Anna Pingina
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Anna Pingina

Moscow, Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Band Folk Rock




"Tradition as Endless Change: Anna Pingina and the Wild Mint Festival"

Last month the environs of Moscow witnessed the fourth annual Wild Mint festival (????? ????), proud in its status as the nation's largest folk and/or "ethno-"event in Russia. Expectations were high, since the festival in 2010 had attracted more than 25,000 visitors - not one of whom, allegedly, had broken the law in any form. The music, enjoyed by peaceful crowds, was also framed by a series of master-classes in traditional handicrafts, while other guests could learn half-forgotten dances at the hands of experienced choreographers. Both adults and children were equally welcome. In the words of organizers, "The Wild Mint Festival allows visitors to revisit their roots. Guests can fully experience the atmosphere of traditional celebrations - together with the joy of a modern carnival."
Given this inclusive, patriotic raison d'etre, many observers were surprised to learn that Moscow's authorities - with no great warning - had initially decided not to grant the event permission this year. Organizers were therefore obliged to seek a venue further from the city center - at greater inconvenience to local families.
The official reason for the change was that Wild Mint had now grown too large for the city. Upset by that stance, one Moscow journalist openly grumbled that "in a few year's time, we'll be holding the event somewhere beyond the Arctic Circle!" Kindred spirits, equally peeved at bureaucratic obstructionism, insisted that a festival designed to celebrate national, multiethnic society should actually be moved to the center of Moscow.
The complaints, of course, had no effect. Everybody, as a result, simply found some warmer clothing and headed out of town.
One of this year's performers was the artist Anna Pingina, who plays in a similarly-named ensemble with up to fourteen different colleagues, if we include studio work. Currently heading this considerable collective are Sergei Vishniakov (guitars/keyboards), Dmitrii Frolov (drums/percussion), and Oleg Drobinskii (pipes/assorted wind instruments). Beyond that initial trio, the musicians' listings can be long indeed.
Ms. Pingina's appeal to the Wild Mint Festival is clear, even from her worldview. One of her better-known programmatic statements reads as follows in translation. It serves to show the philosophical overlap between artist and event:
"Songs are born at the intersection of times, cultures, and ethnicities... The most interesting aspect of their development happens when somebody hears a traditional song - and then sings it in their own, special way. In doing so, they extend the song's life whilst giving it a unique melody or signature. Songs flow from region to region - and from people to people, too. It's never possible to say where they began."
At this point ethnography turns slowly into reverie.

Following the rationale of Ms. Pingina's observations, the very idea of "traditional" or folk song is removed from narrow patriotism, since she's talking about processes that predate political geography. That same conviction underlies some other quotes, in which interaction is more significant than stable boundaries: "The most important thing of all is coexistence between peoples - forms of collaboration through art, mutual respect, and love." The grand sweep of that closing phrase gives some indication of how hard folk music needs to work, lest it be shouted down by primetime razzle-dazzle.
Pingina's celebration of music as ongoing, mobile, and fleeting performance - beyond the rigid limits of profit and/or jingoism - is something she also embodies stylistically. Stepping outside of folk or "world" music, even, she has enjoyed considerable success on the Moscow stage in a number of mainstream musicals. It seems fair to say that the capital knows her better for that "secondary" role.
Away from the wigs and greasepaint, her transpositions of song from one (delimited) area to another, shuttling between nations and generations, remain in keeping with the outlook of Wild Mint. Her desire to connect text, melody, and landscape echoes the festival's increasing concern with ecological and environmental issues. The event nowadays sees itself more as a celebration of natural, rather than narrrowly national concerns.
Pingina's discussion of her newest album, "Moi" (My/Mine), shown above, confirms and continues that sentiment. She sketches a fantasy land- and soundscape for the band's creative output. Listeners are asked to imagine "pure, leisurely winds that move across the horizon, no matter which way you look. My voice will whisper tales [in that place] - and lament those things you've forgotten..."

