Russian music bleg:

On my recent post on Russian chanson, commenter M writes: "And it's terrible- even worse than generic Russian pop, which in turn is worse than generic American pop. (There are many very good Russian musicians and bands, but this stuff is just amazingly awful.)"

I'm going to Moscow in a couple of weeks. In light of the dual observation in commenter M's parenthetical, what music should I get? Like Eugene, I like Okudzhava very much (see, e.g., Eugene's posts here, here, here, and here). Vysotsky is not bad, but I find him somewhat hard to understand (in a literal sense). While I was in St. Petersburg last year, a store clerk recommended Yuri Vizbor, which was a good choice. I also enjoy Alexander Vertinsky, as well as the Russian romansy.

What else should I try? You don't have to recommend "bards"; Russian pop or rock might also be acceptable, but this is iffier, given what I understand of Russian pop music standards.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Russian music bleg:
  2. Russian chanson:
Cheburashka (mail):
Go to the clubs, see what's being played. In dance and techno, Russia tends to be a year or two ahead of the U.S.
7.17.2006 12:26pm
M (mail):
I'd put Spleen at the top of my list for good Russian music. I've liked pretty much everything I've heard from them. Zhdub Zi Zdub (Moldovan, not Russian, really, but usually singing in Russian) is a great ska-style band using some traditional instruments. Ivan Kupala is also a very interesting band mixing electronic re-mixes of Russian folk music and singing. The are often compared to Deep Forest but I like them a lot more. For more classic rock DDT and Machina Vremina are both good. Mummi Troll is sometimes fun and interesting. Tequilla Jazz is another good band. There is a lot of good music there- Spleen and Ivan Kupala are probably my favorites, and there's a lot more good stuff than I've mentioned, but the pop music in general and the prison music is really terrible.
7.17.2006 12:29pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Based on the other stuff you listed, I would recommend Lesopoval, Aleksandr Rozenbaum, and purely for kicks, listen to some "Leningrad," which you would find entertaining for shock value, if nothing else.
7.17.2006 12:31pm
HLSbertarian (mail):
For my money, Vadim Egorov is up there with Okudzhava and Vizbor, though a bit more on the quiet/contemplative side.

And for a modern bard with a serious humor streak, you should definitely check out Timur Shaov.
7.17.2006 12:36pm
Positive Dennis:
Viagra of course! (The second Viagra not the first and not the third)And how could you ignore Philip Kirkirov? Or his soon to be ex wife. (For those of you who do not know these last two, imagine that Michael Jackson married a singing Elizabeth Taylor and you can see the impact that these two have had on Russian Pop)

I like Valeria and the Georgian Guy who only sings his brothers songs. Especially the one where he pretends to be a spy in the video.

Go to the Russian MP3 site and browse. Alexander I bet you know where it is!

Positive Dennis
7.17.2006 12:52pm
John Armstrong (mail):
ППК, with the album «Русский Транс: Формирование»

For those who can't read Russian (or without proper Unicode support), the group is PPK (after the members Pimenov and Polyakov) and the album is "Russian Trance: Formation". The pun works better in Russian, where the word "trance" and the prefix "trans-" are the same.

Anyhow, very good synth-based trance music. Highly recommended is the track «У Меня Есть Мечта » ("I Have A Dream"), which very expertly samples Dr. King's speech.
7.17.2006 1:06pm
Colin (mail):
When I lived in Russia around 2000, the rock act that seemed the most credible was Zemfira (I think she spells it ZemФira). I've heard that her lyrics are fairly interesting, but frankly I don't speak the language well enough to tell for myself. I'm also under the impression that she's one of the relatively few rock acts to write songs about genuine issues, such as AIDS. One expat reviewer called her "Kurt Cobain in a dress." That might be going a little far, but I like a few of her songs.
7.17.2006 1:24pm
Colin (mail):
I also love Limpopo's jazz/big-band version of the Volga Boatmen's Song, but you'd probably have better luck finding that here than in Moscow.
7.17.2006 1:27pm
Apparently everybody so far has understood You don't have to recommend "bards" as You should not recommend "bards". I'll do the honors and recommend a few of the original ones. The biggest one not mentioned in this and the previous thread is the versatile Yuly Kim. In addition, he has a legendary dissident biography, and of course his obligatory for a bard pirate songs are top of the heap in the pirate subgenre.
Klyachkin and Kukin also deserve attention. The former, dead for more than a decade, known for his lyrical quirkiness and famous collaborations with Brodsky, the latter a bit more straightforward but extremely popular in his time and somewhat of a symbol of a tourist song. He is around as one of the elder statesmen (like Kim and Gorodnitsky, who I believe was mentioned somewhere).

