A group of musicians from Belarus, Ukraine, and Ohio discover a shared story about music and oppression.
By Chad J. Reich, Yes, May 3, 2021
Belarusian musician and activist Siarhei Douhushau was in Chicago in March 2019 on a U.S. tour presenting folk art and music from his Eastern European home.
Nadzeya Ilkevich, then a second-year graduate student at Ohio University, caught wind and lured her friend and fellow countryman to Athens, Ohio — an Appalachian foothill college town of about 40,000 — to perform traditional Belarusian songs using flutes and a hurdy-gurdy, which is a hand-cranked hybrid of a violin and small piano.
Brett Hill was at Jackie O’s — a popular “uptown” brewpub — that night. Hill is the frontman for Hill Spirits, a modern Appalachian folk quartet based in southern Ohio.
“We asked Siarhei if he wanted to jam the next night,” Hill said. “Fortunately enough, he did want to. … The evening was spent feasting, drinking, singing, shouting, and growing to learn of each other’s traditions for the first time.”
Among the Madness, Someone Yelled, “Slavalachia!”
That evening, the namesake was born as both an Appalachian-Slavic folk ensemble and a cross-cultural folk alliance.