It's interesting that Pingina's own family connection to national song and verse came not through field recordings or a rural childhood. Instead her earliest memories are of an uncle's vinyl collection, full of Soviet easy-listening ensembles and the soundtracks of cartoons. Somewhat ironically, it was that sugar-coated treatment of the folk canon that would begin her movement towards a more vivid, vibrant consideration of the same material. The songs that inspired her would later be avoided with great zeal.
Growing up as a girl with a rather deep voice (and sometimes mistaken by teachers for a boy!), she would acquire early choral skills through the Pioneers, where - once more because of her "sturdy" physique - she was given a bass guitar. The heaviest instrument and the spiritless traditions of the Pioneers nudged Pingina towards the spiritually-informed, profoundly lyrical air of folk song. One paradox after another.
And yet those linkages can, perhaps, only be drawn in retrospect - because the most lasting, bona fide connection to a traditional catalog would not manifest itself for several years. Only as a teenager, attending a regional festival, would she encounter the older, respectful folk repertoire that would change her life.
All the time, this leaning towards the past was tied with her modern enthusiasm for Bjork, Susanne Vega, and local luminaries such as Inna Zhelannaia, whose own work interweaves folk and rock lines. Elsewhere, she expresses equal enthusiasm for Sergei Starostin, Auktsyon, and Ukraine's DakhaBrakha. Rock and rural custom worked side by side.

As a result, she has never lapsed into a strictly academic repertoire - or voiced disrespect for contemporary modes. "We try to play relevant music that sounds up-to-date... The main thing is the idea behind the songs - the thoughts that you're trying to get across. Music should always be 'live' in the sense that it comes from nature, from the earth itself. Anything strictly folkloric should be transmitted through one's energy, in other words on some subconscious level, rather than taking the form of musical cliches."

"Music should always be 'live' in the sense that it comes from nature"

Here we can see Pingina's desire once more to align traditional stagecraft with the kinds of ecological motions that make generic "impurity" a form of progress, even. Put differently, the ebb and flow of nature itself, unconstrained by mapmakers, makes it both logical and easy for her to speak of a related, metaphorical movement across stylistic boundaries. In fact, one might argue, it's only through inconsistency that these songs remain vivid and outside of a museum; only change will keep tradition alive in ways that today's listeners find "relevant," as she says.
It's sad, therefore, that Pingina sees in much of today's folksong a tendency towards what she calls "musical fast food." Listeners want and expect that which they already know; these are the very cliches and stereotypes she fears can turn a living heritage into fossilized repetition. After all, many folk songs in prior centuries were designed as forms of consolation amid the dangerous whims of Mother Nature: they voiced (desperate) hopes for brief, transitory calm in a very unpredictable world. They make most sense, therefore, in situations of overriding risk and bona fide danger, rather than in banal advertisements or political campaigns.
Songs of love and/or family voice their greatest power in contexts where neither seems possible... for long.

Time and time again, the plaintive and powerful compositions by Anna Pingina draw upon elemental metaphors - not in the name of some constant, consoling chocolate-box aesthetic - but in order to celebrate their ongoing transience. She sees Russia's sung heritage as reflective of passage, alteration, and therefore disappearance. Born of nature, the constant risks of pre-modern experience, and in avoidance of profitable or politicized showiness, these songs must alter. Endlessly. The arrogance of authorship fades very quickly indeed.
This is especially true in the realm of Russian national media, where folk custom in prior decades had been loudly claimed by the extremes of primetime banality or civic fustian. Therefore the charm of song as private, essentially homeless, and endless variation is great indeed. Humility has much appeal in a noisy household. As a result, instead of some call to the unchanging values of a bygone age - or a related civic agenda, heaven help us - the catalog of Anna Pingina and her colleagues works to an opposing end. These musicians remove the clamor of modernity in favor of a forgotten, humbling membership in grander, quieter processes. open expanse where you're [finally] alone with your memory
Instead of half-imagined, poorly-constructed villages, full of hessian shirts and cheap mead, we find the following: Pingina's band currently hopes to evoke the sensation of some "open expanse where you're [finally] alone with your memory - since you've no idea of its depths." Profundity is made synonymous with distance: the further we move from modern habit, the better. Perhaps the Moscow authorities did the festival a favor.
Timeless movement starts where the crowds end - and prohibition fades out of earshot. - Far From Moscow

"Russian music returns to its roots"

