Where Ancient Voices Are Heard
Stary Olsa Mines Belarus’s Medieval Past

Stary Olsa (from left): Andrej Apanovic, Illa Kublicki, Zmicier Sasnouski, Alex Chumakou (not shown, Kacia Radzivilava)

A band rooted in medieval Belorussian music, STARY OLSA was founded in 1999 by its present leader, Zmicier Sasnouski, and now consists of five musicians. It takes its name from a brook in the western part of Mahilou Region (Belarus). The band’s repertoire includes Belorussian folk balladry and martial songs, Belorussian national dances, works of Belorussian Renaissance composers, compositions from Belorussian aulic music collections (e.g. Polacak Notebook, Vilnian Notebook), Belorussian canticles of the 16th and early 17th centuries, as well as European popular melodies of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Stary Olsa performs at the festival of medieval culture and music, Staradauni Niasvizh

Stary Olsa appears at clubs in Belarus and throughout Europe, museums and research centers, masters of early instruments, bands of folk, aulic, sacred and city avital music, as well as with solo performers using old instruments. Its music restores the sound of many forgotten instruments. In concert Stary Olsa plays exact (in appearance, technology and materials) copies of the age-old Belorussian duda (bagpipe), lira (lyre), husli (psaltery), svirel (pipe), rymba (jew’s-harp), akaryna (ocarina), surma (trumpet), bierascianaja truba (birch bark trumpet), hudok (rebec) and baraban (drums).

The group says its main objective is to reconstruct completely the musical traditions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where Belarus was the basic cultural and geopolitical part in the 13th-18th centuries, and where there was a unique synthesis of Belorussian folk and aulic music with the European musical achievements of that time. In order to revive this cultural feature the members mix the sound of early Belorussian instruments with the all-European medieval instruments such as lutnia (lute), flejta (flute), mandalina (mandolin), arabski baraban (Arabian drum). Apart from giving its own dramatized concerts, the band performs at medieval culture festivals, spear-runnings and folklore festivals.

Stary Olsa, ‘Tourdion’

Stary Olsa has recorded eight albums. Its music was included in seven collections of old melodies performers. Since 2003 the band has been working in cooperation with a dance ensemble Javaryna, which familiarizes the spectators with avital dance traditions.

Stary Olsa is comprised of:
Zmicier Sasnouski: bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, psaltery, jew's-harp, percussion, vocals; Kacia Radzivilava; flute, recorder; Illa Kublicki: lutes, jew's-harp; Ales Chumakou: hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, psaltery, kantele, tambour, percussion, vocal; Andrej Apanovic: drum, bass drum, percussion, jew's-harp.

More Stary Olsa videos and mp3 files are available at the band’s website, The site is not translated for English readers, but the music speaks volumes, as the saying goes.


A winter scene in Minsk, the historic capital of Belarus

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