Zulya and The Children of the Underground
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Zulya and The Children of the Underground

Band World Folk


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"A journey rich in sound and life"

Ten years ago, Zulya Kamalova released Journey into Voice - her debut recording as a professional musician in Australia. And it has been richly rewarding to follow Kamalova's journey as a singer over the past decade.
In particular, her career has progressed in leaps and bounds since she curbed her gypsy-like restlessness (ever so slightly) and formed a permanent band.
The Children of the Underground has been the singer's band since 2003 and were in exceptionally fine form on Saturday night as Kamalova launched her latest CD, Three Nights.
The show opened with a cool but compelling set from support act Tangazo. Inspired by electro-tango groups such as the Gotan Project, this adventurous Melbourne quartet played semi-improvised originals dotted with fragments of Astor Piazzolla tunes.
There were flashes of tango, too, in Kamalova's extended set. White Wind Tango strode purposefully in 5/4, while Hear How She Grows began and ended with a darkly swirling tango nuevo feel. The latter piece also incorporated a playful disco section where Kamalova's wordless vocals followed Lucas Michailidis' guitar and pulsed against the chugging rhythm of Justin Marshall's drums and Anthony Schulz's accordion.
The CD's title, Three Nights, refers to the three languages in which Kamalova sings: Russian, Tatar (the culture into which she was born) and English.
Most of Saturday's repertoire was sung in Russian, from the melancholic The Night is Dark to the slightly zany Clocks, with breathless lyrics that danced wonkily like a clown on a unicycle.
Kamalova's four Children (of the Underground) are as boldly imaginative as the singer herself, adding unexpected textures - bassist Andrew Tanner's pinging jew's harp on We Twelve Girls; Schulz's mariachi swagger on Love Hunter - that push the band well beyond the realm of quaint or folksy world music.
As an encore, Kamalova sang an a cappella version of a traditional song from Tatarstan - a song, she explained, that means a lot to every Tatar. There were very few Tatars present on Saturday, but the wistfulness in Kamalova's voice conveyed a sense of yearning with absolute clarity, as she evoked the memory of a home that exists only in her heart. Jessica Nicholas
- The Age

"Stylish Russian singing backed by Antipodean brilliance"

4 stars.
An intriguing one this. Zulya is a singer-songwriter from Tatarstan in central Russian, resident in Australia for the past decade and recipient of many awards in her adopted homeland. For her forth album, she turns away from Tatar culture in her first all-Russian-language outing. The result - stylistically lying somewhere between the vibrant new Moscow acoustic scene and 70-s Soviet jazz - is a delight.
What strikes you immediately is not just the confident purity of Zulya's voice, but the quality of the writing and arranging. The omnipresent Russian themes of displacement, love and yearning are familiar, but what makes this disc special is the delicacy of the arrangements, veering from tragicomic circus on "Does it matter" and the funk ska-scat "I can't sleep" to moody accordion and bowed double-bass on the folksy love song "A good reason".
Zulya's excellent new four-piece band, The Children of the Underground, deserve special mention, as does the quality of the recording and production. I'm not sure if an Australian band has ever been nominated for the BBC's Awards for World Music, but on the strength of this, it's about time.
Jonathan Walton
- Songlines

"3 Nights"

