What a Russian band is that


Armin Siebert

To person

Armin Siebert is a qualified translator for English and Russian, journalist, DJ, label boss (Eastblok Music) and radio presenter at Radio Fritz and YouFM - always on duty in the vast expanses of Eastern Europe in search of great music and that little bit of extra passion , Madness and deep cultural roots.

Rock'n Roll didn't have it easy in the Soviet Union. But the more restrictive the environment, the greater the creativity. And as in many other unfree countries, rock music was not just entertainment, but a weapon against the regime. It was a piece of freedom.

"Aquarium", one of the most famous rock bands of the Soviet Union 1991 (& copy Andrej "Willy" Usow)

The beginnings - from "plates on bones", Beatlemania and tolerated hippies

In the early 1950s, the so-called Stiljagi ("hipsters") brought color to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Tallinn. They attached great importance to style and fashion, dressed extravagantly, danced tango, foxtrot and later rock'n'roll. American jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller landed on their turntables. Soviet diplomats often brought their music-loving sons with records from the West. Medical friends who were friends then copied them with X-ray machines. These "records on bones" called Flexi-Disks could be played 20 to 30 times on normal turntables. Today the Stiljagi are considered to be the first unofficial youth culture in the Soviet Union, but they have not yet shaped their own Russian music genre.

The "Revengers" from Riga, who became known as a cover band in 1961, were among the first Soviet rock and roll bands. Then the "Beatles" came and changed everything. They led to the same storms of enthusiasm as in the West and were models for many bands that were founded in the cities of the Soviet Union. The catchy melodies of the Beatles went particularly well with Russian musical tastes. As a direct response to Beatlemania, the first official beat ensembles, the so-called VIAs ("Vokalno-Instrumentalny Ensemble", vocal and instrumental ensemble) were formed in the second half of the 1960s. These Schlager big bands received support from the Ministry of Culture and thus also good instruments and performances. From a musical point of view, they were rather harmless and softened by Soviet ideology. Nevertheless, they brought some rock'n'roll into the state show business and some VIA's became megastars and sold millions of records, such as the "Pesnjary" from Belarus with its unique mix of folk, rock and pop with Belarusian lyrics.

An important pioneer of rock music in the Soviet Union was Alexander Gradski with his band "Slavjane", founded in 1965. Not only Gradski's charismatic voice, but also his tireless commitment to rock music as a serious form of culture made him the "father of Moscow rock". Back then the music wasn't called rock, but beat or big beat.

With the motto "make love not war", the emerging hippie movement took a position that was harmless for the state. Despite their long hair and brightly colored clothing, the hippies were left relatively alone by the militia.

Overall, the beginnings of rock music in the Soviet Union were marked by a veritable flood of covers. Mostly Western songs were sung and hardly any own songs were written. The audience didn't want it any other way. Because Russian - that meant adapted. English - that was a protest. The state did not immediately recognize the protest character of the English language, so the 1960s in the Soviet Union were, musically speaking, a rather liberal time.