Shuma has been very ambitious from the get go. Folk-crossovers are a cliché in Belarus, but Shuma’s intention was always bigger than just moving old folk songs in a context of some modern genre.
They wanted to build something bold, big-scale, shiny and marketable. This is a difficult thing to achieve, no wonder it didn’t quite work out initially. While very focused and professional from the start, they still suffered from numerous flaws. At times their music sounded too detached from the folk roots, at times felt unpleasantly new age, and at times ventured into abstract brainless lounge.
I must take my hat off and salute to the guys as they definitely learned from their mistakes. Third album of the band, “Me, Mother“, is a perfect example of how one can achieve a good result through sheer persistence and dedication.
“Me, Mother” isn’t revolutionary in any way – in fact it’s remarkably similar to two previous works of the collective. It’s all the same things, but much more refined and better balanced. It’s still very much lounge music, but now it’s full of substance.
The band is more careful with the source material, old tunes are very recognizable and (unlike on the previous albums) take a centre stage. Arrangements are more subtle, careful and at no point feel new age.
As the result we have a very well-made, intricate album of a rather original Slavic world music, exotic and very consumable at the same time. Shuma is definitely closing in on their goal.