With Medieval Instruments, Band Performs Classic Songs by The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica & Deep Purple

We’ve seen Euro­peans cov­er famous rock and met­al bands in an Amer­i­can folk style—Finnish musi­cians play­ing AC/DC, Iron Maid­en, and Dio in Appalachi­an folk, to be exact. Now, pre­pare to hear famous rock and met­al bands in a dis­tinc­tive­ly Euro­pean folk style: Medieval Belaru­sian folk, played by the beau­ti­ful­ly named Stary Olsa. The band’s name derives from a stream in East Belarus—their cloth­ing, instru­men­ta­tion, and rhythms from an ear­ly Lithuan­ian state called the Grand Duchy—but the songs are all 20th cen­tu­ry radio fod­der. Above, see them do Deep Purple’s “Child in Time,” and below, they tack­le the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers’ “Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion.”

Stary Olsa’s cov­er of Metallica’s “One” (fur­ther down), already an incred­i­bly dra­mat­ic song, works par­tic­u­lar­ly well in their syn­co­pat­ed Spar­tan style. The sounds and cos­tum­ing of the accom­plished Belaru­sian musi­cians will inevitably remind you—if you haven’t been under a rock in Belarus—of that Medieval-style fan­ta­sy show in which your favorite char­ac­ters meet hor­ri­bly vio­lent ends week after week.

When we look at the bloody his­to­ry of Medieval Europe, the grue­some­ness of Wes­t­eros can seem like only a slight exaggeration—dragons and ice zom­bies aside—of the so-called “dark ages.” These asso­ci­a­tions, and the solem­ni­ty of the song selec­tion and stark­ness of the voic­es and instru­ments, lend Stary Olsa’s per­for­mances a grav­i­tas that, frankly, ele­vates some of the mate­r­i­al far above its pop ori­gins (I’m look­ing at you, Red Hot Chili Pep­pers).

In order for such meld­ings of styles, peri­ods, and cul­tures to work, whether they be played for laughs or deeply seri­ous, the musi­cian­ship must be top notch. Such was the case with Finnish blue­grass met­al cov­er band Steve ‘N’ Seag­ulls, and such is cer­tain­ly the case with Stary Olsa, who have appeared on Belaru­sian TV (from which some of these videos come) and are cur­rent­ly find­ing a lev­el of pop­u­lar­i­ty out­side their native coun­try that few Belaru­sian bands have achieved. It’s unlike­ly we’ll see them soon on the rock fes­ti­val cir­cuit, but their sta­tus as an inter­net sen­sa­tion is all but guar­an­teed. Just below, see the band trans­late a med­ley of The Bea­t­les’ “Obla-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Yel­low Sub­ma­rine” into their musi­cal idiom, prov­ing that they don’t just do dark, haunt­ing, and mys­te­ri­ous; they’re also pos­i­tive­ly dance­able.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Finnish Musi­cians Play Blue­grass Ver­sions of AC/DC, Iron Maid­en & Ron­nie James Dio

Pak­istani Musi­cians Play Amaz­ing Ver­sion of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Clas­sic, “Take Five”

Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Per­formed on a Gayageum, a Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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