Each month the SRAS newsletter features Russia's current charts for pop, rock, and R&B! Youtube videos of the hit songs are included, as are new, monthly additions to this page.
Modern Russian Music
Classic Rock, Modern Pop, Punk, and More!
another great project of The School of Russian and Asian Studies
The following Library entry is meant to quickly introduce you to the modern Russian music scene. We provide this information with the following warning: music is not known for always being grammatically or politically correct. If you are easily offended avoid the genres that will likely offend you. At the top of each listing, there are three links - 1) the band's (or a fan) site, 2) a streaming audio sample, and 3) an online record store with delivery in America.
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Table of Contents:
Color Code: Red links are to sites only in Russian.
Gray links have English available.
What is "The Library?"
Bards report an error back to top
For more info see: Bards.ru
Bards were (mostly) late Soviet dissidents. They sang poetic songs they themselves had written, usually to the accompaniment of a single musical instrument they played themselves. They remain popular even with listeners born after the bards themselves had died.
SRAS thanks Brian Horne for writing and contributing much of this section. Brian is a former SRAS student now studying the bards at the University of Chicago as a dissertation subject.
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Kirill Komarov Sample hit: Дым Store
Kirill Komarov started writing and translating poetry in college. In 1984 he started writing lyrics for the rock band Присутствие/Prisutstvie (Presence), one of the main bands of Leningrad Rock Club. After leaving the band in 1987, Kirill Komarov started his solo career performing his own songs and touring through central Russia as an acoustic guitarist and singer. He experimented with many different musical styles, from rhythm-n-blues to hard-rock, participated in several bands, recorded several albums, acoustic as well as electric, playing concerts solo as well as with other musicians and bands. He is well known for his meaningful texts and unique style of each song.
Venya D’rkin Sample hit: Кошка
Venya D’rkin (real name Alexander Litvinov) was a Russian bard, poet, singer and writer of fairy tales. He started writing poetry at the age of 7, he learned to play guitar at 12, and founded a school band at 14. When registering for his first music festival he took the pseudonym Venya Dyrkin. After receiving one of the festival’s awards, he became known under this name. He wrote over three hundred songs, only half of which were ever recorded. As usual in the bard genre, the songs bear deep and imaginative lyrics, but, less common for bardic songs, are also very melodic. During the late 90's, he performed some of his songs with the accompaniment of other musicians, notably violinist Veronica Belyayeva. Although Venya died in 1999 (cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma), his music is still gaining more acknowledgement as time passes. This can be attributed to the fact that before Venya's death, just two of his albums were released, and even those were distributed in very small runs. He also never played in front of a large audience; most of his public performances were in music festivals and small, private concerts.
Shanson report an error back to top
For more info see: Chanson.ru
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Mikhail Shufutinsky Sample Hit: Дороги в небо Store
Mikhail Shufutinsky was born to an educated Jewish family and received classical training on the accordion, the bayan (gypsy accordion), and the piano. His musical career began playing in orchestras in Moscow. However, just before President Nixon’s visit to Moscow in 1972 he was one of several artists that were advised by the KGB to leave Moscow. He moved to the Russian city of Magadane, where he took up Shanson. He emigrated in 1981, moving first to Austria and then to Italy, but always dreaming of going to America. He believed that "only there would a Russian-language singer have the opportunity to resume his career." He moved to New York shortly thereafter. There, he built up a reputation among Russian immigrants, eventually becoming so well known that he was invited to perform in Russia after the fall of the fall of the USSR. He now works mostly in Russia, but still counts America as his home and his family is permanently based there. In what might be seen as twist of irony, Shufutinsky derives his popularity from the fact that he sings "pure" Russian Shanson – only in Russian – and with little sign of foreign influence.
Katerina Golitsyna Sample Hit: Невозвращенка Store
Katerina Golitsyna was born Katerina Yakovlevoi and started her musical career singing pop music in Moscow’s restaurants. In the 1990's she left the pop genre and began experimenting with folk music, including with American country influences, which she was exposed to during a stay in the US. In 2002, in what was apparently a flash of inspiration, she changed her name to Golitsyna and her genre to Shanson. Her first Shanson album was an instant hit. She is known for the strength of her voice, lyrics, and personality by fans that are usually very discerning of who they will accept as "genuine." She is one of the genre’s most prodigious artists.
