20th century: Soviet music

After the Russian Revolution, Russian music changed dramatically. The early 1920s were the era of avant-garde experiments, inspired by the "revolutionary spirit" of the era. New trends in music (like music based on synthetic chords) were proposed by enthusiastic clubs such as Association for Contemporary Music. In the 1930s, under the regime of Joseph Stalin, music was forced to be contained within certain boundaries of content and innovation. Classicism was favoured, and experimentation discouraged.(A notable example: Shostakovich's veristic opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was denounced in Pravda newspaper as "formalism" and soon removed from theatres for years). The music patriarchs of the era were Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian. With time, a wave of younger Soviet composers, such as Georgy Sviridov and Alfred Schnittke, took the forefront due to the rigorous Soviet education system. The Union of Soviet Composers was established in 1932 and became the major regulatory body for Russian music. Jazz was introduced to Soviet audiences by Valentin Parnakh in the 1920s. Singer Leonid Uteosov and film score composer Isaak Dunayevsky helped its popularity, especially with the popular comedy movie Jolly Fellows that featured a jazz soundtrack. Eddie Rosner, Oleg Lundstrem and others contributed to soviet jazz music.

Film soundtracks produced a significant part of popular Soviet/Russian songs of the time, as well as of orchestral and experimental music. The 1930s saw Prokofiev's scores for Sergei Eisenstein's epic movies, and also soundtracks by Isaak Dunayevsky that ranged from classical pieces to popular jazz, Among the pioneers of Soviet electronica, was 1970s ambient composer Eduard Artemiev, best known for his scores to Tarkovsky's science fiction films. The 1960s and 1970s saw the beginning of modern Russian pop and rock music. It started with the wave of VIA's (vocal-instrumental ensemble), a specific sort of music bands performing radio-friendly pop, rock and folk, composed by members of the Union of Composers and approved by censorship. This wave begun with Pojuschie Gitary and Pesnyary; popular VIA bands also included Tcvety, Zemlyane and Verasy. That period of music also saw individual pop stars such as Valery Leontiev, Sofia Rotaru, Alla Pugacheva, Yuri Antonov. Many of them remain popular to this day. They were the mainstream of Soviet music media, headliners of festivals such as Song of the Year, Sopot, and Golden Orpheus. The year 1977 saw also establishment of Moskovsky Komsomolets hit parade, the Russia's first music chart.

Music publishing and promotion in Soviet Union was a state monopoly. To earn money and fame from their talent, Soviet musicians had to assign to state-owned label Melodia. This meant to accept certain boundaries of experimentation, that is, the family-friendly performance and politically neutral lyrics favoured by censors. Meanwhile, with the arrival of new sound recording technologies, it became possible for common fans to record and exchange their music via magnetic tape recorders. This helped underground music subculture (such as bard and rock music) to flourish despite being ignored by the state-owned media.[6] "Bardic" or "authors' song" is an umbrella term for the singers-songwriters movement that arose at the early 1960s. It can be compared to the American folk revival movement of the 60s, with their simple single-guitar arrangements and poetical lyrics. Initially ignored by the state media, bards like Vladimir Vysotsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Alexander Galich gained so much popularity that they finished being distributed by the state owned Melodiya record company. The largest festival of bard music is Grushinsky festival, held annually since 1968. Rock music came to Soviet Russia in the late 1960s with Beatlemania, and many rock bands arose during late 1970s: Mashina Vremeni, Aquarium, Autograph. Unlike the VIAs, these bands were not allowed to publish their music and remained in underground. The "golden age" of Russian rock is widely considered to have been the 1980s. Censorship mitigated, rock clubs opened in Leningrad and Moscow, and soon rock became mainstream Popular bands of that time include Kino, Alisa, Aria, DDT, Nautilus Pompilius, and Grazhdanskaya Oborona. New wave and post punk were the trend in 80s Russian rock.

21st century: Modern Russian music

Russian pop music is well developed, and enjoys mainstream success via pop music media such as MTV Russia, Muz TV and various radio stations. A number of pop artists have broken through in recent years. The Russian duet t.A.T.u is the most successful Russian pop band of its time. They have reached number one in many countries around the world, with several of their singles and albums. Other popular artists include the Eurovision 2008 winner Dima Bilan, as well as Philipp Kirkorov, Vitas and Alsou. Music producers like Igor Krutoy, Maxim Fadeev, Ivan Shapovalov, Igor Matvienko, and Konstantin Meladze control a major share of Russia's pop music market, in some ways continuing the Soviet style of artist management. The rock music scene has gradually evolved from the united movement into several different subgenres similar to those found in the West. There's youth pop rock and alternative rock (Mumiy Troll, Zemfira, Splean, Bi-2, Zveri). There's punk rock, ska and grunge (Korol i Shut, Pilot, Leningrad, Distemper, Elisium). The heavy metal scene has grown substantially, with new bands playing Power and Progressive Metal (Catharsis, Epidemia, Shadow Host, Mechanical Poet), and Pagan Metal (Arkona, Butterfly Temple, Temnozor). Rock music media has become prevalent in modern Russia. The most notable is Nashe Radio, which is promoting classic rock and pop punk. Its Chart Dozen is the main rock chart in Russia, and its Nashestvie rock festival attracts around 100,000 fans annually and was dubbed "Russian Woodstock" by the media. Others include A-One TV channel, specializing in alternative music and hardcore. It has promoted bands like Amatory, Tracktor Bowling and Slot, and awarded many of them with its Russian Alternative Music Prize. Radio Maximum broadcasts both Russian and western modern pop and rock as well. Other types of music include folk rock (Melnitsa), trip hop (Linda) and reggae (Jah Division). Hip Hop/Rap is represented by Bad Balance, Kasta, Ligalize and Mnogotochie. There's also an experimental rapcore scene headlined by Dolphin and Kirpichi. A specific, exclusively Russian kind of music has emerged, that mixes criminal songs, bard and romance music. It is labelled "Russian chanson" (a neologism popularized by its main promoter, Radio Chanson). Its main artists include Mikhail Krug, Mikhail Shufutinsky, and Alexander Rosenbaum. With lyrics about daily life and society, and frequent romanticisation of the criminal underworld, chanson is especially popular among adult males of the lower social class. Electronic music in modern Russia is underdeveloped in comparison to other genres. This is largely due to a lack of promotion. There are some independent underground acts performing IDM, downtempo, house, trance and dark psytrance (including tracker music scene), and broadcasting their work via internet radio. They include Parasense, Fungus Funk, Kindzadza, Lesnikov-16, Yolochnye Igrushki and Messer Für Frau Müller. Of the few artists that broke through to the mainstream media, there are PPK and DJ Groove, that exploit Soviet movie soundtracks for their dance remixes.

From: Music of Russia

Russian Music on the Net © 2003-2011 - All rights reserved