August 12, 2021 — NYTT LAND, the enigmatic neofolk duo from the frostbitten, dark, and brooding woods of Siberia ascends as one of the more captivating musical forces in neofolk. The folk music pair is set to weave an abundance of rituals through the release of their recent album that is so named — Ritual.
A live stream is coming up soon plus a series of live dates that will support Finnish folk metal outfit Korpiklaani. With so much on the agenda, we reached out to NYTT LAND’s Anatoly “Shaman” Pakhalenko to discover what lies behind the beliefs, sounds, and inspirations of their unique approach to traditional, folkloric music.
How would you introduce NYTT LAND to someone who has never heard your music before?
Our band is our family project. We are musicians and historians. For many years we have been studying to present our interpretation of cultural ritual traditions and epic songs of the people of the North of Europe and our homeland — Siberia.
NYTT LAND is the music of wild nature and ancient times. When man was a part of nature and not its master. Ritual is born in the harmony of man and nature — a joint creation, a single energy, power, and transformation in rhythm and sound.
NYTT LAND has been presented as a two, three, or 5-piece throughout the years. How would you describe the current line-up and what instruments/roles do you each play?
Yes, you’re right, but the main part of the band is always Natasha and me. Two people. But our son already has plans to join the band in few years. Other musicians join us only for live performances. That is, we make all studio work together in our home studio. We ourselves compose and record all music and instruments with rare exceptions.
In the concert line-up of the band, we are three people. This is us and drummer Alexander Roslyakov. Usually, session musicians are not only the masters of their instruments but also our good friends, people who we can completely trust both on stage and in life.
Our roles in the band — Natasha is our composer, main vocalist (singing by clear vocal and throat singing), and percussionist. Me (Anatoly) play the [Norse] tagelharpa, mouth-harp, percussion, horn, and also provide throat singing while playing the stringed tagelharpa. Natasha plays the drums during our recording sessions.
When did Anatoly and Natalya meet and what inspired each of you to make music together?
In general, this is certainly a very long story and there are a lot of personal matters involved, and we want our personal life to remain private. I can only say that music has created our family.
“…we want our personal life to remain private.”
In fact, we are not just a family — we are best friends and this is important. Therefore, we always support each other and work together, this makes it easier to cope with many things both in the profession and in life.
Of Tribes and Totems
The two of you go by the aliases Shaman and Baba Yaga, what can you tell us about these names and why you chose to adopt them?
Natasha’s alias is associated with one of the key woman characters of Slavic mythology — Baba Yaga. This is a wise woman who lives on the border of worlds, between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
The image of Baba Yaga is associated with the worship of an ancient totem, which belonged to the patrons of the tribe and was revered along with the cult of nature. She also has the features of the patron spirit of the tribe, since she is prophetic, and in fairy tales, it is Baba Yaga who directs the hero to the right path, since she knows everything. As a family patron spirit associated with the cult of the hearth, she is characterized by such attributes as an oven, a mortar, a pestle, and a broomstick.
In fact, this is the image of a female shaman. And my alias “Shaman” speaks for itself.
Your seven-year-old son, Yuri, is featured in the video of ‘U-Gra’. Do you see NYTT LAND as a growing tribe or family business?
Of course, it’s certainly too early to talk about it yet. I think that our son will decide for himself when he grows up, but for now, he is showing his interest in joining the band as a musician in the future. In the meantime, he is studying piano at a music school and to be honest, he is very successful in this.
It doesn’t really matter to us whether he becomes a musician in NYTT LAND or chooses some other path in life. The most important thing is that this is his way and we can only help him, but in no case interfere in decision-making.
It’s interesting to see neofolk music that reflects on areas outside of Western Scandinavia. What inspires you about Siberia and its tribes?
