Interview with Andrew Swain, director of Dustyesky

Dustyesky perform at Mullum Music Festival.


Mullum Music Festival  |  14–17 Nov

It started as a bit of a joke – a bunch of mates singing Russian folk songs. Their first repertoire was about three songs. Since then, the men of Dustyesky have been raising the vodka bottle, and the roof, with performances at festivals around the country – and of course Mullum Music Festival. The Echo spoke with Andrew Swain, the choir director…

Legend has it that the idea for Dustyesky came about after too many vodkas with Glen Wright, Mullum Music Festival Director, who was looking for a Russian Choir for the festival back in 2014 and, being a ‘ratbag’ with a love of vodka and Russian folk songs, you committed yourself to organising just such a choir. How much truth is there in that story?

Of course comrade, there is this thing called ‘truth’. Even leaders of powerful nations in all their great wisdom have difficulty defining this. In Dustyesky we prefer to focus on ‘details’, and as such, you have many excellent details, especially the bit about ‘legend’. And I would like to clarify that there is no such thing as ‘too many vodkas’, and I do not so much ‘organise’, unless that is correct English word for herding cats?

Is it true that not one of the choir members, not even you, the organiser, speak any Russian?

There it is again, that word – truth. We have many true Russian friends and very handy access to Google translate.

That being the case, what was / is it about Russian folk songs and communist anthems that piqued interest for you and your Mullumbimby comrades?

The great and powerful songs and anthems of the Soviet Republic do more than just pique interest. They sweep you off your feet and consume your heart with passion! Through the songs we sing, we find spirit and comradeship, joy, tragedy, and a portal to the unspoken unity that binds us together as humans.

Nowadays you have played at more than just the Mullum Music Festival.
Where else have you and your choir performed?

Our collective has had great opportunity to travel your fine country. We have sung in Melbournova, Bondi, Brisbynh and the marvellous Bellingengrad to name a few, plus little festival called WOMAD. And we go back out to the sticks again, at end of year, to sing at little village of Woodford.

Legend also has it that you have received quite a bit of interest from Russian Media. How did that come about, and what did they think of you guys way over here in Australia singing their national songs – without any understanding of, or connection to, their language or their country?

Is not legend – is true! We have been on Russian TV all over the land. They go crazy for us! Maybe they don’t sing songs so much any more, so when they hear us sing The Sacred War they get all fuzzy-feeling like snuggling up to grandma’s beard when they were babies.

Has anything come of talk of Dustyesky touring Russia one day?

If Edinburgh Festival is in Russia, then yes, we are going to Russia.

You guys are once again singing at Mullum Music Festival this year 14–17 November, What can people going to the festival expect from your performance?

Beautiful hairy men deliver songs as powerful as the Volga river, as light as the touch of permafrost on the tundra, and cheeky as Putin’s budgie in smugglers.

Is there anything else you would like to let our readers know about Dustesky?

Truthfully, no.

Are you looking for new members? If any of our readers are interested in joining the group, how would they get in contact?

Is very rare that we have space for new men. But good news! At Mullum Festival we are hosting workshop, Sing Like A Russian, where you get to join with us, maybe try our special home-made gherkin liqueur, sing songs and get rowdy. Saturday morning, 10.30 at Courthouse Hotel, be there or be Red Square!

Dustyesky perform at Mullum Music Festival. Tix and program info to

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