BELARUS: Try Čarapachi - N.R.M.
Updated: Feb 9
The band earn their deserved popularity with their creation of their greatest hit; an anthem that transcends appreciation at concert venues and ventures instead into the deeply political
Here at 200worldalbums.com we pride ourselves on our USP as the first people to have listened to and reviewed at least one album from each country across the world. We make it very clear to be reviewers of albums, rather than simply individual songs, as we believe that the album as a musical medium serves to give a more complete impression of what it is an artist sets out to do and what it is they are capable of achieving. However, in the case of N.R.M’s 14th album release Try čarapachi one is put in the rather awkward situation of being distracted by the glory of one song, the title-track, that the rest of the record may appear to be somewhat glossed over for an album-focused site.
“...when you make a song that bangs so hard that someone like me has caught myself bouncing up and down on my bedroom floor chanting “Chej la-la-la-laj, Ty nie čakaj, ty nie čakaj” on numerous occasions, you know that you are onto a winner.”
To understand why it is that I am left feeling completely unapologetic about why this review will focus predominantly on the song Try čarapachi there is a simple solution – listen to it. I assure you that listening to the track will give you a small insight into why I am totally obsessed with it. Musically, it’s a stone cold banger. I am not the biggest rock fan in the world, nor do I exactly have a firm grip of the Belarussian language, but when you make a song that bangs so hard that someone like me has caught myself bouncing up and down on my bedroom floor chanting “Chej la-la-la-laj, Ty nie čakaj, ty nie čakaj” on numerous occasions, you know that you are onto a winner.
Nevertheless, the fact that musically I am obsessed with the melody of this wholly loveable rock song, is rather here nor there. In fact, the reality is that on this album it might be the only song I can truly say that I like. Though there are a couple of tracks that I don’t mind, such as Katuj-ratuj there are a sufficient number of songs like Katlet-matlet that veer too close on the side of metal for my taste, even though they are of course just hard-rock songs, for me to even take issue with the album overall. However, the reason why I am not going to go on a rampage, labelling N.R.M. as “one-hit-wonders” is due to the fact that even though their style of rock may be slightly incompatible with my musical preferences, all I have for the band is just respect and admiration. Their hard-rock style is perfect for what they want to, achieve, and not only that but the zeal with which they sing and play is understandable when their music is put into a political context.
Hailing from what was previously deemed as Europe’s last dictatorship, an honour which they can now share with Hungary, N.R.M have been performing since the 1980s. The band have never played in what an outsider would call a truly ‘free’ Belarus, having existed from before their first and only President, Alexander Lukashenko, took office. The group’s members are very aware of this tragic irony and as such have been using their music as a medium for political satire and protest. Even their name N.R.M., which they adopted months after Lukashenko’s tenure as leader begun, acts as a sideways swipe towards the dictatorship; it stands for ‘Niezaležnaja Respublika Mroja’ which translates to ‘Independent Republic of Dreams’ in English.
The album Try čarapachi has a series of what one can only presume to be political skits mocking the government. This opposition to the ruling powers temporarily got them unofficially banned for several years in 2006, with their songs blacklisted by broadcasters in their homeland. Yet, despite attempts at censorship, the aforementioned title-track on their 2000 release has taken on a new meaning for much of the Belarussian population with it almost reaching anthemic status at the dismay of the government. Though the song if taken literally is about ‘three turtles’, it is understood by the masses to have a deeper meaning. The use of 'turtles' as a satirical device, comes from the age-old myth that elephants, turtles and whales support the earth. As such, the song speaks to a society that is fed up of a government that perserveres with its false truths. What's more, even the fact that the song is sung in Belarussian is inherently a political statement, opposing Lukashenko’s cowering to the Russians that has meant that despite being a country that is majority ethnically Belarussian, only 20% of the population speak the Belarussian language in favour of Russian.
Videos of the song being sung by the masses are aplenty. On YouTube you can find renditions of the tune by disenfranchised students at the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics, Dinamo Minsk ice hockey fans on the road in the Czech Republic or even at the June 2011 silent protests. However, the most notable example comes from lead vocalist and guitarist Pete Pawlaw, who, at the ongoing clashes in Belarus that begun last year, was recorded passionately belting out the anthem directly under the noses of armed militia as he and others peacefully protested the dictatorship and its persistent actions of political repression. The video below is beautiful and heart-warming reminding us of the weapon that music can be in fighting injustice and demonstrates a bravery of a band who regardless of how much I enjoy the rest of their music on the album, I appreciate and value more than most.