Rock’n roll and Russia- two things that are often not thought of together. However, that all changed in the early 70s. Originally rock’n roll music was typically only thought of as American or Western. Bands did not realized that they could write their own songs in Russian with a rock’n roll flair. Early rock’n roll Russian groups sang along to English songs often without understanding what they were even singing.
The Russian group ‘The Songsters’ were one of these groups. They originally began singing along to the Beatles. However, they found their own sound by electrifying folk music. They became extremely successful and even won the 1969 All-Union Competition of Variety Show Performers. Part of why the group was so successful is because their sound was still within the scope of what was acceptable for Soviet music. There sound was however, was a new and different take on Soviet music. Around the same time, the popular music was called estrada. Estrada was simple melodies combined with pro-Soviet messages about peaceful living.
If artists wanted to take a more creative approach to their pop music, they typically attached pro-Soviet messages to their songs. David Tukhmanov did this perfectly in his song “My Address is the Soviet Union”. The song had a strong message of how the Soviet Union was his home. However, his song featured an electric guitar, an instrument that was not normally ever featured in Russian music. The message of the song was able to glaze over the fact that Tukhmanov was breaking societal norms by adding a rock’n roll flair.
N. Alekseeva, The Songsters (Pesniary). October 1972. Ogonek, No. 42 (October 1972), pp. 32-33.
Photo: Irkutsk Regional Art Museum. 1998. Tatyana Nazarenko: Dance Floor (1977).