ͳ, 26 2001 .

Basovishcha A Cultural Experience?

Igor MAKSYMIUK

The late afternoon of July 20, 2001 saw our car approaching the town of Grodek, where the 12th Basovishcha rock concert was taking place. This was my first trip there, and all my information about it came from what little information I gleaned from people who have already been there, and from the few videos made at this rock festival. An image that I formed in my mind, was that of hundreds of people sitting on the ground by each other, listening to artists performing, and sharing a feeling of togetherness that you usually get while crouching by a campfire late at night, singing songs or telling each other ghost stories. However, as I found out very soon, Basovishcha was quite an opposite of what I thought it was.

The first seed of worry was sown into my mind when a relative of mine that was traveling with us in the car, gave away that he is going to the concert to get drunk. I didnt make much of it then, since often people go to rock concerts just to drink beer there.

As we approached Grodek, groups of young people started appearing along the road, some trying to hitch a ride, some heading in the direction we were heading. Many of them were holding beer cans or cigarettes, some were visibly drunk.

Upon arriving to Grodek, we parked our car about one kilometer from the stage where the concert was taking place. Even from there we could clearly hear the music being played. As we set off in the direction the music was coming from, I saw quite a few people who were already completely trashed, or sleeping in the weirdest positions. There were beer cans everywhere.

The stage had two giant sets of speakers placed on each side, and they were going full blast as we entered the concert area. I tried approaching the stage to get a better look at things, but at about thirty meters from the stage, the noise became unbearable to human ear. However, there was a whole lot of people within that radius. Right by the stage I saw a group of young men who appeared to be involved in an especially violent free-for-all. It took me a few moments to realize that they were dancing. On the stage, a youngster group was playing an especially loud song. After they finished, another group came in and played a similar song. As I was later told by Alexander Maksymiuk, one of the former organizers of Basovishcha, and the senior editor of Niva, those were the bad bands which competed in a prize contest. The good bands were going to play the following day.

As the night descended upon Grodek, more people (more beer, more cigarettes, an occasional fight or two) arrived to the concert. As far as I could tell, most of them would remain here till dawn. But the matter that concerned me was the question what is Basovishcha? Is it a way of upholding Belarusian culture and identity? But then, why some of the bands sang in Polish? And does Belarusian identity mean that a large part of the audience is Polish and came to the concert just to get drunk/get wasted/have sex? People told me that Basovishcha is a non-commercial event, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and private sponsors. But then, what are all the beer posters doing hung all over the stage? My impression is, that Basovishcha is just another rock concert. During the whole concert I was trying too find the Belarusian spirit there. I didnt find it. I was too busy stepping on empty beer cans.