Don’t judge a book by its cover...or a CD, for that matter!
Much to my chagrin, I received a copy of Pelagea’s Devushki Pesni as a gift some time ago. It was placed on a shelf and there it stayed, still wrapped in its protective cellophane – until now. There was something about Pelagea’s inane grin that doused my enthusiasm for finding new music. She looked ditzy, like she would sing sugary pop music, and (to be honest) a little unhinged!
This holiday I took the plunge and was more than pleasantly surprised by an upbeat feisty voice that reminded me of Canadian songstress Nelly Furtado. The surprise did not end there. The 22-year-old from Novosibirsk (Pelagea is the lead singer’s actual name as well as that of the band), who has already been in the industry for 14 years, demonstrates her vocal skills, range, and ability to tackle a number of genres. The album lends itself to a mixture of modern and traditional, from folk and pop to chillingly classical sounds and Latino beats.
Pelagea is no stranger to fame. Although singing since the age of eight and known as a child prodigy, she was formally introduced to the industry when popular TV host Dmitry Dibrov asked her to appear on his show, Anthropology at Eleven. Then this girl from Siberia formed her band and moved to Moscow.
Her love and use of traditional Russian folk music made her an unlikely hit. She chose to sing and write songs that were heavily influenced by such traditions at a time when many were bypassing their roots to embrace the West. Some may consider it a risky move, yet with the gift of a voice such as hers perhaps she did not see it as such a gamble. Perhaps her love for folk would be enough to win over the most hard-headed critics? And Pelagea’s music, performances, and attitude have won her and her band acclaim from a variety of places. Former French President Jacques Chirac compared her to Edith Piaf, and she has recorded with UK band Depeche Mode.
Although not all tracks are successful (one or two resemble late 1980s cheese, while some others are long and lack direction), this CD was a revelation this summer. I only wish I had listened to it sooner. I promise not to be so judgemental next time!
To learn more about Pelagea, visit www.pelagea.ru (in Russian and English).