Monday, July 17, 2006

msb-0035 Russian ... In a hurry

msb-0035 Russian ... In a Hurry.

Feed back come first so...

There's wasn' any from you gentle listeners.

Its like it vanishes from one episode to the next, only to resurface again ... I hope.

But its not the only thing that keeps me going.

I'm still watching for news for Mr Magno:

I'm even getting him to carry a bumper sticker on Blue advertising my podcast:

I've just heard from Dana Blozis of the Spirit Of Hope Foundation that he's currently in the hospital (the heat must be absoutely killer for him because it's currently keeping me two feet from the air conditioner here in New Jersey.)

I'm still going to go on the 'round Manhattan dinner cruise:

The links are all in the show notes, folks. All in the show notes.


Today, you're not going to hear me go on about the RIAA, ASCAP/BMI and the assorted suits and crooks, because I'm going to be covering something entirely different that's going on outside of their reach, in Russia.

The official Russian music scene is, to paraphrase a New York Times article, a bland vanilla pop, payola ridden, state controlled, musical media.

In other words its a ClearChannel wasteland, but without any pretense at legitimacy.

Instead of the sly kind of intellectual property games being played out in America and in Europe, the money goes directly into the pockets of the Russian mob.

Piracy is rampant. CDs, DVDs and other consumer options are basically of dubious origin and quality.

The entire ''supply chain'' is corrupt and theft occurs at every point from everybody.

Its basically a leaky bucket where the persons at the bottom, the artists, are getting ripped off, but its by the mob instead of by the more, uh, legitimate interests who were able to squelch dissent, without requiring unpaid goon ''bone breakers''.

There is a genre called ''Chanson'' which has been compared, unfairly in my opinion, to ''Gangsta Rap''.

Its being labeled as a kind of ''Gangsta Rap'' because of the origins of the music. The origins are Russia's ''gulag''. It is sometimes referred to as "blatnaya muzyka", criminal music.

But the music ranges from the jaunty and lively to the romantic and plaintive.

It is a genre that comes from some of the worst excesses of the Stalinist era. Bands have names like Lesopoval, which means ''timber-felling'' which was a form of forced labor in the camps and particularly brutal.

Given the corruption and payola prevalent in the Russian music scene, it is kind of strange to see official disapproval of a truly legitimate musical genre.

The Russian Prosecutor General ''Vladimir Ustinov'' refers to it as ''propaganda of the criminal subculture.''

In Siberia, inter-city bus drivers are "banned from listening to chanson and other obscene music."

It is in fact, propaganda of the downtrodden, and in Russia everybody who isn't ''on top'' is on the bottom. There is not much of a middle ground, or middle class left.

The Russian mob has taken the funds out of the economy.

But even they know that's they'd better not touch the rich.

Besides the rich don't have money, which the mob would covet, instead they have power, including military power.

Russian ''chanson'' is like pornography for the ears. Recordings of it were and to some extent still are, distributed samizdat, passed hand to hand like carbon copies of Solzhenitsyn’s banned novels.

Its officially an irritant, or make that its an irritant to officialdom, because it has a strong strain of political protest running through it.

The artists don't make any money from their recordings. That's because of rampant IP theft.

But they do achieve some measure of fame, despite being relegated to late night plays on the radio. (One oddity is Radio Chanson which is third in the Russian air waves.)

They're popular in the rock-n-roll concert arena where most of the money does make it down to the musicians.

Pravda has no Isvestia while Isvestia has no Pravda.

But ''Chanson'' thrives in spite of, some might say because of, of the honesty and truth of the lyrics.

And why do I want you to know? And why should you care?

I have friends in far away places, tovaritch. And they really aren't that far. Like Brighton Beach. Though my association with te Emigre community goes back a lot further than that. Right Vasillli? Right Piotr?

Its music from real folks. Its real folk music.

While Blues was folk music from a particular brand of folk, it was become more stilted, more codified, less ameanable to reflecting what folk really have to say about life in generak, I think that Chanson is more able to reflect the range of what people are really feeling.

Just because you're going to have to learn cyrillic doesn't make it any less valid.

Its raw, its live and its lively.

Get used to it folks.

Its as real as Led Bellly and it comes from the same very human heart.

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