GLZORP, Freedonia. By day, Ksiusha Milda is a housewife with a one year-old daughter. By night, she is something completely different; a blues singer of sorts, a practitioner of this country’s traditional folk song, kalek.
Ksiusha Milda: “It is not enough that you change her diaper–you nimrod, you also must see that you wipe her.”
“It is my release,” she says as she wraps a brightly-colored platok, or scarf, around her head. “I need something to take me away from the diapers and my lazy husband.”
“I deeply regret I accept your proposal–You are such a klutz you can’t fix my disposal!”
And so Ksiusha comes to a basement nightclub on the edge of the downtown area here to sing the kalek, traditional plaints of Freedonian women about life’s hardships and their troubles with men.
Kalek singers, warming up.
“The term ‘kalek’ literally means ‘bitch,’” says Kantatas Jonas, a professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Freedonia-Zlngdork, who says the genre’s fans expect nothing less than a full-bore attack on the man in a singer’s life. “The audience knows what they want and they’ll let a performer hear it if she doesn’t deliver,” Jonas says. “A singer can be booed off the stage if she pulls her punches.”
“You are such a schmuck for buying a truck, we need SUV for our growing family.”
Sales of kalek records peaked in the 1950’s, when Zemaite, the “Queen of Kalek,” created what came to be known as the “Jo-Town Sound” after Jonava, the city of her birth. “Everybody was dancin’ in the streets back in the day,” says Zilvytis Barnardas, a 60-year old who fondly recalls the abuse he took from his girlfriend Rasa. “She would sing ‘You are so bad at fondling my breasts, I prefer to study for my chemistry test.’”
Rasa: “You are so clumsy at kissing, I find new boyfriend to show what I missing!”
Today’s kalek artists say they draw on that tradition, but they also want to make their own mark in the country’s musical history books. “I am a part of that past, but I must sing of my own life,” says Ksiusha Milda before launching into the opening bars of ‘I’d Rather Drive a Tractor on Several Farms (Than Be Stuck in Our Apartment Staring At Your Hairy Arms),” a track that has a pounding back beat and catchy lyrics that the crowd echoes with each chorus. “It is not enough that I suffer,” she explains between sets. “It is also necessary that I complain where others can hear me.”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Hail Freedonia.”