Music/Popular Culture

Rock and roll doesn't respect borders

One day my Austrian roommate came home and told me that one of the biggest bands in Russian rock history would be playing a show in Piter. How could i say no? So i went to the Cultural Palace with a group of Austrian students, a nation not known for its dedication to rock. The lobby was filled with Russians of every age and clique. Middleagers. Teens. Hippies. Metalheads. Punks. New Russians. Everyone. We found our seats near the back of the auditorium, but it was clear that the Russians–as is their way–were going to pay no attention to any rule stamped on a piece of paper. The chair free section in front of the stage was filling up fast, and i wanted to be up there. Once the band played their first chord i turned to my companions and said, “Stay here if you want, but i won’t.” I pushed down into the crowd with my companions following and had one of the best times of my life.

Keep in mind that the whole history of rock basically exploded in Russia during the 1980’s. I own a copy of Melodia’s release of the Rolling Stone’s greatest hits “19 Nervous Songs” that’s dated 1990. Of course, Western music was slipped into the country and passed from hand-to-hand in the traditional method of popular subversion before being allowed. But to a great extent Russians got The Beatles, Elvis and The Stones at the same time they got Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Metallica. It makes Russian rock, which tends to retain Russian folk influences, pretty interesting.

The band i saw that night can probably be described as “The Russian Beatles”. Chaif is still growing strong. The name is a contraction of the Russian word for “tea” and the Russian transliteration of “jive”; the story goes that they would play while getting rather high on strong tea brewed in a coffee maker. A lot of the catalog is rather melancholic…they are Russians after all. And with that i’ll stop talking and let you listen to two of Russia’s rock greats.

“Nye Dai Mnye Povod”

“Nikto Nye Uslishit” (Oy-Yo)

“C Voini”

“Rock’N’Roll Etoi Nochi”

“Davai Vernyomsya” (my personal favorite)

And now onto DDT, the other giant of Russian Rock…

“Belaya Reka”



“Eta Vsyo” (possibly the saddest song in history, and while i’m not much for orchestral arrangements, good videos of this are hard to come by)

Oy, kak eto builo davno…

5 replies »

  1. Yeah, Slammy, i knew the whole language barrier might make it hard for people…but i wasn’t going to do/find translations for them all.

    Josh, fair enough. Eto(a) Vsyo translates roughly to that’s it/all/everything. Let’s be realistic, nobody does depressed better than Russians. Just for you, because you’re my brother i went and found a translation of the lyrics…which could be cleaned up slightly but i’m not doing it. (And this song has no psychological associations for me except that it’s so quintessentially Russian.)

    Translucent water grows over the fainting leaves on the window
    There’s no bottom or death to the water; I say goodbye to you
    A handful of warmth after the long winter – let us carry it
    Five minutes left till the morning – let us survive
    The black hole of Time shall swallow our sea of guilt

    This is all that remains after me
    This is all that I shall take along

    We rose from the dead and finished a glass of two dreams and sorrow
    I do not know why I was given to you – road of the moon reigns over me
    Do not cry; forgive, if you can. Life is not sugar, and death is not tea.
    I have my own road to carry. So long, friend, and farewell…

    This is all that remains after me
    This is all that I shall take along

    Memory sits by our table with a candle flame in hand
    You were so good; look at me, do not be silent
    A gull’s cry on the while wall encircled with black moon
    Draw something on the window and whisper an adieu like a river

    This is all that remains after me
    This is all that I shall take along

  2. I didn’t find any language barrier at all. rock ‘n roll is a universal language. i can’t understand the lyrics half the time in english language songs.

    Wonderfully interesting post. Thanks.