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Author's Song Genre
February 14, 2007 13:39


Phenomenon of author's song in Russia

Prominent songwriters:

Alexander Vertinsky

Bulat Okoudjava

Vladimir Vysotsky

Alexander Bashlachev

Aleksandr Galich

Alexander Gorodnitsky

Yuliy Kim

Viktor Luferov

Yuri Vizbor

Psoy Korolenko

Grigory Danskoy

Phenomenon of author's song in Russia

Freedom of speech in Russia, as well as in other countries has always encountered obstacles conditioned by social dictatorship or conventional morality reigning during certain epochs. It can be said that Author's Song was originated by solitary rebels - subtle and honest singers, who in the teeth of anything strived to surmount the oppressive order of the establishment and the time itself and sing one's free soul with an open heart.

Author's song as a genre supposes one-man performance of songs accompanied with guitar (or some other instrument, which is rare). Singers to guitar are also called bards, the term going back to the 1960s. Originated as a free alternative to semi-official mainstream concert music in the Soviet Union, this genre remains non-commercial and in this regard perhaps more independent than any other. Great attention is paid to the meaning of lyrics, aspiring to convey some deep message, while the music can be rather simple, though it's not a rule of course.

From the 1968 till date the large-scale Grushinsky bard song festival is held every summer in Samara region. Practically all comers are given an opportunity to sing their songs at the festival. The festival was named after Valery Grushin, a person who died heroically on a hike while saving people unknown to him from an ice-cold stormy river. From 1980 to 1986 the authorities prohibited the festival under pretence of its harmful influence on the minds of the growing generation. Bard movement generally consists of inoffensive creatures: non-aggressive representatives of intelligentsia, tourists and students.

Prominent songwriters

In bard stream as in any other mass movement there stand out bright personalities who on the one hand initiate and develop this genre and on the other hand transcend its limits. It seems worth dwelling on such Authors who in fact make author's song genre interesting and worth existing.

One of the most outstanding authors who anticipated the Russian author's song genre is Alexander Vertinsky (1889-1957). He sang captivating ballads and fairy tales to a piano accompaniment. The image of a sad clown uncovering the deepest corners of his heart - through this mask Vertinsky sang his songs tenderly musing on the cruel world everchanging. His influences are most evident in creations of Russian songwriters of the following generations, especially remarkable in the songs by Bulat Okoudjava (1924-1997), the acknowledged initiator of the bard song. Okoudjava who had to face the war, which left wounds in his heart managed to maintain his soul tender and pure, and his mind clear and sound till his last day. One cannot imagine today's Russian stage without the impact of Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980), a stupendous actor, poet and musician. It is impossible to ignore here Alexander Bashlachev (1960-1988) who possessed a unique creative gift combining rock-and-roll and Russian folk motives with strikingly vivid lyrics. Among contemporary songwriters we would like to distinguish Grigory Danskoy (born 1971) who enlivens musical culture of today, accepting and expanding it.

Alexander Vertinsky
(1889 - 1957)


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Alexander Vertinsky is certainly the pride and soul of Russian musical culture, whose gift appears to withstand anything. When Vertinsky, who had emigrated from Russia during the Soviet revolution, asked the authorities for permission to come back during World War II, the horrible dictator strangely feeling some interest in the artist's songs, allowed him to return and even let him perform on stage. Read more

'To, chto ya dolzhen skazat'' (Perfomed by Alexander Vertinsky)







Bulat Okoudjava
(1924-1997)


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Okoudjava was born and brought up in a family that had suffered much from Stalinist reprisals. His father, once a big figure in the communist party, was executed and his mother spent years in a labor prison camp. He had to face the greatest ordeals of the 20th century: the terrors of repressions, the war, censorial persecution, conflicts of the times of the Soviet Union collapse and the raging of savage new Russian capitalism. He overcame all the tests with dignity and noble courage. Read more

'Pesenka ob Arbate' (Perfomed by Bulat Okudzhava)







Vladimir Vysotsky
(1938 - 1980)


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'I want to state and assure you, that author's song demands great work. This song is always living with you, never giving you rest.' - Vysotsky said.

