Russian rock

Russian rock

Infobox Music genre
name=Russian rock
stylistic_origins= Rock music, Bard music
cultural_origins=1960s, Russian SFSR
instruments=Vocals - Guitar - Bass - Keyboards - Drums - Often violin and wind instruments. Not rarely traditional Russian instruments.
popularity=Became popular in the '70s, but its "golden age" is considered to be the '80s. Stays popular since then.
regional_scenes=Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg), Sverdlovsk (Today Yekaterinburg), Moscow, Siberia (Omsk, Novosibirsk)

Russian rock (Pусский рок) refers to rock music made in Russia and/or in Russian. Rock and roll became known in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and quickly broke free from its western roots. According to many music critics, its "golden age" years were the 1980s (especially the era of perestroika), when the Soviet underground rock bands could release their records officially and were no longer banned by the media (television and radio).


The early '60s: Local bard music and first western influences

Prior to the late sixties, music in the Soviet Union was divided into two groups: music published by Melodiya, and everything else [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] . Under this second group were the bards, underground folk singer-songwriters.

Bards such as Vladimir Vysotsky [ [ Владимир Высоцкий (Vladimir Vysotskiy ): Russian modern:bards Artist ] ] and Bulat Okudzhava [ [ Булат Окуджава (Bulat Okudzhava): Russian modern:bards Artist ] ] created the style which is referred to as "author's song" (avtorskaya pesnya), mostly played on unaccompanied acoustic guitar and characterized by a strong accent on lyrics that sometimes carried a subversive meaning. Their music was often suppressed by the government, and yet enjoyed massive popularity, with Vysotsky becoming a highly popular movie actor and an iconic figure of the times.

Meanwhile, some Western music was either being smuggled across the border or released by Melodya as part of what essentially was state-run pirating of records, with the Beatles taking a firm place in Soviet popular culture, and artists such as The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple completing a somewhat distorted picture of Western music [ [ Рок-Музыка В России ] ] .

The first "rock" bands in the Soviet Union appeared on the scene in the early- and mid-sixties in Moscow, and they were heavily influenced by the Beatles [ [ Рок-Музыка В России ] ] .

The late '60s and '70s: First signs

The native bands grew popular in spite of governmental restrictions. This continued into the 1980s, when native bands gained some success, but were still hampered by state regulators who would not allow them to be officially recorded, and placed restrictions on lyrical content.

Underground bands evolved during this time, including Pojuschie Gitary ("the singing guitars"), and almost at the same time Mashina Vremeni and Akvarium. These bands started the VIA (Вокально-Инструментальный Ансамбль Vokal'no-Instrumental'nyy ansambl' -- Vocal-Instrumental Ensemble) movement, and were followed by Tcvety, Golubiye Gitary and Sinyaya Ptica. [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] [ [ Рок-Музыка В России ] ]

In the early 1970s Yuri Morozov invented a kind of Russian psychedelic rock, using elements of progressive rock and Ethnic Russian music as well. His sound influenced DDT, Aquarium, Chizh & Co, and many others, while he worked with them as a sound engineer .

Another notable artist who started his activity at the same time is Alexander Gradsky, who created bard music using rock elements and sold millions of records all over the country.

The '80s: "Classic" Russian rock

In the 1980s an underground scene of rock artists emerged that based their style on a mix of Western rock music (particularly the Beatles) and the Russian bard tradition. Such bands as Alisa, Agata Kristi, Autograph, Kino, Mashina Vremeni, Nautilus Pompilius, Aquarium, Krematorij, Grazhdanskaya Oborona, Voskreseniye, Secret, Piknik, Chizh & Co and DDT were influential in the development of the genre, with the consequent artists copying their style [ [ Рок-Музыка В России ] ] .

Big influence on the development of Russian rock made movements such as mitki, hippie and others.

In 1980 a big Rock festival was held in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR, named Spring Rhythms. Tbilisi-80. Almost all the performers and prize-winners at the festival were rock groups from the Russian SSR. It was the first official rock festival in the Soviet Union.