Classic Pop report an error back to top
Larisa Dolina Sample hit: Оттепель Store
Larisa Dolina was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, but moved to Odessa, Ukraine when she was three. The began singing professionally in 1971 for orchestras and operatic productions. By 1985 she had garnered enough fame to begin a series of solo performances and in 1991 was invited to Paris to perform. Known for her styling of a wide range of music (which includes American blues and show tunes), she couldn’t have been wholly popular with the Soviet authorities. Judging from the fact that in 1992 she gave a concert entitled “I sing what I want,” (Что хочу, то и пою) she likely didn’t wholly care for them either. She continues to perform and release albums.
Mikhail Boyarskii Sample hit: Зеленоглазое такси Store
Born of famous Soviet actors, Boyarskii seemed destined for fame. He got his start as an actor of stage and screen in the 1970s, wining wide praise for his role as d'Artagnon in the Soviet film The Three Musketeers. He became known as a singer in the 80s with slow ballads and is now best known as a television personality on variety shows and something of a sex symbol among older Russians. As a bit of trivia we can add that he is also known for his trademark hat, which he wears at all events and which helps hide the fact that he nearly completely bald.
Igor Krutoi Sample hit: Печальный ангел Store
His work was mostly academic until 1989 and glasnost allowed him to found ARS, which is still a highly successful musical production company. He writes songs for others and is also famous for performing his own music, much of which is instrumental. He packs some of Russia's (and the world’s) most prestigious concert halls and, in 1996, was named a "People's Artist of Russia" for his achievements in music.
A'Studio Sample hit: Просто прощай
A'Studio was created in Almaty (Kazakhstan), then called Alma-Ata. The name of the band was originally "Alma-Ata Studio" and later shortened to just "A'Studio." In 1989, the A'Studio song "Джулия" ("Julia") caught the attention of the legendary Russian singers Philipp Kirkorov and Alla Pugacheva. Pugacheva invited them to her annual "Christmas Meeting" in 1990 and introduced them as “the best band in the USSR” (which was still in existence at the time), launching the band to fame.
Classic Rock report an error back to top
for more info see: RockMusic.ru
Vyacheslav Butusov Sample Hit: Тихие игры Store
Vyacheslav Butusov was the lead singer of the Soviet/Russian rock band Nautilus Pompilius, an influential band in the New Wave, post-punk genre of Russian rock music. Since the group disbanded in 1997, Butusov created his own group U-Piter in 2001, and since 2007 has been pursuing a solo career.
Featured: SRAS's Free
Short texts describing modern Russian life in English. Russian vocabulary and phrases worked in to help build vocabulary!
Recipes from Eurasian countries in language lessons with words and phrases associated with preparing and enjoying the food!
Politics in Translation
Russian political platforms and other documents in (usually) side-by-side translation. Build advanced vocabulary skills in modern political rhetoric!
Free TORFL practice exams, as well as verbs of motion, grammar and vocabulary quizzes. Educators may make special accounts to track how their students do.
A language and culture resource describing Russian education and youth culture in modern Russian as spoken by today's Russian youth.
U-Piter Sample Hit: Песня идущего домой Store
The group was founded in 2001 by Vyacheslav Butusov (ex-Nautilus Pompilius), along with Georgy Kasparyan (ex-Кино), Oleg Sakmarov (ex-Аквариум) and Eugene Kulakov (ex-Пойманные Муравьеды). Since then Sakmarov left the group, but it has continued with the remaining three. With such an all-star cast, the group immediately became very popular and its songs are often heard on Russian radio. The group has toured in Russia and globally.
Tancy Minus Sample Hit: Город Store
Танцы Минус is a group started in 1995 and were first noticed by the music industry at the musical festival "Поколение 96" (Generation ‘96). Shortly after, the band moved to Moscow and performed in bars and clubs, sometimes playing up to three sets a day. By the end of the 90s, the band gained some broader popularity and their single "Город" (City) reached third place on the 1999 compilation "Хит-парада слушателей У1" (U1 Listeners’ Hit Parade). Lately the band “withdrew into the shadows,” giving very few concerts, rare tours, and almost no new song releases, although they faithfully participate in the “Нашествие» (Invasion) – Russian Annual Rock festival.
Gleb Samoiloff & The Matrixx Sample Hit: Жить всегда Store
After the well-known Russian rock group Agata Kristi (named after the mystery writer) disbanded in January 2010, Gleb Samoiloff (the former lead from Agata Kristi) and some other former members decided to create a new band. The result was Gleb Samoiloff & The Matrixx. The band has become immediately popular due to its already-famous members.
Rock report an error back to top
For more info see: Rock.ru
Splean Sample Hit: Выхода нет Store
Splean was one of the first Russian rock groups to emerge after the fall of the USSR. They are still wildly popular, singing unusual but addictive songs with sad words and unusual melodies. The group's name means depression in Russian and they insist on its transliteration being spelled with –ea rather than –i, which is a nod to the spelling of the Beatles. According to one Russian critic, "Splean opens doors to the consciousness and what door to enter, where to stay, depends on the decision of your heart." We are also fans of their song "Пыльная быль," which was one of their first big hits in the 90's.
