar. They also relate that they did not expect such music could be created in Belarus. Now they know! In retrospect I can see that the mixing of music and a little bit of courage - like our tour - can bring people together and help bridge cultures.
After the tour Natalya returned to Minsk and composed a song called "Nano antenna". It speaks of a magical antenna which transforms the meetings of new people into positive energy which helps everyone to live.