The lyrics of the Soviet rock bands often dealt with the darker sides of the 80s Soviet life such as domestic violence, alcoholism (an infamous song by Nautilus Pompilius contained the lines "Alain Delon drinks a double bourbon/Alain Delon doesn't drink eau de cologne" as a sarcastic contrast to the alcoholic daughter-raping father described in the song and an indictment of the escapist attitudes of state-run media) and crime, and often carried a hidden political message.

These bands were consequently ignored by the mainstream radio and television, often reaching audiences only through word of mouth.

Many of the 80s bands are still active and popular among Russian youth. The term "Russian rock" is often used to refer to the particular sound of these bands. [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ]

Various music scenes

In the early- to mid-80s, several rock clubs were founded in Moscow, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). These three cities had their own rock music scene, with friendly collaborations between artists commonplace.

The Leningrad scene was probably the biggest one [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , featuring "classic Russian rock" by Aquarium [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Kino [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Zoopark, Piknik, Chizh & Co [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Alisa [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] and DDT [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] . It also included the nascent Russian art rock movement, typified by such bands as Auktyon.

Bands from Sverdlovsk, such as Nautilus Pompilius [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Chaif [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] and Agata Kristi [ [ Russian Studies ] ] , produced more melodic music making heavy use of keyboards and synthesizers.

Moscow rock bands, such as Aria [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Mashina Vremeni [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Voskreseniye, Center, Krematorij [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] and Zvuki Mu, were rather different from the others and sometimes more discreet. [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ]

The Siberian rock scene began in the 1980s, with such songwriters as Egor Letov (Grazhdanskaya Oborona [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Omsk), Kalinov most, Alexander Bashlachev and Yanka Dyagileva. Their music varied from simple lo-fi punk to indie rock (sometimes unplugged), and the core of their songs were the lyrics. Many albums were first self-released and distributed among the fans via trading, then officially re-released years later. Lyrics were often obscene, and the musicians had major problems with the Soviet administration and KGB.

Notable acts that weren't members of any of the three Rock-Clubs but were highly popular are Igor Talkov, the Rock N' Roll band Secret, and the band Lubeh.

At that time the Russian Heavy metal scene was created thanks to bands like Aria [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Chorny Kofe and Master (formed by a few ex-members of Aria). [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ]

The glam metal band Gorky Park reached high popularity in the west and was even aired on MTV.

Russian punk's unique style was brought in the face of Sektor Gaza.

From underground to publicity

The 1980s were the years of breakthrough for the soviet rock music artists to the wide public. Political and social changes in the country were very important for this process.

The censorship was still present, but not as rigid as it was in the 1970s. It took years for the first Soviet rock bands to enter the media, tour in major concert halls over the USSR, and to release their albums officially.

The monopoly for the music publishing in the USSR belonged to Melodiya, the "one and only" soviet record label, and Melodiya's policy concerning soviet "protest rock" was clear. Some of the artists (Yuri Shevchuk [ [ Brief biography] of Yuri Shevchuk (in Russian)] , Yegor Letov [ [ History] of Grazhdanskaya Oborona (in Russian), "«Музыкальная Газета»", Minsk, 1998] and many others) even had problems with KGB due to their artistic activities.

The situation around rock music changed during the perestroika era. Many Russian rock bands were able to tour and record in Europe and USA for the first time. As a result, in 1989-1991 the situation was completely different from that of 1985. Moscow Music Peace Festival with western rock stars was held in Moscow, Gorbachyov accepted Scorpions in Kremlin [ [ Old-time rock 'n' roll/ The Scorpions are sweeping across America] ] , and Brian Eno produced an album by Zvuki Mu for the release in the western world.

With Joanna Stingray's initiative, in 1986 the "Red Wave" compilation was released in the USA. It was a double split album with four bands from Leningrad: Aquarium, Kino, Alisa, and Strannye Igry. One side of vinyl for each band. This compilation was the first official Russian rock release in the west.

Stingray sent copies of the release to Ronald Reagan and Gorbachov, supplied with a statement saying musicians already did what both presidents couldn't do diplomatically.

Melodiya's reaction was an official release of a record by Aquarium in order to create an illusion that recordings of the band are also widely released in the USSR. [ [ Aqaurium Guide, 1986/06/27, "Red Wave"] (in Russian)]

Another important contributor for the breakthrough of Russian rock to the public in the 1980s were television and film. New musical television shows, such as "Muzykalny Ring" ("Музыкальный ринг") and "Programma A"("Программа "А"), invited national rock artists for interviews and live shows.