Russia’s folk music scene has enjoyed an Irish invasion in recent years, with pipes and
fiddles playing away on festival stages from St. Patrick’s Day to Hallowe’en.
But far from representing a break with the past, singer Anna Pingina is out to show how “Celtic” sounds can be found in the roots of indigenous Russian music.
While her multi-talented colleague Oleg Drobinsky uses a range of instruments from Celtic countries – and from the Balkans, Moldova and Galicia – the roots of Russian musical culture have surprising links to the sounds of the opposite end of Europe.
“To an audience less familiar with the roots of Russian music certain vocal techniques may indeed sound Celtic,” Pingina told The Moscow News.
“But you’d be surprised to hear recordings of old babushkas using the exact same techniques made during various ethnological expeditions to the most remote areas of Russia.
“There has been a lot more interaction between nations – including a mixing of cultures – than it is now common to believe.”
Dumbing down
The loss of that historical thread came in Soviet times, when a brash new patriotism demanded a simplification of Russian folk culture – and lives on to this day in a media- approved view of “Russian-ness”.
“Only fragments of old harmonies and techniques have survived to the present day,” Pingina added. “It’s very sad that our countrymen lack this knowledge of our indigenous music and I feel blessed to have discovered this most unique and fertile path.”
New release
Pingina, who previously fronted folk fusion band Minus Treli, is now about to launch her first solo album, highlighting her folk interests.
But her other musical career has been far removed from Russian music – performing roles in big musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and West Side Story.
And the contrast between the two is not lost on her.
“Theatre shows are great opportunities to try on different hats, revisit and expand capabilities, but still remain someone else’s instrument,” Pingina said.
“With your own act, you can create unique worlds from scratch and gradually let a listener in.”
Long wait
It’s taken 15 years to release “Moi”, the first album, perhaps partly due to Pingina’s self- confessed “all but paranoiac perfectionism”.
“Some of the songs are fairly recent, but some were written as long as 10 years ago,” she added.
“These are the songs I really felt like letting go of, to set them free for a life of their own.
“However, we resisted the temptation to include all of our best on this record and, in fact, left a lot of the sexiest numbers for the next one. We cannot wait to starting working on the second release.” - The Moscow News

"Anna Pingina : « La terre du Kouban vous donne sa force, celle de Moscou vous mange »"

Anna Pinguina écrit et interprète ses chansons, mélange de musiques populaires russes, caucasiennes, balkaniques portées par une voix brisée par l’émotion. Rencontre entre deux concerts à Moscou.

Le Courrier de Russie : Parlez-nous de votre enfance.
Anna Pinguina : Je l’ai passée au Kouban. Beaucoup de gens disent que la terre y est forte, parce que tout y pousse. Alors qu’à Moscou la terre vous mange.

