Friday, 7 November 2008

Balalaika


WHEN I WAS YOUNG, we used to have a book called Trubloff ~ The Mouse Who Wanted to Play the Balalaika by the wonderful John Burningham, and I loved the story very much indeed. John Burningham's illustrations have a fabulous scratchy folky quality that embodies great heart. This is the amazon synopsis of the story:

Trubloff the mouse lives with his family in the village inn but dreams of becoming the greatest balalaika player in the whole country. So one night, when everyone is asleep, he runs away to join a band of gypsy musicians who promise to teach him to play. Trubloff's poor family are overcome with worry, but in the end, it's Trubloff's gift for music that saves them all.

I have always loved Russian music, in fact anything from the Eastern European folk tradition and most especially Jewish Klezmer music. This music moves me in a way I cannot explain, I think I might have inherited this love of oom-pah from my mum ... but as far as we know there is no Jewish blood in our family tree.



I try to play the accordion, as I have mentioned before.. specifically the Russian B-System Bayan :) ... there is something about the sound of accordion and clarinet together that really gets me. I often paint musical instruments, I like the shapes of them and I find that I can hear the paintings playing if I listen to a recording whilst making the image.


Anyhow, back to balalaikas... those triangular stringed instruments that can be seen not only in the arms of mice but also played in whole ensembles with instruments ranging from tiny tinkling things to great bass balalaikas.
As you know, our grand clear out is including the odd original painting sale and I have decided to sell my Balalaika watercolour for an extremely reasonable £80 :) ... it's a smallish little thing (7.5" x 5"), which I painted in 2005 and I'm selling it unframed. There it is in the fireplace with my first green accordion; a funny little man on the back of a wheeled reindeer, playing the balalaika in a snowy onion-domed Slavic forest. And here it is in my etsy shop if you should wish to own it. [Edit... the painting is sold!]


And if you'd like to hear a balalaika playing whilst you look at the painting, here's well known Polish/English balalaika player Bibs Ekkel in 1978 with Ensemble Tsiganka playing Papirosen, a Russian/Yiddish song about cigarettes. That's them over there leaning against the Gypsy vardo :)
Hoi!

NB - all images except those of my painting and accordion are nicked from the internet :)

20 comments:

Vickie said...

I love folk music of any kind. It seems to reach the soul. I don't know that I've heard much Jewish or Russian. I love Celtic and Native American.

nina said...

well, you already know how much i love that watercolor...its image rests here in my cozy little home. as for the accordian - i found a used one in wisconsin last summer to give to my younger son roy for his birthday. what a find!! xoxo

Kay said...

Beautiful painting, I think it would make a great Christmas card. The music is a lovely accompaniment too - perhaps a new animation if the 2 were put together?

erin gergen halls said...

i spent nearly a year in the mid-90's trying to teach myself russian based soley on my love of the balalaika, onion-domed churches and those amazing wooden houses with all of their intricacy and folkiness.

here, now, there is a fresh blanket of snow on everything, tree branches hanging heavy in an arch above the creek out my window...and if i listen very hard i think i can hear your gent and his triangle with strings.

i'll look for the reindeer wheel tracks after my tea....

Griffin said...

I've never read of Trubloff, but I love Russian folktales and especially Vassilisa the Beautiful with the fabulous Baba Yaga! I have a lovely book with the illustrations of Russian tales by Ivan Bilibin which has a wonderful picture of Baba Yaga, travelling in her Mortar and Pestle!

Still, I'll stick with my guitar. It's a little easier to play for me.

ArtSparker said...

When visiting with folks with a video hookup, try to rent the film Latcho Drom = you would love it. I can definitely see you as part of the life in a shtetl also.

Rima said...

Susan - yes I've seen it! Isn't it a wonderful film :)

Vita said...

Rima you are a true Russian soul, may be in the past life you were from a village somewhere near Moscow?

Balalaikas are great:) I can not play an intrument for the life of me, but that music does get you moving. Especially the Jewish and the Gypsy music, for me...
great links by the way!

willow said...

I chose this print of yours because I liked that the guy was playing a balalaika. I can see Burningham's influence on your work, Rima. :^)

Amy Short said...

I totally love your posts Rima. You are so much fun and I too love that kind of music. It's just the kind where people have to get up and dance holding hands that I really dig.

Love the new painting. Must go listen to the music now.

:o) Amy
PS. Your home is coming along great. Where do you actually do your art?

moreidlethoughts said...

The words of Rima...so evocative of another world, another time!
One day, when the cats no longer injure themselves...perhaps I'll have some Rima art on my wall.(It will share with Carl Larssen and some delicate Japanese woodblocks.)

Andy said...

Rima, that's one of my favourite pictures of yours but being poorer than that sodding church mouse (who, bless him, seems to be following us around at the moment), will have to say no this time. Hurrumph.

Still, the Bees artwork hangs above my bed, so I can't complain, can I?

Hope all is well with you xxx

Julia Guthrie said...

Hi Rima, I have just recently come across your blog & just wanted to say hello!:)
I can't tell you what a joy it was browse your posts & your artwork/crafts (your clocks are AMAZING!!) the other evening.

Your work is so magical, I too have fond memories of all those strange forgeign kids animations, which some of your work resembles!
Anyway, lots of luck with the packing up, & moving on in your new wheeled home!! I hope you continue to let us have a nose into your free spirited world :)
*hugs*

Nao Sims said...

OH YES! I too am a BIG fan of the Gypsy Music~ It sends me into delightful twirls and unstoppable hand-clapping.

I have recently got into the band Kroke, perhaps you know them? And if not, well, I think you might just love them very much. Mmmm, and then yesterday I discovered another fabulous band of this same genre, called Fishtank ( Album Super Raoul), and I must tell you, it is so good, that I am in great danger of over playing it.

Yes, dancing to Gypsy tunes is my way of feeling my souls heart sing!

Marion said...

A belated thank you for stopping by at my blog a couple of weeks ago - it pointed me to this treasure trove of beautiful pictures and writing.

Kim said...

That's a lovely image Rima, that you can almost hear the instrument playing as you paint it. Little nuggets like that are where inspiration comes from, lovely :)

Kim x

said...

agh, when i saw your new post i felt a strange mix of mortified and amused... after a few days away from blogland i just posted up about various things including balalaikas and organ grinders, and the title of the post is indeed 'balalaikas and organ grinders' .... then i started my 'blog visiting rounds' and saw this post!!! which is a lovely post btw, but i didn't copy, honest...

the mouse-balalaika book sounds lovely. the balalaika ensemble i was listening to this morning whilst playing with doodles for lino cuts is donkosaken-balalaika-ensemble 'viktor skriptchenko'. i've been teaching myself accordion for a few years too, fab instrument that it is! and also have a great weakness for hearing oboes, bombards, the cello or uilleann pipes myself.

folk music is indeed a grand old thing!

Jess said...

There's something very magical to me of drawings or paintings of musical instruments being played. I can almost hear the music when I see this lovely painting of yours. What a lucky lady to have bought it!x

Ottilias Veranda said...

Hi again!
I just had to leave a comment here as well! It´s so thrilling to read about the music You like! I also like the same kind, probably because my parents are from Finland and anything with a slavic sound touches my heart.And I play the diasonic accordion in a band of 6 ladies and a man.

cool...
Liisa

theundergroundrestaurant said...

I have that book! I absolutely loved it as a kid...