Actually, you can get all of them at a Russian store in the US, and I am sure online. All 3 who are alive, come to the states from time to time, and for all I know, it may be easier to catch their concerts here.
7.17.2006 2:12pm
Cheburashka (mail):
PPK is good but its old, its from 2001.
7.17.2006 2:13pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Note: I don't care whether it's from 2001, 2006, or 1970.
7.17.2006 2:19pm
ak47pundit (www):
Sekret is of course a Russian pop/rock classic.
7.17.2006 2:22pm
I completely forgot Galich, unless he is already on the list. In my view, he, with Okudzhava and Vysotsky, formed the Holy Trinity of the bardism, with everybody else at least a rank below. Indeed, for a time, he was the hottest one, at least as far as intelligentsia was concerned. He seems to have faded more, probably because he was the most political.
7.17.2006 2:24pm
BCN (mail):
I cannot believe that DDT has not been mentioned. I saw them twice in Ukraine and Russia and twice here in the Washington DC area. I know that they are not new, but to my mind they put out some of the best albums there were. Anything is good from them, but I am most familiar with the songs from the mid 1990's on. I also like Lyube, kind of a mix of folk-rock-marial music.

I have not been back in many years, but with those two you can't go wrong. The Georgian that Dennis mentions is probably Velari Meladazhe(sp?)who is quite good. I have a Spleen album or two as well. If you want send me an e-mail and I can send MP3's of these. I have lots and lots of stuff from the mid to late 1990s, somewhere in my music pile.

7.17.2006 2:41pm
V Moss (mail):
Must have: Auktsyon ("Аукцыон") - Ptica (1993), Chetirespolovinoytonni (1997)
7.17.2006 2:47pm
Vanya (mail):
"Mitki" - they are a loose group of artists from St.Petersburg but a bunch of them have recorded some records of old standbys (e.g."Na pole tanki groxotali") with Dmitry Shagin and guest-stars like BG. Well worth listening to, especially "Ze Best" collection. Link:
7.17.2006 3:03pm
I'll second DDT. Late 90s (say, Mir Nomer Nol' - World #0) is intense and authentic, while, admittedly, comes short on musical qualities. In a way, compares to Vysotsky (particularly, it may be hard to understand without mastering modern coloquial and slang Russian)
7.17.2006 3:59pm
Positive Dennis:
I asked my wife and the georgia guy is

Valery Meladze

And She says that I like the first Via gra not the second.

Here is her opinion:

Alexander Marshal
Mikhail Krug (from her home town-Tver',he sings about prison and so on like Vysotsky. Krug was murdered in Tver'(He has this interesting deep voice PD))
She likes Valerie too.
Anastacia Povaly (sic)
Nikolai Baskov

PD Again:

The cheaper Russian Music stores (humph, eta cd magazine ne pravda CD. BTW I realise this is awful russian I am using the term true to describe a CD that may not have paid the appropriate fees) will allow you to listen to everything. I paid about 90 rubles for each CD. The more expensive stores it was 150 rubles. THis info is 4 years old so your milage may vary.

Positive Dennis and Elena
7.17.2006 4:19pm
Positive Dennis:
There is one PPK song on Itunes

Positive Dennis
7.17.2006 4:22pm
John Armstrong (mail):
Dennis: I agree PPK is tough to find around here. When I wanted the CD back in 2002 I ended up having to find a guy in Ukraine willing to ship it to me in the states. I was under the impression, though, that Oakenfold had since released the album on his Fluoro label or an offshoot thereof. Indeed, checking Amazon finds it, albeit with a 3-6 week wait before shipping and with a bizarre mixed-language title.
7.17.2006 5:39pm
AlanB (mail):
Not sure it will count, since they are in the U.S., but Gogol Bordello rocks.
7.17.2006 5:49pm
C'mon people, 20 something responses and no one mentioned KINO?

