I learned about the wonderful Rashian muzic only a few months ago. Before that I was a fan of Western music. I liked some Indian music but Western stuff definitely sounded better. After Western music companies amalgamated and started wallowing in monoculture, I rediscovered Indian music. Now, I am a fan of traditional Indian music.
In the late 80s, a 3-in-1 became our prized possessions. It was a 3-piece music system. It had a 4-band radio including FM (with stereo), 5-band graphic equalizer and a tape player/recorder. It could record from radio and microphone (and mistakenly ruin some good pre-existing recording). It was wonderful. For the first time, I paid attention to the lyrics beyond the first stanza and found that most popular Tamil movie romantic songs were actually dirty songs. We also had to cassettes. One had the best Hindi film music from the 70s and 80s and the other one was titled “Disco 88”. The inlay card was handwritten and much of it is illegible. Here is what I could salvage:
- Charleene – Needles And Pins
- Elisa Fiorillo – You Dont Know
- G M – Dont Let You Down
- Lady D – Imagination
- Morgana – Come Back To Me
- OMD – Dreaming
- Ottawan – Hands Up, Baby, Hands Up
- Paul Rein – Eye To Eye
- Ross – Don’t Stop
- Sandra – Stop For A Minute
- Sinery – Don’t You Ever Run Away
- Stacey Q – Good Girl
- Tina Charles – Take All Of Me
- Billy Ocean – Gett outta of my ears and get into my car
My favorite is Needles and Pins. Several people have tried to sing this song but Charleene’s (whoever she is) is the best. The other great is Don’t Stop. All of these songs are imprinted in my mind as I have heard them a million times. At that time, there was no FM. If you did not want local stations on MW, you could listen to SW. Sri Lanka broadcast the latest Tamil and Malayalam songs and was a favorite. Australia Broadcasting Corporation had the best sound, even better than Voice of America (VOA). The Americans had a transmitter in Triconamalee in Sri Lanka but their broadcast reception was … what’s the four-letter word to describe it? It was clear that the Americans were interested in a different kind of radio and the Indian military had good reason to be angry with them.
One day, the FM band crackled with some music. All India Radio began test broadcasts of one-hour programs and then all-day transmissions. It was bliss. Hours and hours of good Indian and Western music. Even the Indian music was good because of the FM-quality sound. The only type of music I did not like was rock music. They had no tune and the lyrics were unintelligible. Prior to this, my only other exposure to Western music was Madonna and her album True Blue. For a long time, Madonna was the most beautiful woman in the world for me. (This changed to Jessica Lange and many others after movies of Touchstone Pictures began playing late at night on DoorDarshan.) DoorDarshan had some relationship with a German TV company by the name “Transtel”. Thanks to TransTel, I saw a lot of disco pop in a program called EuroPop.
The good times on the FM band lasted a few years. AIR was asked to lease its air time on the FM band to private producers and this brought in good and bad. There was one MTV VJ (Nikhil Chinapaa) who appeared on Chennai FM before he went to MTV. The pretty heroine from the Kamal movie Guna was a DJ on AIR before she became an actress. (She was not very good as a DJ.)
In the 90s, MTV made its appearance first on DoorDarshan and then as an independent channel. I saw a lot of music videos. My hairstyle was Keanu Reeves but my moustache was George Michael. I knew more about American pop artists more than I did about Indian artists, pop or classical. So, here is my playlist.
- Everything but the girl – “Missing”: I listened and listened to hours and hours of countdowns just to catch this on FM.
- Jennifer Rush – “The Power Of Love”: Before Celine Dion made the song popular with the movie Titanic, it was Jennifer Rush’s song.
- Freddy Mercury – “Queen”: This song had the best sound on FM. The audio would pan from left to right and drive you crazy.
- Cher – “Believe”
- Gloria Estefan – “Rhythm’s gonna a get you”: This and the previous song did something to your brain.
- KD Lange – “Constant Craving”
- No Doubt – “Don’t Speak”
- Amy Grant – “Baby Baby”: She won a grammy for this and she brought her baby to the stage.
- Billy Joel – “We Didn’t Start the Fire”: It spans news items over a few decades.
- Crash Test Dummies – “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”: From the movie Dumb and Dumber with Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey
- Enya – “Only Time” and “Orinoco Flow”: This is the real trance music.
- Janet Jackson – “Runaway”: Fantastic visuals of Janet jumping to various places on earth.
- Joe Dolce – “Shaddap you face”: This was on Eurpop. Joe wrote the lyrics on a board and asked the audience to sing along. It seems to have been a big hit world over.
- Los del – Rio Macarena: This song from Brazil has everything.