Quest Pistols Sample Hit: Клетка Store
As the bio page on the band's site states, the Quest Pistols are simply three "cool guys" who formed the group three years ago and now tour all over Russia and Ukraine. They experiment with different sub-genres of rock in their songs and have an eclectic sound ranging from hard rock to some purely pop or hip-hop influenced hits such as "Kletka" ("Cage").
Pyotr Nalitch Sample Hit: Баба люба Store
Pyotr Nalitch gained his fame by beginning his musical career solely over the Internet. His song "Gitar," with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics in broken English and primitively-made YouTube video, were what initially made Nalitch well-known. He began making all of his songs available for free on his website in 2007 and played his first concert with his "musical collective" ("Muzikalny kollektiv Petra Nalitcha,"often abbreviated "MKPN") later that same year. Their concerts were nearly always sold out and they decided to release their first album in 2008, which was self-produced by Nalitch.
Myrakami Sample Hit: Нулевой км
This rock-band from Kazan was founded in 2005 by musicians from Solntse-Ekran (Sun-Screen) and Dilyara Vagapova, who was then with the “Narodny Artist-2” (People’s Artist-2). The group immediately began a tour of the Kazan region. In August 2006, they produced their first album Chaiki (Seagulls). The band is named after Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer whose books are filled with fanciful metamorphoses and delicately intertwines the philosophy of an average person consumed by a megapolis.
Angel NeBes Sample Hit: Настя Store
Angel NeBes is a Russian rock-band founded in 2006 in Tula. In 2008, they moved to Saint-Petersburg to advance their careers further. They refer to themselves as a “theatrical-psychedelic rock-project” and supplement their performances with a whole spectrum of props, such as bedding, phones, globes, saws, folding cots, etc. The name of the group is a play on words which sounds like “angel of heaven” but actually means “Angel – not Demon.”
SLOT Sample Hit: Сумерки (Twilight) Store
SLOT is a popular Russian bands whose style varies from heavy electronic rock to rock-pop. Their first breakthrough came with hit movie “Boomer” when two songs written by SLOT were featured on the film’s soundtrack and became the band’s first official releases. After a joint performance with Jonathan Davis of the American heavy metal band KOЯN, he praise them as “a great mix of Linkin Park and Evanescense.” In August 2011, their first English-language album, Break The Code, was released in US and Canadian music stores. In English speaking markets, they are known as “The SLoT.”
Pelageya Sample Hit: Ой, да не вечер! Store
Pelageya Khanova (Russian: Пелагея Ханова) or Pelageya, (born 14 July 1986), is а Russian singer. Named with an old Russian name after her great-grandmother, she sings folk-songs, traditional ballads, and compositions written by the members of her group, mostly in rock arrangements. Pelageya was born in Novosibirsk and recognized for her vocal talent since early childhood, receiving multiple awards. In 1997 she sang at Moscow's 850th Anniversary Pageant concert, was the sole performer at the Heads of Government of Three States Summit (Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl, Boris Yeltsin), signed her first label contract and moved to Moscow. During the economic crisis of 1999-2000, the label was not able to sustain the contract, so Pelageya, at 14, graduated school, entered into GITIS (Russian State University of Theater Arts) and, joined by other young music talents, organized a band which later was named after her. The group describes its musical style as art-folk and folk-rock..
Alt Rock report an error back to top
25/17 Sample Hit: Звезда Store
Russian Rap-Rock-band 25/17 was founded by Andrey Pozdnuhov (better known under his stage name Bledny, which means “pale” in Russian) in Moscow in 2002. Anton Zavyalov (Ant) joined the band in 2006. Prior to 2009, the band was known as Ezekiel 25:17 in tribute to the Bible verse from Ezekiel 25:17 quoted by a character in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction.
Gorod 312 Sample Hit: Вне зоны доступа Store
Their powerful lead singer belts lyrics about experiences familiar to everyone. Mixing this with haunting, often funky and slightly gritty melodies, the band has developed a wide fan base. The song above was featured on the PiterFM soundtrack, a popular movie that capitalized on St. Petersburg's reputation for romance and art-house music. Сокол is another favorite!
Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii Sample Hit: Бездна Store
Formed in 1989 in Ekaterinsburg, they are primarily known for mixing electronic and acoustic elements. Their name means "Meaningful Hallucinations," but they are usually simply known as "Glyuki," a slang term that means roughly "Brain Glitch." They rose to super-stardom when their song "Вечно молодой" was prominently featured on the soundtrack of the cult action film Brat.
Zemfira Sample Hit: Трафик Store
Zemfira formed in 1998 and released their first album in 1999. They were immediately recognized for the uniqueness of their songs. The group, which actually consists of four members, is named for the charismatic lead singer, whose name, in turn, hails from her Tatar heritage. Originally from Ufa, she is now a student of philosophy at Moscow State University in addition to being one of Russia's most cutting-edge singers. Her surreal, intellectual lyrics are complimented by an unusual but very confident musical style. She has become a cult idol, with millions who love her songs and a nearly equal number who "don't get it."
Night Snipers Sample Hit: Кошка Московская Store
Night Snipers formed in 1993 and quickly became favorites of the Saint Petersburg music clubs. Their early songs were an odd but pleasing mix of Rock, Jazz, Soviet, and Japanese influences. Their later releases are less distinctive, especially after they brought Zemfira's music engineer on board. Try listening to "Jazz" or the haunting repetitions of "На границе."
Chaif Sample Hit: Оранжевое настроение Store
Chaif (Чайф) was formed in 1984 in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), Russia. Their name is derived from the word chai, meaning tea, and "kaif", a slang word roughly equivalent to the English slang use of "high." The band first big hits came in 1992 with Don't Hurry (Ne Speshi) and 17 Years Old (17 Let). They are still popular in Russia and recognized as "staples" of the music scene there, occasionally appearing on television shows, giving concerts, and releasing new material. They best known for their wide variety of styles, which generally hold true to folk-rock, but lapse into blues, jazz, and even reggae influences.
Posle 11 Sample Hit: Крылья
After 11 – In 1999, at the Saratov Palace of Pioneers, three conservatory students entered a musical contest with their song “Zvezdochka” that they had written for their friend’s birthday. The name of the band was made up 10 minutes prior to entering the stage. After taking first prize, the musicians decided to continue playing together at local clubs and parties and eventually moved to Moscow where their new folk-pop-rock drew a large following.
Surganova i Orkestr Sample Hit: Мураками Store
Surganova i Orkestr, a Russian rock band, was founded in 2003 when Svetlana Surganova (a founder of Night Snipers, another popular Russian band) joined the band Sever Combo. Svetlana Surganova describes band’s style as VIP-Punk-Decadence. Most of band’s songs are written by Svetlana, some are based on the work of famous Russian poets, such as Joseph Brodsky, Nikolay Gumilev, Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, as well as modern authors.
Orgia Pravednikov Sample Hit: Наша родина - СССР Store
This group, whose name translates to “Orgy of The Righteous” was formed in 1999 when rock-bard Sergey Kalugin merged with the art-rock band "ARTEL." The peculiar sound of the new band arises from the original combination of acoustic (flute and acoustic guitar) and electric (drums, electric guitar and bass guitar) sessions. From the moment of their origin the band has declared their purpose as forming a completely new style, in which the most valuable and the most interesting achievements of their native Russian musical traditions would be combined with the traditions of global rock music.
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Not Quite Russian report an error back to top
A few bands that are from places around Russia or are otherwise related to Russia that we thought you'd enjoy....
Ivan Dorn Sample Hit: Стыцамэн Store
Ivan Dorn was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, but his family later moved to Ukraine where his father worked at the site of former Chernobyl power plant. Until recently, Ivan was known primarily as a Ukrainian singer and TV host, but now his star is rising in Russia as well. He started singing at the age of six and very successfully coupled his love for music and singing with yachting, tennis, professional ballroom dance competitions, chess, and soccer. From 2007 to 2010 Ivan joined Anya Dobrydneva in a duet called “Para Normalnykh,” a play on the word “paranormal” (in Russian: “паранормальный”) that actually means “a pair of normal people.” In 2010, he started his solo career and in May 2012 came out with his debut solo album Co’N’Dorn (written with English letters). The name of the album appears to be “Dorn and Co” written in colloquial slang and backwards, probably referring to the fact that many of his songs were written in partnership with other artists and wanting to give those partners top billing.
Gogol Bordello Sample Hit: When the Trickster... Store
This Ukrainian "Gypsy Punk" group speaks about problems common to their region and explores cultural misunderstandings between various groups. They do this with intelligence, sarcasm, Kerouac-style ramblings, and purposefully comic English. Highly recommended, at your own risk! The lead singer has also appeared in movies which approach the same issues in the same style. These include a wonderful release called Everything is Illuminated with Elijah Wood as a mono-lingual American who travels to Ukraine to reconnect with his Ukrainian-Jewish heritage.
