Country of origin: Belarus
Years active: 1969-2003


The best Soviet VIA. For a long time, in virtually all polls and charts of the time, it ranked number one.

The ensemble appears to be the forefather of folk-pop in the USSR, having recorded many fresh-sounding interpretations of folk songs today, performing the first tour across the USA, and later having turned to larger forms and made several large-scale musical productions, in which they successfully combined folklore and contemporary sounds.

'Песняры' (Pesnyary) appeared in the light of Minsk under the name Лявоны (Lyavony) with these members: Vladimir Mulyavin, guitar, vocal; Leonid Tyshko, bass; Vladislav Mishevich, saxophone, flute, vocal; Valeriy Yashkin, keyboard, lyre. In September of 1969, when they were joined by Vladimir's younger brother, Valeriy Muljavin, guitar, trumpet; Aleksandr Demeshko, drums; and former amateur singer of the group 'Золотые яблоки', Leonid Bortkevich, the new name 'Песняры' was born. The group performed in Belarus, performing folk songs, updating their sound in roughly the same way as 'FAIRPORT CONVENTION' in Britain sang the songs of old England. Despite skeptical and even negative attitudes of some ethnic purity zealots, they straight away attracted the attention of listeners—first and foremost, the youth, and began performing outside their republic, and in October of 1970 they performed in triumph at the V All-Union Pop Singing Competition in Moscow, afterwards which their popularity started growing like a snowball.

In 1972, when violinist Valentin Badyarov joined 'Песняры', they recorded their first record for 'Мелодия' with songs that became instantly popular: 'Косил Ясь конюшину', 'Ой, рано на Ивана', 'Ты мне весной приснилась', 'Рушники', 'Александрина', etc. Soon after the record's release, Badyarov left the ensemble and formed his own VIA, 'Сябры'. His place was taken by Cheslav Poplavsky, and in time for the release of their next record, 'Песняры' was joined by members Vladimir Nikolaev, keyboard; and Anatoly Kasheparov, vocal. Ruin loomed over the ensemble's career in the mid-70's due to unknown circumstances of Vladimir Mulyavin's little brother—Valeriy.

In 1976, 'Песняры' performed a tour in the southern US, escorted by popular American pop-folk group NEW CHRISTIE MINSTRELS. Joining the group were one more keyboardist, Anatoly Gilevich, and at the end of the year arrived violinist and singer Yuri Denisov. The ensemble continued to tour the USSR and Eastern Europe extensively and record records, however, over time they moved away from transcriptions of folk songs and wrote their own material, as well as songs by professional composers.

Like many dynamic musicians, Vladimir Mulyavin for the second half of the 70's turned to larger forms, however, despite the public's initial interest and benevolent responses from the press, neither 'Песня о доле' (based on Belarusian ritual songs), nor 'Круган' (to the music by their regular composer Igor Luchenok) became a real event. Like 'Поющие гитары' in St. Petersburg, for whom the passion for rock operas and musicals turned into a loss of direction, and the cessation of existence in the form of a single collective, in this period 'Песняры' became more and more professionally flawless, however, wasted mechanism. They continued to work hard, putting out new programs (to poems by Robert Pernis, Vladimir Mayakovsky, front-line poets, etc.), but attention on them slowly weakened.

By 1980, the composition of the group had changed radically. Joining the core (Mulyavin, Tyshko, Misevich, Demeshko, Bortkieva, Nikolaev, and Kasheparov), were keyboardists, guitarists and violinists Oktay Aybazov, Evgeniy Pozdyshev, Vladiir Tkachenko, Igor Palivoda, Valeriy Dayneko and Anatoly Shchegolev. In 1983, Aivasov, Pozdyshev, and Shchegolev were replaced by keyboardists Arkady Eskin and Igor Penya. The place of Tyshko, who left Pesnyary after 15 years of work, was taken by a new bass player, Boris Bernstein, and at the drums sat Vladimir Belyaev. Leonid Bortkevich left and collected members for the VIA 'Мальва'. For the first half of the 80's, 'Песняры' noticeably lost their positions. In 1987 Tkachenko, Palovida, Eskin, and Bernstein were replaced by Eduart Tyshko, Dmitri Yavtukhovich, Aleksandr Vislavsky and Aleksandr Rastopchinn (the latter coming from the then popular amateur group 'Сузорье').

By the beginning of the 80's 'Песняры' was almost forgotten. On a wave of interest in VIA music at the end of the 90's, 'Песняры' stepped up its activities, splitting into two groups (in addition to 'Песняры' and 'Белорусские песняры'). In 2003, almost a year after a terrible car accident, Vladimir Mulyavin, the permanent leader of the Pesnyary ensemble, died.

Currently, there are several trains that have the word 'Песняры' in their names.

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Песняры has many releases. Please check a website like Discogs for more information.