- Madonna – “La Isla Bonita” and “Rain”: Rain is the best Madonna song ever. She is now crazy.
- MC Hammer – “U Can’t Touch This”: I am not a fan of rap music but this is the best.
- Missing Persons – I saw this band recently in the movie Lunch Wagon. It is another evidence that the 80s were the best time for music. Their kind of music was known as New Wave. The lead singer is very beautiful. The drums is great. The keyboard is great. The whole ensemble is just fantastic. Mental Hopscotch song from the movie got me hooked on to them. Surrender You Heart and Words are other great songs on their list.
- Natalie Imbruglia – Torn
- Seal – “Kiss From A Rose”: From the movie Batman.
- Shakira – “Whenever Wherever”: Columbian hearthrob!
- Shania Twain – “From This Moment On”, “Ka Ching”, “Man I Feel Like A Woman”, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”: Another most beautiful woman in the world.
- Snow – Informer: From FM.
- Spice Girls – “Mama”, “Say-You-ll-Be-There”, “Spice-Up-Your-Life”, “Stop”, “Viva Forever”, “Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are”: The all-girl band wore skimpy clothes but had the most number of consistently good quality tunes. Good times don’t last and they broke up.
- The Cardigans – “Lovefool”
- Vanilla – Ice-Ice-Ice-Baby: Just one small segment of their song made it a world-wide hit.
- Whitney Houston – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”: She won a grammy for this.
I also bought the greatest hits cassettes of Shania Twain, George Michael and Spice Girls. It is sad that George Michael and Whitney Houston died.
Two video playlists for the best music from Russia and beyond
When I was a kid, we were all supporters of the Soviet Union (USSR). The USSR had militarily supported India in many of its conflicts. During the 1962 war, China occupied Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. Nehru wrote to President Kennedy and it was American military support that made the Chinese withdraw from Arunachal Pradesh. By Nixon’s time, the American balance towards India vis-a-vis Pakistan had “tilted” to the other side as Sy Hersh described it. Indira Gandhi was irritated by Nixon’s attitude (no thanks to the humanoid Henry Kissinger) and she flew to Moscow from Washington. India has been in the USSR camp ever since and (despite all the pretensions at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summits) Russia has been our best friend. Even in Nehru’s time, Russia had helped us set up huge steel plants. They even put our man Rakesh Sharma in space.
When I was going through my short-wave radio listening phase, I caught Moscow Radio a few times. Their music was surprisingly more electronic than VOA. It was surprising because the USSR was going through the deep end of a socialist downturn as defence spending had become a big part of Russian economy. When the USSR broke up, Yeltsin-backed Western cronies were looting Russia and transferring wealth abroad by tens of billions. The majority of the Russian people were suddenly pushed to the brink of poverty. All of us Indians who supported the USSR were saddened by what was happening there. Then, in a move that surprised everyone around the world, Yeltsin turned over power to a former KGB agent named Vladimir Putin and took a deep nap in a cemetery. Good riddance. Russia was then being harassed by terrorists from places like Chechnya but Putin set everything to order. He took control of the oil industry, plugged all the leakage of Russian wealth to foreign shell companies. Today, Russia is flourishing again. Instead of rapprochement, the US opposed Russia’s entry to the WTO for several years for some reason or other but Putin took time to cultivate economic ties with Western European countries despite US interference. The US intelligence establishment remained hostile to Russia because they seemed to be extremely upset with Putin for some reason. No matter who was President in the US, Russia was subjected to numerous sanctions and other international obstacles. Putin was always one step ahead of them. He showed the Americans what statecraft was.
American public’s attitude towards Russia was shaped by the Cold War and the many spy novels and movies that were made with Russia as the villain. However, there were lots of Americans who were of Russian descent and many of them were well established in arts and entertainment. You will find famous Russian songs in American movies performed of course by American musicians. Recently, I found a Russian song in WC Fields movie “Never Give A Sucker An Even Chance”. The tunes seemed already familiar to me thanks to movies of Mosfilm Studios shown on DoorDarshan. Songs like “Ochi Chornya” and “Kalinka” have some sort of quality that seems to be unique to Russian music. Russian musical instruments like the balalaika are big contributors to the likeability to Russian folk songs. Old Russian songs also have a Christian hymn feel to them because of the heavy reliance of chorus singing.
