Super limited edition of 200, with 20 page booklet
Decades ago, record shops of a certain renown would be well stocked with records such as Winter Songs, Wedding Songs - Folkways, Arion, Nonesuch's Explorer series ++ offering up sonic ethnographies documenting diverse and disparate communities and their attendant cultural expressions and practices. The motivations may not have been entirely philanthropic - not forgetting that Seeger, just like Malinowski before him, didn't always have the purest of intentions - but they did nonetheless bring wider stage to marginal voices and unexplored terrain. Save for a few committed outposts, nostalgia fetishism has largely taken the place of such pursuits, journeys into (sometimes not even) forgotten pasts more appealing (and financially rewarding) than giving voice to the currently unrepresented. Amassed via the decade-long research of Tetiano Chukno, this collection of old Ukrainian folk song sung by groups of women from the villages of Mykolaiv does a fine job of splitting the difference between the two approaches, delving into long standing histories while also communicating the value of enduring cultural experiences and identity. Near-all of these songs are in the vocal tradition, the extensive accompanying booklet informing me of subject matter covering the titular winter and weddings, but also sex, love and friendship, alongside the more prosaic concerns of food and health. In light of Russia's attempts of cultural genocide, it feels like an important document. Free of that context, if such a thing is even possible now (though noting that this is a project with roots that long pre-date the invasion), it's a spirited collection equal parts morose and joyful, defined by its own idioms but familiar in its expression of the universal human condition. In a time of enforced division and violence, evidence of commonality via the expression of difference feels near utopian. Edition of 200.