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A reportage from an alternative music fest

 

The twelfth youth festival, Nivroku, of what is known in Ukraine as alternative music, was held in the pleasantly quiet city of Ternopil, Western Ukraine, on October 1516 2005.

Even the name of the festival, Nivroku, carries semantic alternatives (the word can mean  not so bad; the way it should be; more than enough; it could be used when you wish someone good luck  Keep going! Keep it up!; it would be very difficult to translate this word outside a specified context  tr.). Besides, it offers a possibility of wordplay, since the second part of the word is suggestive of the Ukrainian word rik  year, used in the dative case roku.

Maksym PROTSKIV, WU senior editor, who was in Ternopil to attend the festival, shares his impressions.

 

There are several music festivals held in Ukraine annually but only at two of them alternative music is played. One of them is Nivroku. All of the performers who come to play at Nivroku are young and only begin their musical careers. Such is the position of the festival  to invite only budding musicians, and the organizers stick strictly to this format. Nivroku may give the musicians the desired push and launch them into orbit of big-time music. Another feature of the festival  all the songs must be performed only in Ukrainian. According to Yurko Zeleny, Nivroku spokesperson, using Ukrainian in songs in the post-soviet Ukraine is an alternative to using Russian and English which are the languages of the pop music mainstream. No one of the participants is paid anything for performing at the festival  musicians play for the sake of playing rather than for money. All of these things put together create a carefree, youthful atmosphere  something that a youth festival should have.

 

At the same time, the carefree atmosphere does not mean lack of good organization. The festival was held for the twelfth time and the experience accumulated over the years helped the organizers a lot in getting things run smoothly. But on the other hand, the economic and social situation in western Ukraine which is close to what could be described as precarious, posed a lot of problems in the logistics. Nevertheless, the organizers provided good rooms in the Hotel Ternopil, sightseeing tours for the journalists, parties and receptions, music sessions at Ternopil restaurants  all of which contributed to the festive atmosphere of the event. A party held at the end of the first day of the festival at the Restaurant Shynok at which I was present, turned out to be a memorable experience. Particularly striking was the performance of the post-grunge singer from the post- grunge band Etwas Unders from Kyiv. She presented a very expressive improvisation on the Latin American themes in such a manner that all the drunken talk  the party had been going on for quite some time when she began singing  was suspended, drinking and eating stopped and everybody listened. The girl looked very young and slender but there was sophistication in her eyes. Her singing that had no words in it  just the voice, accompanied by guitars and tambourines, playing around with the fiery themes, gave me a feeling of euphoria and at the same time there was a warning of the dangers that alternatives always hold.

The day before the festival opened, the journalists were taken on the extensive tour of the Land of Ternopilshchyna. This tour was organized thanks to Sashko Dombrovsky, head of the Nivroku society and president of the Ternopil Rock Club (he has been president of the club for several years) with the help of a tourist consulting council, and with the financial backing of the chain of stores Grand Tour. Among the places we were taken to, was the Cave Verteba where we enjoyed the sight of stalactites and stalagmites but I may tell you that I was happy to get back to the surface, back to the sunshine and fresh air. As far as I am concerned, no marvels in the caves or the beauty of the crystals shining in the artificial light can rival the glory of the sun. But I did not really mind that bit of cave exploration as it was an alternative experience too. There is also a sort of a museum of the ancient Ternopil culture artifacts to be found in that cave. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few caves in the Land of Ternopilshchyna  welcome to the alternative experience.

There was a serendipitous discovery on that tour too. In the vicinity of the village of Nyrkiv, about 130 kilometers south of Ternopil, we were shown a sort of a rocky canyon, or rather a valley with a river running on its bottom. The flat plain around does not prepare you in any way for this unexpected and most impressive sight. What I saw on an island in the river was even more unexpected  there, on a rocky hill, stood two huge man-made towers which must have been part of a castle or a fortress. Their size suggested that it must have been a very big castle, indeed. But who built a castle at such an unlikely place, in the middle of nowhere?

When we climbed down to have a better look, I saw the ruins, behind the towers of what must have been a big church in the late Gothic style. Another surprise came when I met a group of monks who, as it turned out were there to protect the ruins from vandalism. The monks were not sure when or by who the castle and the church were built, but they said there were unexplored underground passages under the ruins, stretching for many miles. In the land of caves such a piece of information, even if not substantiated, was not something that you would reject as just an invention of the eager imagination. Didnt the cave I had visited have dozens of kilometers of natural corridors and passages which stretched, as I was told, for dozens of kilometers? Further down the river, we saw a waterfall which looked quite natural but which had appeared after the old hydroelectric power station was demolished. A beautiful waterfall as an alternative to an old, ugly and useless power station?

Our tour was part of a big project to develop the tourist infrastructure in the Land of Ternopilshchyna and I did see with my own eyes that there were a lot of places there that could attract thousands upon thousands of tourists. Ternopilshchyna could be really a tourist bonanza but there seems to be little done to actually promote tourism  a group of journalists taken on a tour does not qualify as an influx of tourists.

 

The city of Ternopil was very badly damaged during WWII. There was a lot of fierce fighting in and around the city when the Red Army was forcing the Nazi Germans out of Ukraine which had been under the Nazi occupation for about three years. The Germans had built strong defences and only very active shelling and air raids broke down their resistance. The city was rebuilt after the war but it did not lose its pre-war charm.

The people of Ternopil are rather conservative in their habits. They go to bed early and rise early. On Sunday mornings, the city is inundated with the ringing of church bells. The conservative mood of the city for some reason did not clash with the appearance of the young people who had come to the festival with painted faces, wearing long hair, black leather jackets, tattoos, metal chains on their clothes and having other attributes typical of young culture. The appearance may be misleading  when at one of the parties, a young man with dishevelled hair, and wearing all other accouterments of a follower of progressive rock culture joined me at my table and started talking about the poetry of Rimbaud, and Verlaine, and of the surrealists and of the drinks they liked I admit I was much surprised at first but it took me only a couple of minutes to adjust.

 

The music at the festival was played in the open air and neither the cold air nor the rain which were typical for this time of year in Ternopil prevented young people  and most of the audiences were made up of young people  from attending the shows which lasted from ten in the morning until eleven at night. The MCs, Pavlo Farionchuk and Yurko Zeleny were very helpful in maintaing the buoyant mood, providing jokes, contests in addition to information about the performers. There was a lot of local beer available free, but it was not the beer that kept the audiences enthusiasm high  it was the music performed by better or lesser known groups such as Faktychno sami, Quadressima, Niahara and Borshch from Kyiv, Imola from Ternopil, Od vinta from Rivne, Khorta from Zaporizhzhya and Da Bith from Odesa. The audiences showed their enthusiasm by all the traditional means available to rock audiences, creating a lot of additional noise.

When the performances were over, the big park, where the stage was erected, and the big lake nearby grew eerily quiet  until next year. Nivroku, Ternopil!

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