Around the Samovar is another hour-long set from the Russian folk music ensemble in the Washington, DC area that takes its name from the heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water in Russia, as well as in other locations. The heated water in a samovar is usually used for making tea, but the band says that their music is also enjoyable with something stronger too.
Antique samovars are often displayed for their beautiful workmanship, and the music of this eight-member folk music ensemble draws strongly from the traditional canon of favorite Russian, Ukrainian, and Roma (Gypsy) melodies. The most recognizable song is “Ey Ukhnem (Song of the Volga Boatmen)” which is sung by barge pullers on the river. With robust baritone voice, Nikita Wells calls to the others to heave, heave, heave. Most listeners of this kind of music will also immediately recognize “Ochi Chernyye (Dark Eyes),” a most famous minor-keyed Gypsy song that tells of love, sorrow, anguish and ruin.
The two female vocalists on the project (Olga Rines and Anya Titova) commonly sing about love and rejection. Both are song carriers who are preserving messages and themes of their traditional musical heritage. Songs are driven by feelings of the heart, but there are also references to the mountains, trees, garden, and stars. As on their previous album (Some More of Our Best), these natural elements calm one’s heart or serve as parties in lyrical conversations that question or provide advice.
We also hear many lively songs and dances, most played in fast and crisp fashion. When the “Hutsulka Kolomeyka (Ukrainian Hutsul Dance)” cues up at track 10, I feel gratitude that this dance form is so very much alive and well in the Ukraine today.