Friday, November 20, 2009

Russian Rock — "Not in Vain"

Photo: We'll never get older ...: Alexander Lipnitsky in conversation with Boris Bolero Roginsky at Toronto KinoArt Festival, November 12, 2009 @ Margret: documentary about history of russian rockPhoto: "We'll never get older ..." Alexander Lipnitsky
in conversation with Boris "Bolero" Roginsky
at Toronto Kino Art Festival, November 12, 2009 @ Margret
2009 @

Russian Rock — Not in Vain
By Boris "Bolero" Roginsky

Alexander Lipnitsky brought magic to Toronto last week. The Kino Art Festival featured several of his TV documentaries on the rock movement in the USSR in the 1970s and 80s. Those who came out to three screenings in the Samovar Room, the Regent Theatre and Margret Bar were in for a rare treat.

The ex-bass player with the Moscow band "Zvuki Moo" ("Moo Sounds"), Lipnitsky is currently the host of the Russian rock TV show "Yelovaya Submarina" (word play on the famous song by The Beatles, literally meaning the "Fir Tree Submarine") on the NOSTALGIA channel. Alas, it’s extremely difficult to get a hold of the show’s episodes in Toronto. Hence his arrival was an opportunity not to be missed by all those interested in the subject.

Back in the early 1960s (just like it was happening all over the world then), when the new wave of such Russian poets as Bulat Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotsky, Evgeny Kliachkin, Andrei Voznesensky, Bella Akhmadulina, Robert Rozhdestvensky were awakening the social consciousness of the country, their "brother in arms", Evgeny Yevtushenko, wrote: "a poet in Russia is more than a poet".

Of course Yevtushenko was not talking only about his generation. Undoubtedly that line primarily served as a tribute to his "teachers" — Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Blok, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, Boris Pasternak. And yet, most likely hoping for their appearance, he was probably dedicating his words to the future "young punks" as well, sending them a message. Quite possibly, those who wanted to see it that way might have received it. In all fairness however, the English term "young punks" ("molodaya shpana") should be perceived as a rather approximate translation of what Boris Grebenschikov would later use as a song title on Aquarium’s "Blue Album" (the 1981 release frequently considered to be the first conceptual rock album in the USSR).

And so 15-20 years down the road the new wave, brought up on the eclectic mix of their Russian predecessors’ poetry and songs, Western jazz and rock’n’roll as well as Eastern philosophy, rose and caught the souls of literally millions in what used to be the largest country in the world.

Lipnitsky’s documentaries are priceless because they are largely the only existing video testimonials of those incredible times when so much sublime energy found its receivers who transmitted it in the form of songs, works of art and theatre happenings. They contain performance footage, shot with hand-held home movie cameras, avant-garde experiments of young rebellious film makers and artists, contemporary interviews with some of those who witnessed those events, made them happen and continue to create today. Many others, however, have already passed away.

Now, a week later, I vividly recall as mesmerized spectators watch Alexander Bashlachev singing "Vanusha" (hypocorism for "Ivan") on the wall of the Dundas St. West bar. They listen to his fierce, tender, honest voice and guitar. The song ends. Many of those present burst into applause. I realize — that performance took place in a St. Petersburg apartment in front of several people almost a quarter of a century ago. Bashlachev took his own life just a short while later in 1988. And yet his songs still affect listeners on the other side of the world after so many years.

Nowadays there are disillusioned voices, expressing apprehension that a lot of things were a waste of time. That nobody needed them then and surely nobody needs them now. That we were, as Viktor Tsoi sang, "waiting for changes", but the current changes in Russia are a far cry from the hopes of that Russian rock generation of 20-30 years ago. That, rather amateur and unprofessional but nonetheless very honest and pure, rock movement, raised on the shoulders of self-sacrificing enthusiasts and idealists, succumbed to the machine of commercialism in contemporary Russia.

While the latter statement may be true, it is still not the reason to discard everything positive and wonderful that was born in that largely underground environment. What is given to all sorts of creators around the world comes to them from eternity, where our political systems, social orders and all sorts of mundane everyday passions are nothing but grains of sand. It is up to those creators to decode what they receive and to present it to the world, hopefully enriching the latter. Their ideals and the information they are trying to convey are bigger than all the political systems put together.

But those, who see in artists, musicians, actors nothing but a bunch of screwed up alcoholics, drug addicts and psychopaths, please try to realize that we are all human beings, each with our own sins to repent of. However it is up to us, as spectators, viewers and listeners, to see the light in what is presented to us, to be inspired by it and to make the world better.

Everything passes and that period, snippets of which Lipnitsky brought to Toronto, passed as well. The important thing is not to lament our broken dreams and the "good old days". As Grebenschikov sang on that very "Blue Album" in the "Railroad Water":

"I was writing these songs at the end of December
Naked, in the snow, under the light of the full moon.
But if you hear me now
It was not in vain."

Indeed it was not and it will never be.

2009 © Boris "Bolero" Roginsky
Nov. 19, 2009. Toronto

Photo: Toronto KinoArt Festival screening of Alexander Lipnitsky's documentary about history of russian rock at margret, november 12, 2009Photo: Toronto KinoArt Festival screening of Alexander Lipnitsky's
documentary "The History of Russian Rock" at Margret Bar, November 12, 2009
2009 @

1 comment:

olga said...

Please read an article from Russia about the 2nd Toronto Kino Art Festival:

Сноб: Хроники: Александр Липницкий: А я съездил в Торонто на импровизированный фестиваль!

Русская диаспора Канады устроила кинофестиваль специально для Сергея Соловьева и Александра Липницкого
Автор: Александр Липницкий

And enjoy a video where Alexander said:"... Мне было очень радостно, что люди встретились с моими друзьями так далеко от России."

"...I was very happy that people had met with my friends so far away from Russia."