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.
Delivered with proper accent too.
It apparently has Persian & Kashmiri variants – all known by the same name.