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  • Rock Goes Russian

    Posted on November 17th, 2014 katiewells9 6 comments

    Estrada, or stage music, was the preferred music of 1973. It rarely addressed the social issues of the time, but rather focused on the official boundaries of Soviet discourse. The musical establishment of the time “controlled the business through exclusive rights to lease stages, issue recording contracts, contract for radio and television appearances, or to place songs on the official lists of sanctioned music.”

    David Tukhmanov, an honored member of the Union of Composers, composed the hit song “My Address is the Soviet Union,” which addressed Soviet patriotism and the shared view of their greatness and strength. The lyrics of the song allowed for him to be a little more experimental with his music, even including the electric guitar.

    Very few performers were able to act outside of the Soviet system, including Bulat Okudzhava or Vladimir Vysotskii. These two artists were extremely popular by 1973 allowing them to be known throughout the Soviet Union on scratchy, unofficial tape recordings.

    Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977) Rock music spread slowly but inexorably across the Soviet Union, helped by tape recorders and other ingenious homemade recorders. The surest sign of its permanence was when it replaced traditional dance music in villages and provincial towns.

    Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977)
    Rock music spread slowly but inexorably across the Soviet Union, helped by tape recorders and other ingenious homemade recorders. The surest sign of its permanence was when it replaced traditional dance music in villages and provincial towns.

    While rock ‘n’ roll was not the approved form of music and performing of the time, 1973 brought it to the borders of the Soviet Union. The Belorussian band, Pesniary (Songsters), kept within the limits of traditional Soviet music, while indulging in a slight taste for electronic music.

    “At first we tried to sing like the Beatles. And we probably weren’t any worse than, say, the Happy Fellows or the Blue Guitars. But before long we started to feel that this wasn’t us,” said the Songsters.

    The Songsters eventually found themselves through folk music. “It may be a surprising combination of instruments, but how subtly and tastefully the Songsters bring us the soul of Belorussia!”

    Rock ‘n’ roll entered the Soviet Union stage as an English phenomenon. The early rockers sang American or English songs, often not understanding what they were singing about. The culture was “strictly imitative” in that sense and it was not until Andrei Makarevich that Russian rock was created. Makarevich was the lead singer of Time Machine, a Moscow band created in 1968. He began writing rock songs in the early 1970s and showed the Soviet people that rock music could be applicable to their lives as well.

     

     

    6 responses to “Rock Goes Russian” RSS icon

    • The evolution of Rock Music in Russia is very cool. I didn’t know that there was anyone in Russia and tried to use an electric guitar in their songs. This was a very informative and well written post. I wish it was a little longer but other than that. Good Job!

    • This was a very interesting post. We always hear about the Beatles and American rock music, so it is intriguing to see how rock music was approached in the Soviet Union. This post shows how, despite the strict hold that the government tried to keep on society and culture, Western culture continued to seep through the country.

    • I think that the quote you have about the Belorussian band is great not only in the fact that it shows the influence of the “British Invasion” in the USSR of all places, but also because they actually abandoned the Beatles model to follow a more traditional folk culture route. I am really interested in your last paragraph, which introduces what Russian Rock really sounded like, and wish you had expanded that, but otherwise great job!!

    • Nice post. Rock and roll certainly has its place in Russian history. I think the most significant point to note is that Russian rock was identifiable and unique in that it eventually strayed from simply emulating English language rock and became a genre of its own. Russian rock became a conduit for expression and helped, in a small but significant way, lead the way towards the fall of the Soviet Union.

    • This post reminded me of the Singing Revolution post from a few weeks back. I liked the look into the culture of music and how the state controlled the media in more ways than just the news.

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