• Introduction to Russian Rock Music

    8 Mar 2008, 20:02

    Contrary to popular opinion, the history of Russian rock music had its origins not in the band ‘Kino’, or ‘Aquarium’, but in the group Zoopark and Mark Naumenko. He was a legend, the father of Russian rock music. At that time, and nowadays, some people say that the Russian language isn’t a language for rock, they say that its rhymes and words sound awful with guitar melodies. Naumenko proved that this is completely wrong. His songs and lyrics were influenced by the music of Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 39, but his albums became a lighthouse in the sea of rock music for many young Russian musicians. Also it’s necessary to say that he discovered, and supported, two bands, (Kino and Sekret) that soon turned into real stars.

    Kino became the number one band in the country for ages, nobody could rival them. But the tragic death of Victor Tsoi put an end to their phenomenal success. After that some good bands who had previously been overshadowed by Kino appeared on the main stage of Russian rock music. They were Nautilus Pompilius, Alisa, Chaif and DDT.

    It’s impossible not to mention the Vladivostok band Mumiy Troll when we talk about music at the end of the 90s. They were the first to record albums abroad in London. Their first single “Utekai” was very popular. The leader of the band Ilya Lagutenko used to look gay, so the yellow press labelled Mumiy Troll a bisexual band and soon they became very, very famous. I didn’t like their music until they produced the album ‘Shamora’, that contains old songs which the band recorded in the middle of the 80s. I was astonished because the songs they recorded in those years were totally opposite in comparison to Kino, Aquarium or Nautilus.

    Nowadays, in my opinion, we don’t have a lot of good rock bands The most interesting Russian band is Kaftan Smeha. This project of 7 people is a mixture of progressive rock music and theater. In concert they dress in old-fashioned clothes, sometimes extravagant, and during their performances they display theatrical inclinations, that, of course, are connected with the sense of the songs. They are young, talented great musicians and have the potential to become something really good.

    The band Orgiya Pravednikov is evidently the leader in Russian hard-rock music.
    The singer of the band, Sergey Kalugin, is an acoustic guitar player with great technique and a good poet. The band’s lyrics the are their strong point. In concert they use an acoustic guitar, a distorted guitar, violins, flutes, bass-guitar and sometimes EVEN TWO bass guitars. Amazing, isn’t it? They’re really good, but too lazy. In the last 6 years they have produced only 2 albums. Not good. Also it’s worth saying that the band isn’t afraid of any experiments. For example, 3 years ago they invited in the collective Iranian singer as a backing vocalist.

    Post Rock. It exists in Russia. All the bands are awful except one. And one only! They are called Verba. Two years ago a popular Russian rock magazine announced a competition for young rock bands. The aim was to write the soundtrack for the film “Molchi, grust’, molchi” (1929). Verba won the competition, and the leader of the band said in interview: “We wanted to put in music emotions which had had 4 young people after watching the film”. They made an excellent job.
    I’ve been to one of their concerts in St. Petersburg, where they played the album simultaneously with the film. It was really nice.

    For the last year, my favorite band has been, definitely, Fleur. I fell in love with their music when I was in Iran, and a colleague of mine gave me them to listen to. Mostly Fleur is a girl band, there are 7 people in the collective, and they play art-rock music. Fleur is a Ukrainian band from Odessa, but they sing only in Russian. There are getting more and more popular in Moscow; last summer the band gave 6 marvellous concerts in the capital of Russia, and two in St. Petersburg. At their last concert in October, in Moscow, in the club IKRA, a lot of people came - it was an unbelievable success for an amateur band which doesn’t sell their albums, but allows people to download it from their web site. The lyrics of Fleur are quite girlish, but outstanding. Some of their ideas are so great, that they remind me of the best Russian women poets. It’s really worth listening to them. Another reason why I like Fleur so much I that they perform their songs at concerts in a different way in comparison with the albums. Of course every good band should play like that, but Fleur are really good in improvisation.

    Theodor Bastard. They have already existed for many years, but became quite famous only at the beginning of 2006. Some people said that it happened because the band changed their name from ‘Fedor Svoloch’ to ‘Teodor Bastard’, but it’s obviously not right . Their music is influenced by Middle Eastern melodies, and hard rock music. The voice of their singer is magnificent. She might make you numb during the life performance. Also the band recognised the influence of the Internet, and produced a video clip of the song ‘Pustota’ in the format of Macromedia Flash. It soon became very popular. I found out about the band owing to this clip. So this kind of self-advertising works well.

    What else? We can’t pass over Dolphin. He’s the Russian Moby. A former rapper he brought rap to electronic music, and produced some good albums. He’s the kind of person who never stops, and continues to develop himself. I wasn’t a fan of is, but this kind of ability has forced me to highly respect him. He started to sing, and does it well, also he started to play the guitar, and last year I saw him on MTV he was playing drums. He’s very famous and everyone knows him.

    Kalinov Most. They play folk-rock music. They’ve already broken up, probably - they started to play at the end of 80s, if I’ve not mistaken. I like some of their songs. They sounds quite unusual

    Urfin Jus. A Soviet art-rock band from the beginning of 80s. In 1982 they recorded an excellent album, don’t know something interesting about them, but the lyrics in their songs are weird, really weird. But I like it! Especially song “na drugoy storone holma” and “Chelovek napodobii vetra”. I never heard something like this. Urfin Jus is really an unique band. It’s a pity that they didn’t record a lot.

    These modern bands in the list are quite obscure, apart from Dolphin and Kalinov Most. As you see there is no classic rocks band in it, because, in my opinion, all of them are either hopeless or awful.