Okean El’zi Sample Hit: Я так хочу Store
The group was founded in 1994 in Lvov, in eastern Ukraine and hit it big after moving to the capital Kiev in 1998. Shortly thereafter, the band began touring in Russia where they found they already had a large following of fans. Their songs are sung in Ukrainian by frontman Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, who became an official UN Ambassador of Ukrainian Culture in 2003.
Dantes&Oleynik Sample Hit: Мне уже 20 Store
Vladimir Dantes, a former bartender, and Vadim Oleynik, who worked as a store clerk, first met on Ukraine's version of "Star Factory." The two were paired up and performed on the show where they won and decided to continue their work as a duet. After touring with other stars from the show across Ukraine’s major cities, the two set out on their own tour and finished up their first album to be released in summer 2010.
Boombox Sample Hit: Концерты
The group was formed in 2004 in Kiev, Ukraine by Andrei Khlyvnyuk (vocalist), Andrei Samoilo (guitarist), and Valentin Matiyuk (DJ). Although their songs are all sung in Ukrainian, they have gained popularity and a large fan following in Russia as well.
Geegun Sample Hit: Отпусти Store
(Real name - Denis Ustimenko-Vaynshtein) This hip-hop artist from Black Star Inc. (a company founded and headed by Russian-language rapper Timati), got his start as a DJ and MC in Ukraine. He then began to collaborate with several local musicians, which led to creation of his first tracks. Geegun leads a healthy lifestyle and is actively involved in various social programs devoted to healthy nutrition. He is also a master kickboxer and a champion of Ukraine in hand-to-hand fighting.
Elka Sample Hit: Прованс Store
Elka is Russian for “Christmas tree.” It is also the stage name of Ukraine soloist Elizaveta Ivantsiv. Born to a family of musicians, she started singing when she joined a school choir. Her musical career began in school, when she joined the local KVN team. KVN is a sprawling competitive comedy league spanning much of the former Soviet Union. After participating in many bands over the years, both in Ukraine and Russia, and experimenting with many musical styles, from alternative rock and “heavy guitar R&B” (her own descrtiption), to reggae and pop-music, she has released many albums and received several Russian music awards.
IOWA Sample Hit: Мама
I.O.W.A. (Idiots Out Wandering About) - This group from Belarus wandered into the musical world in 2009. After series of very successful concerts in Saint-Petersburg, they decided to move their band to Russia (Saint-Petersburg) and since then have continued gaining popularity with their concerts and music videos and a unique style that mixes jazz, pop, and R&B.
Want More? report an error back to top
We will be adding to this resource as we can. Planned additions include: Jazz, Blues, World/Fusion, Hard Rock, and Heavy Metal. A future Library entry will cover labels, producers, clubs, concerts, etc. in more detail. To be alerted of updates, subscribe to the SRAS newsletter by sending an email with "Subscribe" in the subject field to email@example.com.
In addition, there is a new Yahoo! Group devoted to Russian popular music. Join it here.
What's currently popular in Russia? TopHit.ru has the latest info as well as archives! Or see MTV's Russian charts.
Russian Music Videos is a blog featuring a number of YouTubed Russian language music videos.
Russmus.net offers incredibly professional Podcasts that give detailed band histories and music samples.
Ukiemusic is completely devoted to Ukrainian music.
Far from Moscow provides news on modern Russian bands and sound clips from their latest releases.
Russia-ic.com has lots of history about Russian folk, classical, vocal, rock, and authorial music.
Music.Lib.ru and RealMusic.ru are free music hosting sites - apparently favored by amatuer rappers and shanson singers.
PromoDJ.ru is music hosting site that counts both professionals and amateurs among its uploaders.
Russian Language Podcasts is a weekly service from UCLA bringing modern popular Russian music to your iPod (or computer).
Russian Beyond the Headlines offers a modern music podcast.
Samsung Russia sponsors a legal MP3 website with relatively cheap downloads of a lot of Russian music. If you have a Samsung player, you get 250 MB free!
Also see Zvuki.ru, which has lots of free MP3 tracks.
Want to come to Russia to experience modern Russian culture for yourself?
See the programs at the School of Russian and Asian Studies!
This page was originally compiled and written by SRAS Contributing Writer Olga Dmitraschenko, SRAS Asst. Director Josh Wilson, and others as indicated. Thanks to all! Contact the authors
Each month the SRAS newsletter features Russia's current charts for pop, rock, and R&B! Youtube videos of the hit songs are included, as are new, monthly additions to this page.
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