A native of the Tatarstan-Udmurtia region of Central Russia but living in Australia since early 90’s, singer, musician and songwriter Zulya Kamalova is something of an undiscovered treasure. The songs on 3 Nights are sung in Russian, Tatar and a little in English, making it unconventional from the get-go, but this is the music that is set to cross cultures through its beauty and warmth. Centre stage is Zulya’s warm pure voice that is powerful and vulnerable in equal measure. Her music seems to sit somewhere between Kurt Weill-ish Euro-Cabaret jazz and lullabies constructed to tear your heart out. Accordions with waltz timing get frequent airings throughout the album but Zulya keeps the pace changing, landing us into other often even more surprising territory such as the oompah of Clocks and the Russian reggae (is there such thing? There is now.) of Princess. There are many highlights on this record, prefaced by the brief music box of Nevalyashka is The Night is Dark, a sort of a chamber music lullaby that feels like it could grind the planet to a halt with sheer force of beauty. Hear how she grows is a knock-out (one of the numerous written or co-written by Kamalova) with its fascinating hard-to-pin-down rhythms vocal spirals and music somewhere between lounge and a folk dance. White Wind Tango makes me feel like wearing a beret and drinking absinth and The Wolf and the Moon may make you want to dance on the nearest café table. There’s the also (Weill-ish) swirling carousel cabaret of Love Hunter (with castanets) and the traditional but kooky We Twelve Girls propelled by mouth harp percussion. The previously mentioned Princess sounds like Marlene swanning around on uppers and include Morrissey-wishes-he-thought-of-it lyric “I have fallen in love with you for the reasons I invented myself”. This is a very personal sounding album but also feels at times like being present in a nightclub and at others in a sort of a crepuscular netherworld. The lullaby The Nights is Long, seems a perfect way to end this excellent collection with Zulya’s warm sweeping vocals enticing us to slumber. Wayne Davidson. - Inpress

"Equal doses of melancholy and joy"

5 stars
Even since her 2005 album The Waltz of Emptiness went ballistic, Tatar/Russian singer Zulya Kamalova has been receiving well-deserved international accolades. A world citizen who’s been living in Australia since the early 90s, it seemed like Zulya had finally found the perfect formula for showcasing her remarkably versatile voice – wrapping it warmly around the cosy backing of her talented band The Children of the Underground.
Two years on, and for what is her fifth album, she’s not only matched the brilliance of The Waltz, but perhaps even bettered it. The most obvious difference in 3 Nights is her use of English on several songs. While this might have stripped away some of the mystery from her more exotic-sounding lyrics, Zulya has instead used it to her advantage. Sprinkling it in on the bi-lingual songs ‘How Lovers Fail and Fall (All Bad)’, she’s also featured it hauntingly on Love Hunter and the wistful Forgotten Song.
But the Tatar/Russian lyrics still dominate and weather she’s exploring folk-based songs of deep yearning or indulging in high-spirited cabaret whimsy, it’s Zulya’s astonishing vocal range and emotional energy that provides the musical glue. Once again the individual skills of the excellent band are central to the album’s success, their intricate arrangements perfectly shadowing her voice. Swinging like a Bolshevik Marlene Dietrich, Zulya and the Children of the Underground are able to strike a deft balance between melancholic sadness and the unbridled joy that is never too far away. Seth Jordan
- Songlines

"A wonderful metamorphose from countrygirl to city melancholic"

4,5 stars
Still singing about the wide Tartarstan on former albums, she finally made it to Moscow. Latter is displayed by numerous stylistic devices:
Sometimes chanson-like with musette and electric-guitar-dripping, but then again using a wind instrument band to make fun of the urban busyness and a vibraphone joins in at the way to the metro. All of it on a search for home with heart touching/heartbreaking vocals.
Rolling Stone April 2005 - Rolling Stone (Germany)


"3 Nights", 2007, 16 weeks in the top 10 of the European World Music Charts, ARIA Award for best world music album.
"The Waltz of Emptiness (and Other Songs on Russian Themes"), 2004, 16 weeks in the top 20 of the European World Music Charts.
"elusive", 2002
"Aloukie", 1999, World Music album of the year 2000, Australian World Music Awards
"Journey of Voice", 1997



Multi award-winning ZULYA and the Children of the Underground are by far one of the most intriguing and unique acts in Australia, and indeed the world. They play exquisitely arranged original music inspired by ZULYA’s Tatar and Russian roots. Since ZULYA’s move to Australia in 1991 she has developed a totally original approach as an affirmation of her unique identity – an affirmation that takes her Tatar and Russian background to totally new places and in completely new ways. ZULYA has independently produced five albums to date, including the ARIA winning 3 Nights (2007) and magical The Waltz of Emptiness (and Other Songs on Russian Themes)(2004) – both of which upon their release in Europe spent 16 weeks in the top 10 of the European world music charts – a feat no other Australian album has ever achieved. Although she is well-known in Australia, ZULYA’s performances of her stunning blend of traditional and original music have recently been enchanting audiences from Serbia to Siberia, Luxembourg to Moscow, Tatarstan to Helsinki and almost everywhere in between.