We were born, grew up, and live in a Siberian province. From the earliest childhood, our whole life is closely connected with the nature of our native land. And of course — the Siberian nature, this is one of the most important inspirations in our music, as well as our family. Very often we just come to the forest or on the river bank and just listen to exactly how nature sounds. The rhythm of the waves, the rustle of leaves and steppe grass, the singing of birds, and the rolling of thunder — is this not the perfect setting for music?
“The belief that man is a part of nature. Reverence for the land on which you live, a careful and respectful attitude to everything that surrounds us — all of us need to learn this…”
The culture of the indigenous people of Siberia is a real treasure that has been preserved in its pristine beauty to this day and we are lucky that we can study these songs and traditions, communicate with the carriers of this ancient culture and thereby embody certain forms of it in our work, without switching to pseudo-traditional speculations. Since most of the indigenous Siberian peoples still live in this tradition, passing it on in the form of beliefs, rituals, songs, and myths from generation to generation. Everything is real. The belief that man is a part of nature. Reverence for the land on which you live, a careful and respectful attitude to everything that surrounds us — all of us need to learn this from such people.
NYTT LAND has been around since 2013. How has the band, the traditional, folk-like shamanic music genre, and fandom around it changed over the past decade?
In general, our music is constantly evolving. If you take all our albums, it becomes clear that we are constantly in search of new sound and musical forms within the framework of the style in which we create. And this does not allow us to go into some kind of stagnant conservatism. We are, after all, living people, and our experience, which is the basis of our creativity — is constantly being updated. New knowledge, new experiences — all this directly affects the music that we create.
Divine Insight and Inspiration
Which bands, neofolk or not, have influenced you the most and who do you hold in the highest regard within the genre?
You won’t believe it, but this is the most popular question that occurs in almost every interview.
If we talk about the music that inspires our creativity, then I can safely say that these are, first of all, traditional folk and ritual songs of the peoples of the world. We do not set a framework for ourselves, it can be songs of North American Indians, gypsy romances, and ritual drums of African tribes. We, as historians and musicians, are insanely inspired by this music.
What we listen to at our leisure is mostly also classic hard rock and blues.
Tell me about the new album, its themes, and inspirations. What story are you trying to tell on Ritual?
First of all, we are inspired by the epic and traditional folklore of different peoples inhabiting our huge planet. The album Ritual is based on the Old Icelandic literary work The Elder Edda and the traditional epic and folklore of the native tribes of Siberia.
We made it a real shamanic journey between the worlds, uniting different ancient cultures, but at the same time showing exactly the commonality and connection of these traditions with each other.
‘Ritual’ may be the name of the new album, but the idea of performing a ritual through music has seemed to be a common theme throughout your work. How would you describe the beliefs and practices at play in these rituals?
Well, as I said earlier, all our music is built around ritual traditions and folklore. We are adherents of Siberian shamanism, the traditional beliefs of our native land. We believe that the world around us is alive. The world around us is a huge universe. In every tree, in every drop of rain, there is a power, a living energy. Every action, even the most insignificant, causes consequences. And we try to live in harmony with nature, according to the rules that have been passed down in the tradition for many centuries, but at the same time without limiting ourselves to rigid limits, since our tradition is alive and it is also developing. Every day we learn from the world around us, listen to the sounds around us, learn to look and see.
The most serious change in the perception of the world happened after the birth of our son. Then, in fact, we began to learn to interact with the world around us anew, together with the growing child. And it’s actually an incredible experience.
Past and Beyond
You’ve worked with a number of record labels throughout the history of NYTT LAND, recently signing with Napalm Records. What makes Napalm different from companies you’ve worked with in the past?
Yes, our previous releases were published on three different labels. And the main difference, of course, is in the approach to work. If we talk about this, I can say that the main difference is, of course, the level of promotion of the release. Russian labels do not do this at all. That is, they just print the release on physical and send them to stores, and that’s it. When working with the British label Cold Spring, we got a positive experience for the first time. Our music was heard by people all over the world. And even if this is not the coverage that our ambitions required, but it was a wonderful experience that gave us new strength and as a result — we began to actively tour outside of Russia.