Today, in modern Russia, musicians are doing better than ever. Technically, they are lock step with the West. Most of their music videos seemed to be derived from Western hits. I stopped watching MTV long ago. I hate the current crop of American pop artists because they are horrible. Watching Russians play the same music is better. It is not that there are no good American artists. No, the problem is that American music industry is a cartel. Good artists are not given opportunity and filthy ones rises to the top there. The only way good artists in America can make money is with live performances, not by music CD sales or streaming revenue. If you look at the charts, a handful of music companies control everything. In the 80s and 90s, thanks to advances in electronics available to the public, the number of independent music groups exploded in the West and a great deal of memorable music was made. Now, the music is barely tolerable and everyone forgets what the last year’s hit was because it is by the same old ugly people. In Russia, Ukraine and much of Eastern Europe, there is much variety. The women are stunningly beautiful. (They are not like the GMO-corn-fed Botox-injected plastic surgery-gone-bad horror stories of America. There is nobody in the US music charts who can compare to the likes of Anna Sedokova, Katya Bazhenova, Olya Polyakova, Tatyana Kotova, Vera Brezhneva or Zlataslava. These Russian stars are very down-to-earth and are not the stuck-up boors you find in the West. Even though some Russian female artists have “enhanced” themselves, most of them naturally look great. If they are not lanky and lean, they are are still fit and spunky. Thanks to Putin banning GMO foods, most Russians are still healthy.) For these reasons, their music videos are watchable. Forget that many of them are ripoffs. Russian music videos are fun not only because of the use of traditional Russian musical instruments but also thanks to the uniquely Russian humour. Russian music is currently in the state that the West was in those two great but gone decades. This is probably the best time for Russian music before consolidation ruins all creativity.
One more thing, it is not just Russia. Ukraine seems to have a lot of great pop stars. Olya Polyakova (Любовь-Морковь) is an example. Her videos are funny, have great tunes and she packs as much oomph as anybody else. An Indian will find no difference between Russian and Ukrainian songs. (It is again extremely sad that the US government had set Russia and Ukraine to fight.)
I created two playlists of what I think are popular music videos from the former Soviet republics. Ukrainian Olya Polyakova has the most songs – Lyubov-Morkov – Любовь-Морковь, Happy New Year – С новым Годом!, Lyuli – Люли, Shlop – Шлёпки and Него – Первое лето без. Russian singer Zlataslava has two – 100 – Пудов and Bitter – Горько. Some videos are about the musical instrument balalaika. (The accordion is another instrument that seemed to be there in all Russian music.) Payushchie Trusy (Пающие трусы) is a Ukrainian group that is just as funny as Olya Polyakova of which “Glamur – Премьера” is the funniest. Their sense of humour is a bit over the top but no adult will be harmed by watching them. Raisa Prikolnaya seems to be like Russia’s Usha Uthup. Her song Musiki (Мужики) is difficult to find because of the many tribute videos with photos or clips of younger Russian women. The Russian version of Batman (Бэтмен) is a very funny video. Hey Sokoli is a wonderful song from Poland about a Kossack girl that is also popular in Ukraine and Slovakia. (DoorDarshan used to have a Soviet cartoon I think simply named as the Kossacks.) Ukrainoychka by the lanky Ukrainian women seems to be a folk song. The song Štefan by Slovakian group Hrdza is in the Rusyn language, not Russian. Hrdza has also performed a Welcome to Slovakia video for foreign tourists to Slovakia. I don’t think that tune is original. I’ve heard that before like many of these videos. This can be frustrating because it becomes impossible to recall the original subsequently. One Ukrainian group is named in English – “Made In Ukraine”. Their song Smuglyanka is a military song from the Soviet times. Blestyashchiye (Блестящие) is an all-girl Russian group. Their song “Novogodnaya Pesnya – Happy New Year – Новогодняя песня” sounds like a lullaby and features a younger Anna Cemenovich.
There are a few other songs that I am unable to find now because I browse anonymously. I will update the playlists in future if I find them.
Here is the lyrics for Hey Sokoly.
Hei, des tam de chorni vodi,
Sivna konia kozak molodyi
Plache moloda divicheena,
Yide kozak zukrayini.
Hei! Hei! Hei, Sokoli!
Ominaite horiilisi doli.
Dzee, Dzee, Dzee, dzveenochku,
Hei! Hei! Hei, Sokoli!
Ominaite horiilisi doli.
Dzee, Dzee, Dzee, dzveenochku,
Don’t play these video playlists without a sub-woofer.
Le Music of Russia
Many of these videos are dance music. You need to listen to them on a music system (ie subwoofer) or headphones. The footwork of the girls in the Kalinka remix is amazing.
Le Women of Russia
The second playlist also has great music but is not family-friendly. I have not eaten an avocado yet. If you have, then you should not probably see the Nikita Avocado song. The song sounds great but something about the way it has been filmed tells you you should not.