LCDR : Comment ressentez-vous cette force ?
A.P. : Elle influence les gens. Peut-être parce que j’y suis née, c’est un élément qui me nourrit, peut-être que n’importe qui peut dire la même chose pour sa patrie. Ma création, mes œuvres sont nourries de cette terre. J’ai commencé à chanter, à créer sur cette terre, je chantais déjà quand ma babouchka me promenait en poussette, je devais avoir moins de deux ans et avais alors une voix de basse, tout le monde me prenait pour un garçon !
LCDR : Une fois sortie de la poussette ?
A.P. : À trois ans, on m’a montré comment fonctionnait un tourne-disque et ma vie s’est alors mise à tourner autour de lui: je chantais et apprenais à reconnaître les premières, deuxièmes, troisièmes voix.
« À onze ans, j’ai créé mon premier groupe»
LCDR : Puis…
A.P. : Puis une période où j’allais au palais des Pionniers, c’était une enclave où on pouvait faire de la création de haute qualité. À onze ans, j’ai créé mon premier groupe, je jouais de la basse et je chantais. C’est à ce moment-là que j’ai compris que ça ne m’intéressait pas d’interpréter des chansons populaires écrites par d’autres, ça ne me parlait pas. J’ai alors compris qu’il fallait que je chante quelque chose que je crée moi-même, que je m’explose le cerveau.
LCDR : S’exploser le cerveau ?
A.P. : Oui, à quatorze ans, j’ai écrit ma première chanson. Puis j’ai commencé des tournées dans d’autres villes, dans des festivals locaux, jusque vers 16 ans.
« En écoutant de la musique populaire, j’ai eu comme un déclic »
LCDR : Quels étaient les thèmes de vos chansons ?
A.P. : Pas mes relations amoureuses mais mes sensations au contact de la nature, je me rappelle par exemple l’odeur des feuilles d’automne brûlées sur la route de Krasnodar. Plus tard, alors que j’écoutais une chanson populaire, j’ai eu comme un déclic, comme une onde liée à la terre, à la nature, aux traditions, j’ai attrapé cette onde et elle m’a portée toute seule.
LCDR : Pensez-vous que ça ait un lien avec vos origines ? 
A.P. : Mon grand-père était militaire et ma mère aimait beaucoup chanter mais comme ils déménageaient tout le temps, ils n’ont jamais pu avoir un piano. Mes grands-mères chantonnaient mais ça ne m’impressionnait pas, probablement des chansons cosaques. Heureusement pour moi, je n’ai pas d’origine cosaque et n’aime pas la musique de guerre, je n’aime rien de tout ce qui est lié à la guerre, la mentalité de la guerre qui est proche de la mentalité de la prison.
LCDR : Que pensez-vous de la musique russe ?
A.P. : Quand on dit la musique russe, il y a beaucoup de musiques différentes. En fait, chaque région subit l’influence de ses régions limitrophes et plus on rencontre de mélanges, plus la musique est intéressante. Je me suis intéressée à la musique balkanique, la musique du Caucase, de l’Arménie ou de la Géorgie, la force d’expression de la musique caucasienne est très grande, pourtant dans le monde, on ne la connaît pas du tout.
LCDR : Pourquoi à votre avis une telle force d’expression ?
A.P. : C’est aussi une question de terre, tout revient à la terre, partout au Caucase, tu trouves une belle nature. Je suis née au pied des montagnes caucasiennes, à Armavir ou « ville des vents ». La sensation que tu éprouves sur une montagne, quand tu regardes les villages qui t’entourent, c’est difficile à comparer avec quoi que ce soit, tout est tellement différent, grand, libre.
« Ce ne sont pas les paysages du Kouban qui ont formé l’âme russe »
LCDR : La Russie et vous ?
A.P. : C’est une question compliquée, il y a des « moi » qui se disputent et qui donnent des réponses différentes, je vis en Russie mais la région où je suis née n’est pas la Russie, pas vraiment la Russie, ce ne sont pas ces paysages qui ont formé l’âme russe, la mentalité des gens du Kouban est très particulière ; ils sont conservateurs, hypocrites et rusés et en même temps, il y a cette hospitalité des peuples du Sud, comme en Géorgie ou en Arménie, où on te nourrit jusqu’à ce que tu ne puisses plus te lever, cette bonté très forte.
LCDR : Et le Nord ?
A.P. : Je voulais toujours vivre au Nord mais le véritable Nord je crois que je l’ai rencontré en France. Ici, nous avons des bouleaux, des sapins, des arbres que vous avez du mal à identifier. J’ai été très déçue par ce manque de mélange. Pour moi, la Russie, ce n’est pas le bouleau, c’est le platane. Je suis ensuite allée en Sibérie et j’ai compris pourquoi les gens en parlent tant, il y a une bonté, une mentalité des gens qui y vivent… la mentalité est formée par le paysage.
LCDR : Comment décririez-vous la mentalité sibérienne ?
A.P. : Au Kouban, les gens sont contents quand tu arrives mais très rapidement ils te demandent quand tu comptes partir. En Sibérie, on ne te dit rien à ton arrivée mais on ne te demande pas non plus quand tu veux t’en aller. Les Sibériens, je les aime beaucoup, ils sont plus simples et c’est quelque chose de plus calme et de plus confortable, ils sont plus discrets et ils te diront plus facilement ce qu’ils pensent.
« Je ne sais pas si je peux vivre en dehors de Russie »
LCDR : Et ces autres « moi » alors, quelle est leur relation avec la Russie ?
A.P. : J’ai pensé à émigrer, je n’ai pas encore trouvé ma place, je compte visiter des endroits qui deviendront peut-être mes endroits mais que je ne connais pas encore. Je ne sais pas si je peux vivre en dehors de Russie, j’ai fait des voyages de plusieurs mois par exemple en Espagne, notamment en Galicie qui m’a fait penser au Caucase…
LCDR : Et quelle est l’influence à votre avis de ces lieux sur vos chansons ?
A.P. : Je vais vous donner un exemple. En écrivant une chanson, j’avais pensé au fait que les lieux s’ennuient des gens qui y ont vécu. Je l’ai chantée en concert et une femme est venue me voir, elle était Géorgienne, avait quitté son pays, elle m’a dit que ma chanson lui avait rappelé ses années d’évacuation pendant la guerre, elle a commencé à pleurer et personne ne comprenait. Elle m’a raconté tous ses souvenirs, la
guerre… sa patrie lui manque beaucoup, elle a compris tout ce que j’avais mis dans cette chanson. Vous voyez, les lieux s’ennuient des gens.
LCDR : Quelle est votre opinion sur la Russie d’aujourd’hui et de demain ?
A.P. : Je ne suis pas optimiste, je ne pense pas qu’un épanouissement nous attende. Je pense qu’il y a beaucoup de gens qui ont peur pour leur avenir. On comprend que les deux chefs de l’État ne se comportent pas de la pire façon mais il n’y a pas d’équilibre entre la sollicitude de l’image extérieure des autorités et ce qu’il se passe à l’intérieur. En même temps, quelle attitude adopter ? On a d’une part des gens qui vivent sans l’électricité et de l’autre, toute sorte d’opportunités pour les jeunes, bien plus que dans beaucoup de pays occidentaux.
LCDR : Vous avez des regrets ?
A.P. : Le manque de courage, en musique mais aussi dans la vie en général. Les gens ont peur de dire les choses qui leur importent vraiment.
« Tu dois être contagieux par tes idées. Sans cette contagion, rien n’arrive »
LCDR : Et le courage dans la musique ?
A.P. : Je suis têtue mais j’ai l’impression que j’aurais pu aller encore plus loin, plus de gens m’auraient écoutée si j’avais été moins timide. J’ai peur au fond que les gens n’aient pas envie d’entendre ce que j’ai à leur dire. J’aime Slava Polounine qui dit : tu dois être contagieux par tes idées, répandre un virus, une maladie, tu es venu et ça commence à vibrer tout seul, sans cette contagion rien n’arrive.
Propos recueillis par : JEAN-FÉLIX DE LA VILLE BAUGÉ
- Le Courrier de Russie

