Russian Music

Hi everyone! Today I want to talk to you about Russian music.

Many of my Russian-learning students surprise me by saying they have never actually listened to Russian songs. Of course, Russian music is not the most popular in the world (probably with the exception of Russian classical music, but that’s different), but for me the very first thing that got me interested in the language was music! And English movies, of course, though at first I used to watch them with Russian dub, meh. So when I ask my students “Have you heard any Russian songs?”, the answer is usually “no”. The next thing I do I give them a list of songs that I created just for that purpose. It includes various songs by bands and singers that have been popular in Russia throughout 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Do my students like them? Sometimes they do, sometimes not so much, but they all agree that Russian music is unique and at times highly entertaining. You could probably try and divide it into standard genres, such as pop, rock, alternative, jazz, folk and so on, but there is also a huge part that can not be defined. It’s when you listen to the start of the song with no words  there and you recognize it as utterly and genuinely Russian. For instance, take the heart-wrenching yet strangely life-asserting prison songs, so-called “chanson” – many old-school Russians (and certainly my uncle) would probably say it represents Russian soul – or, at least, that’s how it was in the legendary 90s. There are also catchy and arrogant rock songs, which used to be the absolute hits at any school party at the start of 2000s. But, of course, Russia is not only about romanticizing criminals and teenage rebellion. It’s about so many other things – both worldly and spiritual. To understand what I mean, you’ll have to listen to a few songs yourself – I’m afraid there is no other way 🙂

If you made up your mind and decided to follow my advice- then prepare your ears and open your mind… I promise you won’t regret it 🙂

Here are some popular tunes to start with:

1) 7Б – These guys are amazing! Many people say their songs have mystical effect on a listener, putting him or her in some sort of a trance with dark and beautiful chords. I absolutely agree with that.

2) БИ-2 – This band has many wonderful songs in different styles. Their songs can be sad and romantic, dangerous, crazy, sexy or a strange mix of all those. The singer’s voice is unique and unforgettable.

3) Звери – This is the band from my teenage times. Their songs are extremely catchy and very emotional! One of the songs called Дожди-пистолеты (which can be roughly translated as rains-guns, meaning that the rains are like the guns, only they shoot cold water :Ь) has a bit of a story to it. The first half of the song is standard: a guy sings about a dysfunctional relationship and how it all makes him feel. Then, in the middle of the song we can hear somebody’s voice talking about his break up with his girlfriend. It sounds so natural it makes it seem random, like a recording error. In fact, it’s not so far from the truth. You see, the lead singer wrote it after his break up with a girlfriend. So he was telling his best friend (who also happens to be a member of the band) all the sad details and his friend was listening. What he didn’t know, is that his best friend was secretly recording his monologue to put it into the song – to make it more sincere, maybe? I don’t know what the singer thought about this and what was his reaction when he heard the result (I assume, he was a bit upset, but maybe I’m wrong), but the song is here and you can listen to it and judge for yourself 🙂

If you don’t know how to use songs to learn a language, check out this guide here.


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