One had to live several lives to feel keenly all the personages featured in his songs. These songs generally fall into topical cycles, such as war, mountain, sport, Chinese and other cycles. Read more

'Pesnya o druge' (Perfomed by Vladimir Vysotsky)







Aleksandr Galich
(1918 - 1977)


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Aleksandr Galich became one of the brightest representatives of the genre of Russian authors song (on a par with Vladimir Vysotsky and Bulat Okoudjava), which was developed by bards and became very popular in the epoch of tape recorders.

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'Kogda ya vernus' (Perfomed by Alexander Galich)







Alexander Bashlachev
(1960 - 1988)


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Though greatly influenced by Vysotsky and not a less prominent author and performer, Alexander Bashlachev did not enjoy such epidemic popularity. The audience of this subtle poet would never ever possibly make a crowd of fans crying out their favourite songs all together. Perhaps it is for the fact that Bashlachev never aspired for speaking something understandable to all and thus popular. He appears to avoid shallow sociality and publicity. Most of his songs are truly confessional Read more

'Testo' (Perfomed by Alexander Bashlachev)







Alexander Gorodnitsky


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Alexander Gorodnitsky is a singing poet, a geologist, a doctor of science, and a traveler, who has visited the most exotic places, including Antarctica, the North Pole and the ocean floor. The songs and poems by Gorodnitsky are always sincere and frank: free of a single false note, and revealing high professionalism, deep insight into life and history, along with exquisite poetic gift. Read more

'histye prudy' (Perfomed by Alexander Gorodnitsky)







Yuliy Kim


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Yuliy Kim is a well-known Russian poet, composer, bard, dramatist, and scriptwriter. He is the author of about five hundred songs (many of them appearing in feature films and play productions), thirty plays and ten books. Read more

'Oi, kak horosho!' (Perfomed by Yuliy Kim)







Viktor Luferov


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The poet, original multi-instrumentalist and bard Viktor Luferov is one of the most illustrious contemporary representatives of the authors song genre. Along with his creative achievements one should point out the establishment of the unique studio-theatre of song Perekryostok (The Crossroads) which existed from 1983 to 2003 and introduced a number of talented songwriters to the Moscow audience. Read more

'Molitva' (Perfomed by Viktor Luferov)







Yuri Vizbor
(1934-1984)


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Vizbor was an illustrious songwriter and singer, film actor, journalist, writer and scriptwriter. One of the founders of authors song genre in Russia, he created over 400 songs. Read more

'Milaya moya' (Perfomed by Yuri Vizbor)







Psoy Korolenko


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Psoy performs his own and others songs, accompanying himself to keyboard instruments, mainly a Casio sequencer in accordion timbre. Experimenting with quite various song traditions he sings in about 6 or 7 languages, most frequently in Russian, Yiddish, English and French. Read more

'Moi dyadya' (Perfomed by Psoy Korolenko)







Grigory Danskoy


Among contemporary authors we would like to distinguish Grigory Danskoy, a most uncommon songwriter of today, the creator of his own genre, skillfully combining the influences of the Silver Age poetry, intricate acoustic guitar passages and his splendid moving voice. Danskoy is not interested in gaining mass popularity by means of cold commercial promotion: his songs deserve truly alive audience. His songs are enveloped with wisdom and love for people, tenderness, sadness, and at times with frolic humour wonderfully toning with serious messages.

Danskoy tours much around Russia giving solo concerts and participating in bard and rock festivals, now and then becoming their laureate. He lives in the city of Perm.

'Mozart-Minor' (Perfomed by Grigory Danskoy)




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Bayan, a Russian Folk Music Instrument Brief History of Jazz in Russia Yanka, Messenger of Russian Anguish Alexander Gorodnitsky Yuri Vizbor





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