Hailing from the city of Kazan in Russia, Mitya Burmistrov aka MITYA is one of three artists recently commissioned by Red Bull to take part in their Searching for Sound series of documentaries. Each installment of Searching for Sound follows one music maker as they explore a region with which they have a personal connection. In the episode with Mitya we accompany the young producer-singer-songwriter as he gathers audio material, collaborates with local musicians and seeks inspiration in his native Tatarstan region of Russia.
Check out the trailer for Searching for Sound with Mitya below. Be sure to download the free sample pack Mitya captured on his journey and read our interview with him to learn more about the sounds and the place they come from.
The recordings you made are very atmospheric and they conjure up a definite place in the mind of the listener. But since Russia is so vast what can you tell us of the particular corner where you are from and where these sounds were recorded?
I was born and live in Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan republic. It's a beautiful city and since we hold lots of competitions it’s also the sports capital of Russia. In school I learned three languages; Russian, English and Tatar. I'm one quarter Tatar myself, my great grandfather, Sultan, worked in the government. I once participated in a Tatar poetry competition, but that's all that connected me with the Tatar culture before my sound trip.
About two years ago I realized that there are lots of very talented people we never know about, living in their villages without internet or other connections. I wanted to meet them and to learn and record their stories, both sonic and physical.
Were you already familiar or influenced by some of the musical traditions in your region?
When I was a kid, the only thing that influenced me was my parents’ vinyl collection (Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Black Sabbath, Elton John, Queen, David Bowie, Supertramp etc) and my older brother's cassette collection (Metallica, Metallica, Metallica, etc).
I've been to hundreds of shows of Tatar folk music, dances and even attended a theatrical performance once. But to my eyes almost everything looked completely the same; those performers felt like children being made to recite poetry, they say the words but they don't know why, you know? It always felt like a tribute to a culture, not something that is vital and happening right now. That's why I started searching for these pure emotions of people and music – to try to put them into the context of my own work.
The track Omen Over Sky is from a new EP "based on ancient melodies and sounds recorded during the trip to Tatar villages". How exactly do you bring these sounds and melodies into your productions?
The studio process after recording was done was absolutely random and fun at first. I listened to about 300 samples constantly, trying to find the one I can build a song on. After I got the right starting points (usually some pipes or strings progression) I then hummed the bass part or added drums, composing a whole song based on this skeleton. It felt like I had a magician’s hat; I didn't know what I was searching for when I put my hand in, but when I pulled something out, it was the right thing. Later I added some chopped up ladies' vocals, weird percussion and of course some nature elements for a fast and safe trip to the Tatar village right through the headphones. Some guitars, synths, psych delays, and drums through reel-to-reel recorders and it was almost finished. Then came the moment when all the fun ended: I started writing lyrics. I experienced difficulties in my personal life, that's why lyrics came out very personal for me. But I liked the combination of feelings I had during the making of this recording. It was an unbelievable cocktail.
Be sure to also check out Searching for Sound: Listening to Mumbai with Sandunes.