Today I have the pleasure of presenting the musical preview. Since the Wolves play Brooklyn, we thought New York could share its spotlight with some Russian music today. I have lurked in many of the musical previews' because they show a nice variety of mostly non-mainstream (at least, to my knowledge of American music) so it's great to finally contribute a little myself. I tried to be as versatile as possible and asked two friends with slightly different musical taste to help me out. We had fun listening to a bunch of Russian songs and came up with a list which is waaay to long. Pick the genres you’re interested in and (as we hope) enjoy the short trip through the recent Russian music history.
I will spare you t.A.t.U. and the Tro-lo-lo-man. But have you met the Dap-da-dap-dap-lady yet?
Dmitri Shostakovich & Sergei Prokofjev
Let’s start classical. The Bolshevik revolution fell within their productive period which constituted problems for both. While Prokovjev left Russia to find a home in the US and different places in Europe because he feared artistic dependence in the new state, Shostakovich thought that the classic sector would be left alone by the Soviet rulers because it was too important as a patriotic stimulant/cultural factor to sanction. Therefore, he chose to satisfy the state department’s need for pro-soviet conformist music, and do some not-so-conformist work once in a while… which still got him in trouble every now and then.
It really wasn’t that easy for the composers of that time though. You didn’t really know how conformist conformist actually was. Even if you did an opera which got great reviews from the public and the press, it would be enough for an official (let’s say Stalin) to hate it because for example the image of the ‘oppressed woman in tsarist Russia’ wasn’t highlighted strongly enough. It had to be ‘conform’ or ‘in form’ all around. Since it was music it had to sound like music and since it was a work within the Soviet context it should be in line with the ‘centrilized’ view. If word got out that the officials hated it, the experts would hate it too… aaand the composer might get into a lil trouble and his good work would be burried. Artists like Rostropovich had to leave the country, not because they were harassed personally, but because it was just impossible for them to perform.
After being a globetrotter, Prokofjev returned to Russia at some point and his work reached its peak. The different experiences are quite mirrored in their music too. While Prokofjev is a much more consistent composer, you can feel the uncertainity and frustration in Shostakovich’s music much more. However, he has more genius moments which are levels above Prokofjev IMO.
Here are two works by both of them, some of their most acclaimed work. I’m sure you heard it already, maybe hadn’t known that it was by a Russian composer:
- Дмитрий Дмитриевич Шостакович (Shostakowich) - Jazz Suite No. 2: VI. Waltz 2 - Part 6/8
- Серге́й Проко́фьев (Prokofejev) - Dance Of The Knights
JAZZ / SWING
It didn’t take long for Jazz to become popular in the CCCP. The first bands formed around the 1920’s yet the art state department had an ambivalent position towards it. At first it wasn’t prohibited to play or perform jazz music but it sure wasn’t well-received because It was labeled as sophisticated upper class music. The fact that it was American made Jazz’ fate on the Russian market worse. Around 50-1960’s it was very hard for jazz ensembles to get concerts because of the increasing tensions between the US and the CCCP.
Here are songs by some of the pioneers of Soviet Jazz who all were quite pissed off by soviet culture politics:
- Александр Цфасман (Aleksandr Zfasman) – Снежинки (1956)
- Николай Капустин (Nikolai Kapustin) live on tv
- Эдди Рознер (Eddi Rozner) – St. Louis Blues
Russian Rock music in its early stages, around the 1960’s was heavily influenced by the Beatles, the Stones and different Psychedelic bands whose tapes were smuggled into Russian metropoles. At first, bands could only perform in the underground mostly because the lyrics were pro-western anyway. However, few non-critical bands were able to have mainstream success as early as the late 60’s. Most of the early stuff was an awkward attempt to mimic the Beatles sound with psychedelic elements though.
- Юрий Морозов (Yuri Morozov) - Мой друг пони
- Юрий Морозов (Yuri Morozov) - Крети
- Аквариум (Aquarium) - Город золотой
- Аквариум (Aquarium) - Этот Поезд В Огне live in Montreal 1988
- ДДТ (DDT) - В Последнюю Осень (live)
- Янка Дягилева (Yanka Dyagileva) - Особый резон
- ЧиЖ и Ко. (Chizh I Co.) - Руссо Матросо
- Наутилус Помпилиус (Nautilus Pompilus)
Leningrad & Grazhdanskaya Oborona
Leningrad has had quite some success in and outside Russia. They have even toured the United States and released a live album from that tour. The lyrics are pretty ridiculous and often mock Russian society or revolve around genitalia. They added a female background singer a few years ago and ever since, the genitalia lyrics seem to have increased.
Founded by young dissident Igor Letov, Grazhdanskaya Oborna was one of the earliest Russian punk bands and released its first album in 1985.
Oh… and just for reference, there’s Pussy Riot. You've heard a lot, but have you heard their music yet? Much like their protest, good effort, terrible sad effort.