Several popular films were created in the second half of the 1980s, featuring Russian rock musicians as actors: "Igla" and "Assa" featuring Viktor Tsoi, "Taxi-Blues" featuring Pyotr Mamonov.

The '90s: Post-Soviet era

The beginning of the '90s are considered to be the end of the "classic" Russian rock era. The two events that mark its end are the death of Viktor Tsoi in 1990, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nevertheless, the Russian rock sound continued to live and the new Russian rock sound of the '90s was based on it.

In the mid-late 1990s the radiostation Nashe Radio("Our Radio") has been created to promote Russian rock artists, broadcasting in all major Russian cities. Nashe Radio notably influenced the auditory taste and helped many artists to gain popularity.

The radiostation founded Nashestvie, the largest open-air rock festival of Russian rock music performed yearly since 1999 and always headlined with famous rock acts.

In 1996 the recording company "Moroz" started releasing the highly popular series Legends of Russian Rock.

Often aired by Nashe Radio, bands like Splean [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , Nochniye Snaiperi [ [ Ночные Снайперы (Nochnye Snaypery): Russian modern:rock/pop Artist ] ] , Smisloviye Galutzinatzii and Bi-2 [ [ Би-2 – Music at ] ] [ [ Би-2 (Bi-2): Russian modern:rock/pop Artist ] ] have created a refreshed Russian rock sound which adopted many elements from Alternative rock.

At that time the band Korol i Shut [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] created a unique style which combined alternative rock and punk rock. The band became very popular and many other groups were influenced by its style.

At the same time, numerous punk, pop-punk and grunge bands, including Pilot, Lumen, 7Rasa, Naiv, Tarakany and Nogu Svelo! [ [ Russian Studies ] ] also gained major popularity. Many of them developed an original sound and involvement of unconventional instruments like violin.

The Russian instrumental rock artist Victor Zinchuk reached international success with his solo career, and by that brought the Russian instrumental rock scene into a bigger audience. [ [ Victor Zinchuk::Biography ] ]

Ska punk was brought to popularity mainly by the band Leningrad [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] .

The western Pop rock sound was introduced by Ilya Lagoutenko's Mumiy Troll [ [ The legends of Russian Rock Music :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] , who made their records in the UK under the guidance of UK producers. This less lyrically loaded and more energetic style frequently referred to as rockapops, which was also used by other notable bands such as Zemfira, became prevalent among the younger public.

The 1997 Russian extremely-popular films Brat (brother), with its soundtrack featuring the classic Russian rock band Nautilus Pompilius, and its sequel Brat 2, whose soundtrack was compiled from music of many Russian rock artists, brought many young fans to Russian rock. [ [ Зоил __ Где Брат Твой? ] ]

The 2000s: Further Development - Current Activity

The 2000s in Russian Rock are marked by both a continuance of the '90s and something of a comeback of the classic 80s sound. In the years following the renaissance of Russian cinema and rock, rock in Russia seems to gain enough ground to differentiate widely in various genres.

Alternative metal and metalcore gained wider popularity at that time. In mid-2000s bands like Amatory, Psychea, Jane Air were established and soon arose in fame, being intensively promoted by A-One channel. The channel awarded many of them with Russian Alternative Music Prize.

Russian Alternative rock and Electronic music gained world recognization with the pop duo t.A.T.u., which used elements from those styles, gaining international success. [ [ t.A.T.u. Biography (Rock Musicians) — ] ] [ [ п═п╬п╨-пЁя─я┐п©п©п╟ "п╒п╟я┌я┐" п╫п╣ я│п╬п╠я─п╟п╩п╟ п╦ п©п╬п╩п╬п╡п╦п╫я▀ п╥п╟п╩п╟ - 26 п■п╣п╨п╟п╠я─я▄ 2006 - All about group t.A.T.u - Site ] ]

Russian Heavy metal scene continued its development with power metal bands like Shadow Host, Catharsis and Epidemia, founded in 90's, received more attention.

