You’ve heard a lot about Russian band Pussy Riot but with the group’s focus being on activism, the music they make has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. So what’s up with the Russian music scene? Is there anything good out there? Da! Russia’s diverse and thriving music scene has plenty of great bands with music out that’ll help you party your way through the Olympics, and here’s a selection of acts capable of bringing home the gold. Click on band name for more information and to sample music.
DOBRANOTCH - “Bazarduzu,” the new album from this five-piece brass outfit, finds the band interpreting a dozen traditional Russian songs, including the curiously-titled instrumental “In the Market Place All is Subterfuge (Podolye, Podolye).” There’s no trickery to the music on “Bazarduzu” though; just kick up your heels and dance like a crazed Cossack.
OPA! RUSSIAN FESTIVE ORCHESTRA - Is any further explanation needed when your band is called the Russian Festive Orchestra? In this case, yes. Latest effort “Opa” is packed with supercool tunes like “Casbah Twist” where the band mashes-up traditional Russian sounds with slinky surf and spy grooves and the humorous, sax enhanced rock of “Yellow Snow” with its lyric “Come to Russia if you know/What the hell
is yellow snow.”
TARAKANY! – This Moscow-based power punk band runs in the same circle as their better-known western peers and Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag collaborates on “God & Police.” The band has also thrown down with Israeli punks Useless ID (“Bags of Bones”) but they burn brightly on their own on tunes like guitar scorcher “Miru-Mir.” Oh yeah; translated into English their name means “cockroaches.”
OTAVA YO - This band is strictly a folk outfit but a really hopped-up one; expect rapid-fire vocals and down-home, barn dance-y rhythms from latest album “What Songs,” a set of mostly traditional Russian songs like “Lil’ Apple,” “By the River, By the River,” “Kamarinskaya” and “Those Pancakes of Mine,” all sung in Russian.
MUMIY TROLL – Having celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013, Mumiy Troll is perhaps the most influential of all Russian bands working with original material. Songs like the Nine Inch Nails-sounding “Hey Tovarish (Loser’s Remix)” and the Golden Earring-recalling “Vladivostok Vacation” are sung in perfectly-enunciated English so you’ll be able to understand singer Ilya Lagutenko just fine if you’re able to catch the band’s February 21 show in Sochi’s Medals Plaza.
PIKNIK – If prog rock is your thing then you owe it to yourself to check out this St. Petersburg-based quartet that some think of as the Russian Pink Floyd. All songs are sung in Russian but it won’t matter when you’re watching their trippy videos; you’ll get the idea. Piknik tours extensively, mostly in Russia but they also gig throughout Europe.
ARKONA – This band calls themselves a “pagan metal” band but don’t let the description scare you off; Arkona has a female lead vocalist and the additional growled male vocals and metal overtones are tempered by very melodic and often symphonic arrangements. Fans of bands like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil should check this one out.
SEREBRO – Yes, Russian bands make mindless pop music too. This girl group was put together by their manager and they’re prone to frolicking in bikinis in their videos and have appeared wearing just panties on the cover of the Russian edition of Billboard Magazine. Eye candy aside, it only takes one listen to the self-centered “Mi Mi Mi” to get the bouncy song stuck in your head.