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Say [EAT DRINK WALK] to Moscow
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text by toma kuzminova
Saint Petersburg, let`s rock!
Once it came with its first sound, rock has never been just some music in Soviet Russia. Social changes, the spirit of protest, resistance, and increasing freedom to sing out loud – that is what rock was all about.


It all began with…

The Beatles were the 60s phenomenon. Although Beatles were not allowed in USSR – as a propaganda of probable enemy art – their songs made inroads into the country. That is how community began to emerge: notebook records with rewritten texts, closed meetings, expensive vinyl records available only for special order and special people…To distribute forbidden music, inventive minds devised technique called «bones» or «ribs». Since vinyl was expensive, why not write on x-rays? People began to circle around things they want to get: no matter if it was a conversation with like-minders or cherished sounds from x-rays.

Today, after many years, it will be called «music on bones». Meaningful, isn't it?
Beat-bands started to appear gradually at the 60s. They mainly had been rehashing Western music standards and writing text in Russian. Seems that they were just trying the sound. And lots of people responded to it.

Underground: the hidden force

The 70s gave birth to underground bands which were more inclined to create and play their own music. «Autograph», «Myths» and several other bands unofficially started to play concerts. Songs were recorded on tapes and were passing from hand to hand.
You may wonder how did underground community form, if it was forbidden to exist officially and create music the way they wanted to?

Kvartirnik becomes a solution for those in conflict with cultural policy. Cigarette smoke filled the premises of small rooms or communal apartments, guitar sounds, poetry readings, swapping of recordings… But foremost – people. People yearning art which is not accountable to the State Planning Commission and censorship.
Here you may see the fragment from one of Kvartirniks. Starting from the 43rd minute, Alexander Bashlachev, bard singer-songwriter, explains how people get to know him:

«I don`t record or distribute my songs. I sing for friends; wherever they call me. A friend is anyone who understands me. And I think that there are more and more friends around»
Free from censorship, first underground music bands and musicians became a boon for events which were about to happen in the 80s.
The 80s

A number of underground bands in the early 80s was sufficient enough to give Soviet Russian rock a go. They were bothering the Administration because they were out of the system writing and playing songs on their own without any permission – how was that possible? Officials knew that it is impossible to trace every event like that and that is how rock clubs started to appear.

The first was Leningrad Rock Club – official venue for musicians. Then – Moscow rock laboratory. Official means regulated by the administration. There were concerts and even festivals, but bands and their songs were censored, and several restrictions were created. These circumstances affected creativity and self-expression. Organizations were created for the purpose of controlling underground culture. However, rock clubs became an open area for developing, meetings of community which shared one big idea of fighting for social changes.
Music festivals and official concerts bring together people who share spirit and sentiments of Russian rock. Rock becomes legal. Bands began to assemble whole stadiums. Access to music was open. Soviet Russia, which was on the edge of great changes, had its own rock. The late 80s was a peak.

During Perestroika times, rock music becomes an outlet for protests and sentiments. Social changes were coming and there was plenty of people demanding changes.

Within the walls of Leningrad rock club songs were sounded out loud. It was the time when Kino first played, Aquarium, Alisa, Auctyon, later – DDT from Ufa and Nautilus Pompilius from Sverdlovsk (today – Ekaterinburg). Every band took its place on the rock scene. Concerts, tour abroad, festivals, records that could be officially bought and millions of people who found a voice of protest in their music.

Here are some iconic songs for every curious fellow:
Quick guide to some of rock-places which still exist in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow

Originally steamshop, Kamchatka club on Blochina 15 today also a museum. Leningrad rockers worked there to avoid punishment for parasitism.

«Pushkinskaya, 10» is an art centre and one of the main places of the Leningrad underground back in the 80s. Musicians, artists, poets, and performers – independent artists began to gather here.

Perhaps the first place that comes to mind in Moscow is the Tsoi wall. If you get to visit Arbat street, then the wall of building №37 is what you need. The wall appeared spontaneously, the day «Kino» leader died in a car accident. The first inscription on the wall was «Viktor Tsoi has died today». The second one – «Tsoi is alive» - become a symbol of what his music matters to people.
I am one of those daydreamers who was always thinking about moving to a big city. Originally Siberian, I have been enjoying Saint Petersburg for almost 5 years now – a big city of my dream.

I guess that travelling is what brings people together in Say Hi to Russia. At some point in my life, I travelled a lot, almost every weekend. It was an adventure of a lifetime I had never experienced before. What a feeling it is to step out of a bus, train or plane at a new place. And what a feeling it is to get to know locals who always have a word to share.

A short while ago I got a sense that there is so much to discover in Russia: it doesn't matter if it is a big city or a small village. My desire is to unite tourist and local experience in my writings. It is a way to rediscover day-to-day places and maybe inspire someone to visit Russia.


Toma Kuzminova
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