"Gruppa Krovi" and "Hochu Peremen" are songs that signaled the transformation of the era

"Tsoi Zhiv"
7.17.2006 6:16pm
Chris Black (mail) (www):
Well, having watched a lot of Russian TV (Dennis, my wife is also Elena)

Valeria and Viagra are both pretty, and pretty good.

Lyube are fronted by a sort of Johnny Cash figure and are worth a listen.
7.17.2006 6:40pm
If you're interested in Russian rock music, you should read "Back in the USSR: The True Story of Rock in Russia" by Artemy Troitsky. It's a great book about the development of rock in the Soviet Union, and has tons of info on good bands. You can get it used from Amazon.

As far as bands go, DDT and Kino (both already mentioned) are both essential.

Mashina Vremeni (mentioned previously) and Akvarium are both classic early Russian bands.

Russian punk music is good, check out Va-bank, or Leningrad (hilariously profane lyrics, but probably one of the best punk/ska bands in the world, IMO).

Centr is good for sort of a Russian version of corny 80s music.

There's tons more, Russian pop may be crappy, but the rock music is great, and there are lots of cheap/free concerts with good music in St. Petersburg and Moscow as well.
7.17.2006 6:44pm
Cheburashka (mail):
The point wasn't that PPK's bad, but that if you go to the clubs, you'll discover much newer, better, more interesting music that no-one in the U.S. (even here in New York) has gotten yet.

They're really two years ahead. PPK didn't hit here until '03. Benny Benassi hit here in '04, and really in '05, but it was passe there in '02.

I don't know what's hot there now - you have to go and see.

One thing everyone I know who's been to Moscow agrees on though: You have to try the Swedish place on Tverskaya just inside the garden ring.
7.17.2006 7:31pm
BKriplur (mail) (www):
I would also recommend Leningrad, though more than just for kicks. Sure, most of the songs are completely vulgar, but they are done with a kind of self awareness that some people miss. In a way he (Sergei Shnurov) is actually making fun of chanson. If you can, also check out the soundtrack for the movie “Beamer.” I have listened to a lot of Russian music, and Sergei Shnurov's work on that CD is some of the best.

Also check out Vopli Vidopliassova, perhaps the best Ukrainian band right now.
7.18.2006 1:15am
sasha non-volokh:
Nautilus Pompilius is the best russian rock band. The best albums are Knyaz Tishiny (a classic) and Krilya.
7.18.2006 9:48am
dvmaster (mail) (www):
Go here for some hard-to-find bard mp3s. It's Mikel Lavrentyev's collection. The Bard Cafe website is also quite good for background info.
7.18.2006 3:27pm

First, to confirm, "the Georgian guy" referred to above is almost certainly Valeri Meladze.

Speaking for myself, I am a big fan of Leonid Agutin, good pop with sort of a Latin beat. My wife thinks that the best thing going is Kvartal, a sort of jazz pop fusion, also very good.

Depending on your tolerance for semi-legal downloads, I would recommend, which has a very large selection of Russian music. The site is registered in Russia and assures its users that it complies with all relevant Russian IP legislation.
7.18.2006 10:54pm

First, to confirm, "the Georgian guy" referred to above is almost certainly Valeri Meladze.

Speaking for myself, I am a big fan of Leonid Agutin, good pop with sort of a Latin beat. My wife thinks that the best thing going is Kvartal, a sort of jazz pop fusion, also very good.

Depending on your tolerance for semi-legal downloads, I would recommend, which has a very large selection of Russian music. The site is registered in Russia and assures its users that it complies with all relevant Russian IP legislation.
7.18.2006 10:54pm
Stan LS (mail) (www):
I am a huge fan of Rosenbaum..
7.20.2006 2:46pm