A native of Tatarstan-Udmurtia region of Central Russia, ZULYA began performing Russian and Tatar songs at the age of 9. Later she studied music and languages at university level. She made a dramatic decision to settle in Australia in 1991and inspired by the diversity of cultures began to share her music with Australians. ZULYA's first release in Australia, Journey of Voice (1997), a unique collection of vocal styles and traditions received accolades for its versatility, passion and the “achingly beautiful” tone of her voice. In the following years, Australian audiences have been able to witness the continuing rise of this unique musical treasure. ZULYA's later albums, Aloukie (1999) and elusive (2002) have also been released in Europe and have been awarded and nominated for various awards - the World Music Album of the Year 2000 at the Australian World Music Awards (Aloukie) and ARIA 2003 (elusive). These albums feature traditional and original songs in her distinctive Tatar style but with unusual instrumentation, presenting the traditional music from a new perspective. Several tracks from these albums have been included in various compilations such as Putumayo's Music from the Tea Lands and Dreamland along with many others. ZULYA's work has been repeatedly featured on national radio and television to high acclaim, and she was also awarded "Female Artist of the Year" at the World Music Awards (2001) and Best World Music Artist by Australian Live Music Awards (2002). ZULYA has worked with Bob Brozman, Nikola Parov, Slava Grigoryan, Sirocco, Llew Kiek and Epizo Bangoura among others.

Since beginning collaboration with The Children of the Underground (Anthony Schulz – accordion, Lucas Michailidis – electric guitar, Andrew Tanner – double bass, Justin Marshall – drums) in 2003, ZULYA’s music has further developed in surprising and intriguing directions. The band brings a new level of sophistication in arrangement and musicianship to ZULYA’s work, immediately apparent in highly –acclaimed The Waltz of Emptiness (2004) and 3 Nights (2007). These two albums showcase the band’s impressive facility with their instruments, and listeners are struck by their talent for the composition of sublime melodies. ZULYA and The Children of the Underground continue to dazzle audiences with their passion for music and outstanding musicianship and during the last few years have performed at many major venues and festivals in Europe, Russia, Tatarstan, and Australia, including The Moods (Zurich, Switzerland), Kulturbrauerei (Berlin, Germany), Savoy Teatteri (Helsinki, Finland), Szene and SARGFABRIK (Vienna, Austria), Kulturfabrik (Luxembourg), Red Square (Moscow, Russia), Piramida (Kazan, Tatarstan), Living Water Festival (Altai Mountains, Siberia), Red Club (St.Petersburg, Russia), WOMADELAIDE (SA), QPAC - Women in Voice (Qld), Sydney Opera House (NSW), The Basement (NSW), Iwaki Auditorium, Bennetts Lane and Northcote Social Club (Vic), National Folk Festival (ACT), 10 Days On The Island Arts festival (Tas), Woodford Folk Festival (Qld), Brisbane Biennial Festival of Music (Qld), Apollo Bay Music Festival (Vic), Kulcha (WA), Musician in Residence Program, Aboriginal communities (NT) etc.
5 stars “What strikes you immediately is not just the confident purity of Zulya’s voice, but the quality of writing and arranging….. Swinging like a Bolshevik Marlene Dietrich, Zulya and the Children of the Underground are able to strike a deft balance between melancholic sadness and the unbridled joy that is never too far away…….” Songlines, UK.
4 and 1/2 stars Rolling Stone, Germany.
4 stars "Her band is exquisite.. but it's [Zulya’s] rich, emotive vocals that shine. Her shimmering high register and swooping pitch-perfect lower range flutters and skips from to song to song with ease...It's an incredibly sophisticated and brilliant instrument", The Age, Australia