"Anna Pingina, ‘Moi’ (‘Mine’)"

It’s been 15 years in the making, but Anna Pingina — folk-inflected singer with the likes of Minus Treli and sometime star of the stage in big musicals — has finally released her first solo album. And despite a swirl of Celtic pipes around several of the songs, including the opening title track, she’s done her musicology and can confirm she’s offering the former sound of Russia. In a recent interview she explained that ethnological research showed that much of the original folk music of Russia shared instruments and techniques which are now far more closely associated with Celtic cultures. But the Soviet dumbing-down created a new, simplistic notion of an ersatz Slav culture, which lost many of its roots. So much for the theory, how does it work in practice? Mostly pretty well. Stand-out tracks include “Lastochka,” an outwardly simplistic ballad which hooks its way into your mind and stays there, and the pipe-laden “Solovei” (“Nightingale”), which tweaks expectations by rocking away quietly beneath the folkery. Blessed with a pleasing voice and backed up by a band that has got connections with all the right people on the folk rock scene, this is a welcome debut. Maybe it’s time for Pingina to move to a slightly bigger stage. - Element


"MOY" (Mine), 2010
"Bez golovy" (Headless) single, 2011
"XTPD" (2010) with Ilia Xmz, Pavel Timopheev, Evgeniy Dalskiy.



Anna Pingina is a singer, songwriter and actress, and artistic director of her own band.

Anna uses her music to create her own unique world – a world deeply rooted in indigenous tradition. Weaving together strands from musical traditions as diverse as Siberia and the Caucasus, Anna transports you to a magical plane, where her haunting voice hypnotizes you, especially if you are fortunate enough to see her live.

Anna burst onto the world music scene in 2010 with her debut album “Moy” (Mine), the culmination of fifteen years of immersion in ethnic music from across the Russian regions. A few months later, Anna released her single “Bez Golovy” (Headless), taking her talent as a singer and poetess in new directions. The band is now working on their next record, experimenting with ethnic and electronic music and psychedelic rock.

Anna is a regular performer at Russian famous festivals, ranging from Dikaya Myata and Nashestvie to Usadba-Jazz. Her music is also well known outside Russia, through her participation in the Kurarock festival in Finland, the Russian Weeks in Egypt, and a three-month tour across Spain. In 2011 Anna Pingina and her single “Lastochka” (Swallow) took first prize at the European music competition “Driven Creativity Competition 2011”. In March 2012 the album “Moy” (Mine) was nominated Best World Beat Album in the 11th Independent Music Awards.

Anna’s rich artistic background also includes performances in the Russian casts of several internationally renowned musicals: Fleur-de-Lis in Notre Dame de Paris, Maria Magdalena in Jesus Christ Superstar, Maria in West Side Story; as well as collaborations with Russian musicians across a spectrum of different styles, from fusion to electronica.