Отава Ё is a folk music group founded in St. Petersburg, Russia. This popular folk fusion group started in 2003 as the side project of two bands – Reelroad and Tales of the Forest. The two members of Reelroad, Alexey Belkin and Alexei Skosyrev, paired up with two members of Tales of the Forest, Dmitry Shikhardin and Pyotr Sergeev, creating what is today known as Отава Ё. Several other members were added to the band, including: Vasily Telegin, Denis Nikiforov, Yulia Usova, and Lina Kolesnik. The eight-member band uses various instruments to create their folk fusion sound – bagpipes, psaltery, violin, percussion, and guitars.
Their name, Отава Ё, literally means “in the aftermath of Ё,” with “Ё” being a Russian letter on verge of being antiquated mostly because it doesn’t fit comfortably on modern keyboards because Russian has more letters than English. Traditionalists morn this, as the letter is increasingly replaced by an unaccented “E,” which appears similar but which is pronounced differently. In short, the name hearkens to tradition and older, often better ways of doing things before technology took over.
Above: “The Tale of Ivan Groove” was the band’s breakout hit. They call the style “Russian Gothic R’n’B.”
Their debut album, “Под аптекой” (Under the Pharmacy) was released in 2005. The album had a fair amount of success, as did several of their following releases. Their breakout album, “Жили-Были” (Once Upon A Time), was released in 2009. This album included their first major hit, “Про Иване Groove” (The Tale of Ivan Groove), which gained traction on YouTube in 2012, reaching nearly 22 million views.
Indeed, and perhaps ironically, YouTube and other Internet platforms have been keys to this indie band’s success. They release all their music independently via online platforms. Their videos are all beautifully shot and often feature complex and comical choreography. The band is usually dressed as caricatures of Russians – whether from the provinces or from St. Petersburg high society, but they use clowning techniques to allow their characters to still feel likable and genuine as the viewer is invited to appreciate watching someone simply enjoy being who they are.
Above – “Sumetskaya” is the group’s most popular video it is a “chastushki” – a humorous Russian traditional song form that uses call-and-response – about Russians fighting each other.
In 2015, Отава Ё had released their most successful song to date, “Сумецкая” (Sumetskaya), which went viral on YouTube, setting a record for the most watched music video for a Russian folk band in 2018. Today, the video has achieved nearly 50 million views.
After 2015, the group took a break for a couple of years – returning in 2018 with the release of their new album, “Любишь ли ты” (Do You Love). Although they have never topped the success of “Сумецкая,” the band continues to release music, make fun music videos, and keeps a fairly active calendar of live performances, mostly in Russia. Additionally, they have performed their music live at many festivals across the world, including the: Wild Mint, WOMAD, World of Siberia, and the Kaustinen Folk Festival.
The music of Отава Ё makes you want to get up and dance and gives you a glimpse into traditional cultures of times past in Russia.
Above: “By The River” is a slightly different video with the band dressed for a turn-of-the-century high society tea party as they sail through the canals of modern St. Petersburg.