KAMWA, the mythological name of the Kama River, brings together the elements of KAM (human or shaman) and WA (water). A privilege it was to be invited to sing at this multi-faceted, soul stirring, Ethno-Futurist festival, 40km out of Perm, in Russia…
Notes along the way:
20 hour journey from Sofia. The world is my bedroom. Startling ability developed – to be able to sleep upright and anywhere – even on the bumpy bus ride out to the festival site, as a blood-red sun rises over the damp fields. Gravel roads and a million wild flowers. Log homes. I mean, whole trees. A people living in the embrace of sleeping trees… and who tend to their windows.
Tents, sculptures and stages nest in the ample fields of Khokhlova Architectural Museum. Art-full installations: a forest of bird houses, a grand piano made of willow, a giant boar and his piglets in perpetual trot, as tall as a man and made of driftwood.
Bejeweling the plateau, the 300 year old Church of Transfiguration. I fell in love with this building. The spirit of the wood captured me. Or was it the scent engulfing my body. Or was it the light shafts, so magnetic. Or the silence of a naturally breathing protection. Or the sound of the wind through the gaps – a faint allusion to the bright world outside… Home, as if in a timeless ship, a loft, a womb – the skin of the wood worn smooth by human touch. Grace energy is stored in this place. I couldn’t tear myself away. Hours.
These beaming grannies teach me how to say spasibo(a). How far can my Bulgarian language carry me in Russia? Some words in common. But a lot not. Good will and gestures do the rest.
Festival goers wade chest-high into the fields of flowers, and emerge crowned in colour. Summer time praises. We are amongst the earthly delights, while giant kites keep watch from above.
Break-though learning: Inna makes me cry with the raw and true spirit of her calling. Luiza bewitches me with the refinement of her vocal ornaments. I realize these are the two qualities I seek in my vocal practice. I get the chance to try the blend out on stage, not once, but 5 times over the festival days. How to craft but surrender. How to be wild but reassuring. How to lead but follow. How to raise the dead and soothe the living? How to serve the timeless laws of the water and the sun. In song. Ambitious. Devotional.
A compliment that lands deep: “I really like your voice. It’s like the sound of whales and birds gathered together.” Conversation leads to ancient symbols, where a fish carries the human and upon the human, is perched a bird. Being bridges between earth and sky.
An invitation to Moscow. You will have everything you need if you come to play there – food, drink, striptease… !¿ Explanation: “A musician takes everything off, until there is nothing left but the soul. I don’t know of any more complete striptease than this.”
Beautiful encounters. Luiza. Mario. Dmitri. Oleg. Inna. Singing through the night. Through. The songs we belong to. Not the ones that belong to us. Traditional vessels. Such magnitude. Space to bloom. Singing songs from my grandmothers, and from others’ grandmothers, imbued with today’s finest heart flavors.
The last night, a stage to ourselves. I mean, to all the brilliant musicians from eclectic places who have colored the stages over 3 days. An open minded audience. Who wants to play? The capacity to begin, without knowing where we will go… One time. Present. Lose yourself. Win each other. Somewhat possessed. We all rode it home.
A stealthy lioness of a humble woman runs this festival. She says she hopes we will leave with a little piece of their heart in us. That despite the darkness and difficulty to imagine a future sometimes, these 3 days give her an annual experience of freedom. Liyon. Len. Linen. Gifts. Of ancient grasses grown onsite. And traditional bread.
4am departure to fly back to Sofia with the Kottarashky crew. Others will take the 30hr train ride to Moscow/Moskva. Humbled.
A spontaneous audio capture of Andrey Vinogradov’s exquisite Vielle a Roue play is accompanied below by some images gleened along the way. Unseen are the thousands of punters and most of the bigger stage shows, as my favorite time to contemplate (and take pictures) was in those quieter moments…