Belarus band will perform in Clayton

Group from Brest, Belarus to perform on Oct. 27 and 28.

By Marc Katz, Staff Writer

CLAYTON - With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the independence of Belarus a year later, many people left the region to restart their lives elsewhere.

A group of friends, who believed in a minority church and could sing, decided to stay and form the band Spasenie (Salvation in English).

"A lot of religious people split," said Mike Choby, a Chicago native who is traveling with the based out of Brest, Belarus. They will perform at two local churches on Oct. 27- 28.

"They (the founders of Spasenie) felt burdened to stay and serve their community; help the people. They felt the success of their music career wasn't as important to them as helping their community after the fall of the Soviet Union."

Considered a band with a "pop/rock pulse" and a message of hope from a country barely two decades into independence, Spasenie is on its seventh U.S. tour to raise money for its church, a new community center and a music school under construction.

In a country where the main religion is Russian Orthodoxy, Spasenie represents a non-denominational evangelical church in Brest, a city of about 300,000 near the western Polish border, Choby said.

Three of the band members - Igor Muha, Poul Shelpuk and Peter Semeniuk - are on the current tour and have been together since they were children. They helped form the band in the late 1980s. They originally played before mainly Russian people, even overseas. But as they became more well-known, other churches invited them in, allowing them to spread their music and messages.

"They're a little too poppy to be considered a folk band," Choby said, "and a little too folky to be considered a rock band. The American church is the most receptive to international music. That typically is where the door is easily opened."

When not touring, Muha is involved in a dental clinic. Shelpuk and Semeniuk run a recording studio.

Choby has helped the band convert many of their songs into English, and when the band speaks at concerts and shows videos, they use English as well.

"It is religiously-based band," Choby said. "It brings a message of hope."


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