Irdorath band musicians Nadzeya and Uladzimir Kalach get 2 years in jail over performing during protests

On December 14, Savetski district court of Minsk passed a guilty verdict in the case of Nadzeya and Uladzimir Kalach, a married couple and leaders of the Irdorath folk band. The musicians found themselves in the authorities’ crosshairs after playing during the protest marches on August 16, September 6, and October 25, 2020.

Irdorath performing during protests in Minsk.

On 2 August 2021, the Irdorath band, together with their friends, celebrated the birthday of vocalist Nadzeya Kalach. However, the unexpected guests – armed officers without any insignia – detained 16 people at the party. Later, six of them were taken ito custody over their alleged participation in the 2020 protests.

On August 16, the Kalachs and their friends in mischief were charged with ‘organising and preparing actions that grossly violate public order’ (Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code) and ‘educating or otherwise training persons to participate in such actions, as well as financing or otherwise providing material support for such activities’ (Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code).

Today judge Alyaksandr Yakunchykhin has taken heed of public prosecutor Volha Yemyalyanchanka’s demand and sentenced Nadzeya and Uladzimir Kalach to two years of imprisonment each, the Foundation for Cultural Solidarity reports.

During the four and a half months in prison, Nadzeya’s health deteriorated, she needs surgery. Another three Irdorath musicians – Pyotr Marchanka, Yuliya Yunitskaya (Marchanka), Anton Shnip – are awaiting trial in the pre-trial detention centre on Valadarski Street in Minsk. Their associate Dzmitry Shymanski, who was sentenced to three years of restriction of liberty in an open-type correction facility in late October, managed to flee Belarus. His only ‘fault’ was playing the bagpipes during the largest-ever protest march in Minsk.

Since 2011, Irdorath has been playing the music which is close to folk, but it also has elements of fantasy. The band is also known for using bright fantasy costumes and staging incredible concerts with neon and fire shows.

By the moment, the band has released three studio albums. In 2016, music portal listed their work I Was. I Am. I Will Be as the Song of the Year. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Irdorath actively toured. In 2017, it performed at Wacken, Europe’s largest metal music festival held in northern Germany.

Irdorath played during post-election protest marches, e.g. they performing the iconic song We Crave for Change using bagpipes and drums. At the end of 2020, the musicians lost their jobs at the Viktoryia Children and Youth Centre due to participating in yard concerts in Minsk; they were also deprived of a rehearsal venue.