- Leningrad - ‚Меня зовут Шнур‘
- Leningrad - ‘Дороги‘ live in Hamburg, Germany
- Grazhdanskaya Oborona- Вечная весна
- Grazhdanskaya Oborna - Хорошо!!
- Pussy Riot
Similar to the Beatniks in the US, bard musicians were singer-songwriters outside the establishment. Traditionally just one signer with a guitar. Because of the political nature of their music, they were exclusively performing artists, not recording ones. People in the audiences used to tape their concerts and distribute the tapes to spread their music & message. Vladimir Vysotsky with his raw voice is my favorite.
- Vladimir Vysotsky - Банька по-белому
- Сергей Никитин (Sergei Nikitin) - Бричмула
- Александр Дольский (Aleksandr Dolskiy) – Одиночество
- Сергей Никитин, Татьяна Никитина (Sergei Nikitin & Tatyana Nikitina) - Под музыку Вивальдиди
THE 60-70’s FILM MUSIC
In the mid-60’s to the end of the 70’s, a director had a series of huge blockbuster comedy films in Russia that featured mostly the same cast over and over as well as a jazzy/swingy soundtracks that mirrored the absured and feel-good character of these movies. It’s nothing groundbreaking and by far not as good as the jazz of the 40’s and 50’s but is very popular today.
Here’s 10 minute footage of a tv show where some of the music was played with some comedy elements. The blonde glassed guy was a gigantic star in that era. I don’t think there was anybody in Russia in the 80’s who didn’t know who he was.
"Спят курганы темные" (1939) is a lil older but nonetheless of my fav songs and was written for a movie. The song has become the unofficial anthem of the Donbas region among miners & as well as for the billionaire owned Ukranian football club Schahtar Donetsk (Miners of Donetsk).
Hip Hop is a sad topic in Russia lately. It has always had few success in Russia. It blew up to some extent in the last years but unfortunately in connection with racist/pro-nationalist organizations who try to appeal to Youngers. The genre is getting a terrible image from that... some of those kids's are quite talented in what they do, but the content makes it just unbearable. But there is some good rap music over here.
Gordey is a street drummer in Moscow who is a little older now and fell in love with Hip Hop at a young age. He's what you would call a 'old school head' and he tries to make his music sound like the early '90s stuff from America which he listened too when he was younger. Track suit, dance moves, no swearing - just all around positivity and activity. This might be my favorite Russian rap song. Zazhigai means 'Light it up!'
Taking an old school approach can go all wrong though as ‘Мальчи́шник’ proved. They tried to be the Beastie Boys but ended up a bunch of Russian Vanilla Ice’s. They were pioneers though so they deserve a mention. And there just isn’t that much good Russian hip-hop.
Eduard Artemyew (Эдуард Артемьев)
A student of Yuri Shaporin who wa a classical composer and at a time director of the Bolshoi Theatre. Artmyew however was a little bored by regular instruments so he turned his attention to electronic music devices which haven’t been really established at that point. His early interest in electronic music (around the 60’s) made him a pioneer and led to acclaimed scores as the ones for Solaris and Stalker. I’m sure it’s quite useful as therapy music nowadays.
Pavel Dovgal, DZA & The National Fanfare of Kadeboastany
Sasha DZA & Pavel are not partners, but their music is somewhat similar and both are some of the most hyped young electronic musicians/’beatmakers’ in the European scene right now. The National Fanfare on the other hand is not really Russian. Some of them are Belarussian and they use a good portion of Eastern European & Eurasian elements in their music so I thought it was fitting to put them here.
- DZA – Shifty (2011)
- Pavel Dovgal – Andromeda (2010)
- The National Fanfare of Kadebostany - Kazak Rules
Can’t go wrong with the Red Army Choir. More badass than the Spetsnaz IMO.
I’m really not a patriotic person. Sure, rooting for your nation at sports events is great and it wouldn’t be bad if Russia stopped being a joke politically, but apart from that I don’t really care all that much. But I always get chills when I hear our anthem. There are many great anthems in this world, but I totally love the enthusiastic nature of our.
In this vid, see a few thousand soldiers sing it acapella in front of a few thousand army veterans.
Okay, uhmmm what? Well, see this as an extra. Our two Russian Timberwolves have their fingers in the music biz too… sort of. Andrei is proud to have assisted his wife Masha in maybe the most boring loungy pop song eeeeever. Oof.
Also… You see, it's not easy to be the average joe brother of a multimilionaire athlete. It kind of makes you question your identity sometimes. Well, either that or it is super easy and the deepest thought you'll have is 'Should I spend my brother's money on the benz or the BMW?". Our beloved Alexey Shved's brother, Dmitry's identity seems to be that of a Minnesota representing Russian rapper.... yeah, really. In this track, he's all like "Yo, I'm from Minnesota." Watch out, Atmosphere, new sheriff in town.
That's it! Hope you found something you like. Now proceed with your goodies.