Dustyesky, who focus on Russian songs and drinking vodka, are making headlines on the other side of the world.

A choir of vodka-enthusiasts from the northern New South Wales town of Mullumbimby has caught the attention of the Russian media. The 28-strong male choir, dubbed Dustyesky, was formed in 2014 out of a love of vodka and Russian songs, and has now appeared on Russian national broadcaster Channel One to an audience of 250 million people.

“We’re just a bunch of ratbags who like to get together and have a bit of a sing on a Tuesday night,” chorister Mark Swivel told the ABC. “It doesn’t get crazier really.”

Dustyesky ChoirDustyesky. Photo © Lyn McCarthy

None of the choristers speak Russian or have any personal connection to the country, until they were booked – due to their choice of repertoire – to sing at an event for Russian expats in Brisbane and were mentioned in a Russian-Australian newspaper.

“The article went online and subsequently a newspaper in Belarus lifted the article and re-jigged it, and each time I’ve read a further article that’s been translated it becomes more bizarre,” said Andrew Swain, another Dustyesky chorister. “The last piece of information I read about Mullumbimby was that all the men here work with timber, so it becomes more bizarre the more it becomes Russian-ified.”

The choir was established three years ago as the result of a conversation between Swain and Mullum Music Festival director Glen Wright, who was looking for a Russian choir to sing at the festival. Having begun as a concert at the Mullum Festival, the choir now tours Australia.

Members of Dustyesky have been interviewed by Russian reporters over Skype, with a number of media outlets reporting on the choir and Channel One playing their story several times. The coverage has resulted in an offer to fly Dustyesky to Russia for a tour, which the choir is hoping will coincide with the FIFA World Cup.

The social media response has been staggering, with hundreds of Russians sending the choir messages of support. “Apparently Australia is like the last frontier to Russians. They have very little idea of Australia at all and so the curiosity value is huge,” Swivel said. “It seems that people are touched that blokes from such a strange culture so far away would be interested in singing Russian songs at all.”

And while some have commented on the choir’s accents, according to Swivel the general response has been overwhelmingly positive. “There are some comments from people that Russia is getting a bit of a hiding in the news these days,” Swivel said. “So, with a sense of wounded national pride, to hear the old folk songs and Red Army songs is incredibly moving for them and it’s a bit of a boost if you can believe it.”


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