How the Russian Musical Underground Reacts to the War
In the progressive musical community, as in all caring creative scenes, there was a lull at the beginning of the war. Many musicians were in a stupor: some stopped rehearsing, interrupted the recording of albums and canceled concerts, and some decided to completely stop the activities of their group or project, because it was not clear how to continue making music as before. Groups made anti-war posts en masse, closed their social media accounts and left for nowhere.
This kind of stupor, impotence, and despair are on display Shame’s song “Anti-War Statement” - that group was one of the first to break the silence and released an album in reaction to what was happening.
The mood of the niche music industry was greatly undermined by the emigration of more popular colleagues: Oksimiron, Monetochka, Noise MS, Face, etc. - everyone understood that they would not find any peace in Russia. The groups are worthy of our tributes - they do not sit still, but continue to give anti-war concerts and collect money to help Ukraine. The group Nogu Svelo acted very decisively on this front, releasing a whole series of anti-war video clips.
However, unlike those who remained in Russia, the musicians in this group were in the United States at the beginning of the war, and their tough stance has made it impossible to return to their homeland. But those who remain in Russia are at much greater risk.
It is ironic that now Russians, coming from a country that has suffered more than any other from the effects of war, can openly gather in a large crowd and shout anti-war slogans only in a foreign land. Or is it?
To everyone’s surprise, one of the places where you can shout those very words in Russia was the shows of the all-girl pop-punk group Kis-kis. Drummer Alina Olesheva has actively expressed her position on social networks; her posts contain a lot of criticism of the authorities, and, in a pleasant surprise, no repressive measures have been forthcoming. So it’s still safe to continue making important music and playing gigs?
Maybe not: on May 14, the police disrupted the concert of openly anti-fascist groups The Dead President, Criminal State and others, and the vocalist of the first, Artyom Mazurin, was detained for a “prophylactic conversation”. More famous colleagues received similar attentions: a member of the band Elysium was “requested” by someone on camera to confirm that their recent concert was not at all anti-war in character.
Of course, musical life is not limited to these incidents, and the events of artists with an open anti-war position have taken place and will continue to do so. For example, a week earlier a charity concert was held without incident, at which the groups Lono, Serdobol, Klyazmensky Strangler and the previously-mentioned Shames performed. True, it was not without a note of sadness: this marked the last show for Lono - the girls have promised to release a split with Serdobol and then “that’s it.”
After Yuri Shevchuk, the leader of the cult group DDT in St. Petersburg, spoke out against the war, he began to experience problems. A police report was drawn up, but nothing concrete came of it: Shevchuk is too popular a figure, outright repression against him could provoke protests. Shortly thereafter, a DDT concert in Moscow was canceled. In response, Evgeny Stupin, an opposition member of the Moscow City Duma, who had also spoken out against the war, launched a petition stating: “The mayor’s office has canceled the DDT concert in Moscow! The actual reason is obvious - the political statements of Yuri Shevchuk ... They drew up a protocol against him for these words alone. I consider these actions of the Moscow authorities an unacceptable manifestation of political repression!” This petition has collected more than 40,000 signatures in a few days.
Shames also announced that they would play their (possibly last) concert on July 2 in Tbilisi: “It seems to me that I have ended, shrunk to a point and can’t do anything else,” says soloist Lena Kuznetsova. But The Dead President was not at all afraid, and on June 25 they will, as planned, gather with other groups to play “just a punk concert”.
No one says specifically that all these departures are due to the commencement of the war, but the fact remains that, since the beginning of events in Ukraine,the music underground has seen a wave of projects drawn to a close. But there is one more fact: the music industry in Russia is still functioning - musicians continue to support listeners with their music, continue to do charity work and to inspire others.
Translation and editing by Dan Erdman