Napalm Records is now a much-increased responsibility for us. And it was in working with Napalm Records that a real understanding came that a lot depends on ourselves, I mean — if we want a good result, then we must do everything possible for this from our side. And the label’s team helps us in everything, but first of all, it helps us to develop and feel that our music has great potential. It’s really cool and it’s important.
The label’s management is constantly generating new ideas, and this is an incentive for us. We enjoy our activities, and Napalm Records has become for us exactly the family in which we are happy to immerse ourselves in work since there is a real result from this.
You recently announced a live stream for August 13. What can fans expect to see in this ‘Live Ritual’ and how will it differ from your past live performances?
On August 13, we will present a live version of our new album. An exclusive event, where you will see live performances of songs from the new album for the first time, but also some old famous songs that have been reborn on a new sound today.
A lot of work has been done to convey the sound of the live Ritual as high as possible so that together with us you can feel this primal, wild energy of a real shamanic rite and its indescribable atmosphere.
There are some striking visuals in the newly released music video for ‘Svartravn’. What can you tell me about the stories of both the song and its accompanying animated short?
Death is inevitable. It just needs to be accepted. And that’s exactly what this song is about. About a man who takes his death for granted. The harsh fatalism inherent in northern cultures.
There is one very famous Russian song-the Black Raven. “Svartravn” translated into Russian will be a black raven. Only this is a Scandinavian song. But it has absolutely the same meaning as the Russian Black Raven. In general, the raven, and in particular the black one, in both cultures is a conductor between the world of people and the world of gods. And it is to him that the hero of both the Scandinavian ‘Svartravn’ and the Russian Black Raven addresses with words about his imminent demise and a worthy death. He tells about what a decent life he lived and asks the bird to tell his family and friends that he died with honor — on the battlefield. Here is an example — it would seem that there are different cultures, and the background is absolutely identical. In the video for ‘Svartravn’, we just developed this topic a little to show what the hero was going for, what his motives and purpose were. It turned out to be a whole story about revenge and honor. And you will definitely meet the heroes of this animated clip.
Speaking of stories, what keeps you entertained in the worlds of books, movies, and games when you’re not making music?
We are a very reading family. Books have probably been with us since our earliest childhood. At a young age, these were adventure novels and science fiction. Now a lot of scientific literature has been added to this list.
Movies and video games are also in our lives. Movies are mostly science fiction and historical films. And probably thrillers and horror movies.
And about video games — it’s better to ask our son, he is an expert on them. He even runs his own Instagram channel about games.
Natasha and I rarely play video games, and mostly these are games with a deep plot, something like The Last of Us or Detroit.
Lastly, I see you’re about to set off on tour with Korpiklaani and Equilibrium at the end of September and through October. What can fans expect to see from NYTT LAND when you take to the road again and do you have any parting words before setting off?
Yes, we really missed the tour life. Real, live concerts are the indescribable energy that we lack. And of course, this tour is a great occasion to present our new album Ritual, new songs.
It is too early to talk about specific dates when the world will fully return to normal. This is a little depressing, but at the same time, we see that festivals and concerts have already begun to be held. And this is really pleasing.
We are looking forward to the moment when the feeling that we are on the road again will cover us once more!
Ritual is out now on Napalm Records where a vinyl release and new merch can be obtained. The new album can also be purchased or streamed from NYTT LAND’s Bandcamp page. We have added our favorite songs to the Kurgan Compass™ Spotify playlist — reserved only for the best, newly released neofolk music.
NYTT LAND will be performing Ritual as part of a novel, ritualistic live stream set to premiere on August 13 at 8:00 PM CET/2:00 PM EDT — Use this YouTube link to set a reminder. Also, NYTT LAND will be touring Europe with Korpiklaani, EQUILIBRIUM, and Jonne from late September through October later this year.