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Rock Music Culture of the Ural Region
September 6, 2011 13:15

Phenomenon of Sverdlovsk Rock Music

Since the 1980s Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) has been justly considered the 3rd capital of the Russian Rock and it probably ranks first among Russian cities as per the number of rock stars “per capita”. Nautilus Pompilius, Chaif, Agatha Christie, Nastya, Chicherina, Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii and other rock bands from Yekaterinburg are known to millions of Russians. It is in Yekaterinburg where these bands were founded, developed and gained success.

Yekaterinburg rock music is peculiar for its originality, mastery and sincerity. No other music but rock has found such a fertile field for its development and prosperity in the Ural. It should be noted that in other styles of modern popular music Ural cannot boast such performance. Rock music has glorified the city of Yekaterinburg and can be called its landmark today.

Every year dozens of new youth rock bands aspiring to self-expression and popularity spring up in the Ural. Mumerous rock gigs gather audiences of many thousands rock lovers.

Nevertheless, most of the Ural rock bands, once gained popularity, move from Yekaterinburg to Moscow or Saint Petersburg - the centers of Russian show business. Thus, Ural can be called the talent foundry of Russian rock music and the supplier of stars for the center.

Brief History of Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) Rock Culture

The Iron Curtain couldn't prevent penetration of world youth culture into the USSR. The forbidden fruit principle just strengthened the desire of creative youth of the Ural to keep abreast of the time and already in the 1960s some pioneering rock bands appeared in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). In the 1970s this tendency gathered momentum. Rock bands were created on the basis of the city’s biggest universities. I. Skripkar's band Blind Musician founded in 1974 played a particularly important part in the evolution of the Ural rock music. Later Alexander Pantykin (nowadays a well-known composer and “the grandfather of the Ural rock” joined it. Already at that time Sverdlovsk bands attempted to make themselves known on a national scale; the bands Studio ArhI and Sonans in 1976-1977 became winners of music festivals in Riga.

The early 1880s were marked with appearance of two legendary collectives: Urfin Dzhjus and Track (formed as a result of the breakup of Sonans). Their albums were rerecorded and distributed “from hand to hand” all over the country and had many fans in different cities of the USSR. In the 80s Sverdlovsk was in the vanguard of national rock movement and was considered a city of progressive youth culture.

However, the stand of the party and the government was not in line with the views of the progressive youth. Soviet ideologists were disturbed by the growing rock movement in the country. They considered this “counterculture” as a danger to “morals of the Soviet person”. From 1982 to 1986 the authorities implemented an anti-rock campaign, which was accompanied with persecutions of rock musicians and interdictions for rock music concerts. In spite of those repressions underground Sverdlovsk rock culture strived on and on. Somehow certain bands even managed to arrange semi-underground concerts, such as, for example, the one featuring Chaif, Nastya Poleva and Nautilus Pompilius in a city’s recreation center in 1985. As a result of their own interdictions the authorities lost track of rock culture but could not help feeling its presence. Thereupon they decided to use different tactics: allow the youth to play rock music but under control. For this purpose in the most “dangerous centers of counterculture” – namely, Moscow, Leningrad, Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, and Kiev – they permitted rock clubs to be established under the patronage of the local authorities and Komsomol.

Sverdlovsk Rock Club

The Sverdlovsk Rock Club was founded in 1986 at the Sverdlov Recreation Center (nowadays – a recreation center of the Department of Internal Affairs). At the same time they established in Sverdlovsk censorship for rock authors, who were not members of the Union of Writers or Union of Composers. Official bodies checked all the songs to be performed in public. Despite all those restrictions, conditions for development and spreading of rock music in the Ural improved essentially. Regular rock laboratories and festivals started to be held in the rock club and the number of newly created bands increased dramatically.

The first festival of Sverdlovsk Rock Club took place in June, 1986. 20 bands, including the leaders - Nautilus Pompilius, Chaif, and Track participated there. The public got to know a variety of interesting underground bands, which earlier had had no chance to perform in official concerts. Among them was the band Sphinx, which then played an important role in the future destiny of the Ural rock movement.

The exit from the underground of Sverdlovsk rock bands was immediately caught up by the only local TV channel SGTRK and the first TV concert in the Ural “Time and We” with participation of the local rock bands Sphinx and Catalogue took place in 1987. The event was held in the Yekaterinburg Circus, and videorecording of “live sound” was broadcast all over the Sverdlovsk Region.

Festivals of the Sversdlovsk Rock Club were held annually. The last 4th festival took place in 1989. Those festivals started wide popularity of Nautilus Pompilius, Chaif, Agatha Christie, Nastya, Aprelsky Marsh and other collectives. At the same time the prestige of the Sverdlovsk Rock Club was growing. In the early 1990s the Headquarters of the Sverdlovsk Rock was closed, but rock movement went on. By then only a few bands out of all Sverdlovsk collectives had stood out as professional rock bands: Nautilus Pompilius, Chaif, Agatha Christie, and Nastya. They became rock stars on the national scale and mostly left Sverdlovsk. Other bands (Aprelsky marsh, Max Ilyin, Sphinx, Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii) went on striving for bigger popularity. However, the major part of the local bands of that time just ceased to exist. There were different reasons for that: some performers realized their noncompetitiveness, some despaired to struggle for a place in the sun, and some just turned unable to hold on under new conditions of the market. However, the common reason was the overall crisis of culture and pessimism related to withering of Sverdlovsk Rock Club, absence of the center and headquarters of rock culture. A very indicative example was the destiny of Sphinx, which released an album and a vinyl record, made three clips on the central television, was broadcast on the Russian radio, and had a constant sponsor. However, internal and external problems of that period led to the band’s break-up in 1991.

Fortunately, the fact had a positive side also: the group made use of its experience and potential for creation of the Rock Center Sphinx. The Centre was targeted at creating favourable conditions for revival and further development of the Ural rock culture. In 1997 the Rock Center Sphinx became a municipal institution and the only rock center in this country financed from the city’s budget.

Sphinx’ activities made it possible to strengthen the potential of Sverdlovsk rock, and create a competitive and creative atmosphere in rock culture of the Ural region. It all resulted in appearance of new nation-wide rock stars (Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii, Chicherina) and a variety of popular bands, such as Sansara, Sahara, Babye Leto , Banga Banga, Blues Doctors, Corporation V, Moskva Luna, and many others.


Look also:

The legends of Russian Rock Music

History of Rock Music in Russia

Russian Music

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Rock Music Russian Music    

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