In 2002 Valery Kipelov split from Aria, and with more ex-members of Aria he formed a new band called Kipelov, which soon compared itself to Aria in popularity.

The underground pagan metal scene, based on Slavic pagan traditions, had grew wide with such bands as Temnozor, Arkona and Butterfly Temple being noted by auditory outside Russia. [ [ Metal-Nightfall review] for Temnozor ref-fr]

Folk rock music had a revival following Pelagea's and Melnitsa's rise from underground acts to constantly radio-aired bands. [Moscow Times: [ Russian Revival] 22.03.2007 by Vladimir Kozlov]

Though the Russian Progressive rock scene had existed since the '70s, it was the 2000s when it entered the public eye of Russian rock fans, with bands like Little Tragedies [ [ журнал "Автозвук" ] ] its most obvious representatives. Since 2001 a prog-music festival named InProg was held almost yearly in Moscow. Its popularity constantly grew and in 2005 it turned from a local festival into an international one.

The Russian instrumental rock scene with bands like EXIT project, Disen Gage, Dvar and Kostarev Group also received more recognition at that time. [ [ журнал "Автозвук" ] ]

The Live 8 concert, Moscow featured mainly Russian rock artists.

The rockapops phenomenon from the 90's continued to gain popularity in the 2000s with new bands like Zveri arriving. Nevertheless, unlike the classic rockapops Mumiy Troll and Zemfira, who were more rock than pop, the new bands were by some blamed for being more pop than rock. [ [ «Звериный» секс и русский рок | Гуру Кен Шоу::: все о шоу бизнесе ] ] [ [ Официальный сайт противников ПОПСЫ!!! ] ]


Fans of Russian Rock would frequently refer to most of the music on Russian MTV dismissively as "popsa", a dichotomy that appeared in the '80s when government controlled radio and TV stations would air only politically harmless music by performers such as Alla Pugachova and Filipp Kirkorov [ [ "ВРЕМЯ Z" - журнал для интеллектуальной элиты общества ] ] . The lines are still quite clearly drawn, with bands such as Nogu Svelo - who recorded a song with pop-singer Nataliya Vetlitskaya - being an anomaly.

In contrast to Western rock, Russian rock is often said to have less drive; it is characterized by different rhythms, instruments and more involved lyrics. Unconventional instruments have often been used in addition to the standard electric guitars and drums (very often violin and wind instruments) [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ] .

Another characteristic of Russian Rock is being partly Folk rock. Very often Russian Rock songs, especially the once of the classic 80s bands, talk about national themes and feature elements from Russian folk music. Aquarium, DDT and Yuri Morozov could be used as examples for that. [ [ History of Rock Music in Russia :: Music :: Culture & Arts :: Russia-InfoCentre ] ]

Considering its poetic roots (Russian literature, bard music), it is not a big surprise that lyrics play a far larger role in Russian rock than Western rock. Vocal melody is sometimes eschewed in favor of a more impassioned delivery (Viktor Tsoi, the lead singer of Kino, pioneered a characteristically strained, monotonous style of singing that has been imitated by many).

Russia has always been facing both East and West with its double-headed Eagle on the coat-of-arms. The Eastern derivative in the Russian rock came with soundtracks from movies like Day Watch that had Tamerlan's legend of the Chalk of Destiny at its roots. Russian rock expressively used and integrated elements from culture, as well as Western and Eastern (especially countries of the USSR).

Yngvar Bordrewich Steinholt [ [ Yngvar Bordewich Steinholt´s homepage - Yngvar Bordewich Steinholts hjemmeside ] ] (University of Tromsø, Norway) has written a PhD thesis titled "Rock in the Reservation" (2004) about Leningrad Rock Club. It also touches upon the history of rock in Russia and its countercultural tendencies. The thesis is in English, a printed edition available from The Mass Media Music Scholars Press.


ee also

*"Legends of Russian Rock"

External links

* [ List of Russian bands] (English)
* [ Russian Music on the Net: Site about Modern Russian music with lots of Rock bands] (English)
* [ History of Rock Music In Russia] (English)
* [ A quick overview about Russian rock] (Russian)
* [ A list of Russian rock bands who reached a legendary status] (English)
* [ Annotated library of modern Russian music - including Russian rock] (English)

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