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In Search of Bards

Author: Ilya Ovchinnikov
Translation: Deborah Hoffman

Jan/Feb 2009
Page 52   ( 6 pages)

Summary: To paraphrase Pushkin, "In Russia, a bard is much more than a bard." We look back at the bardic tradition (singer-songwriters) in Russian culture and find that not all is what it seems. Or, to paraphrase Pushkin again, "In Russia, a bard is often less than a bard."

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Russian Life. The text of this article is not available online. Follow the link to the full issue listing to see if the back issue is available through our webstore.

Weblinks related to this story:

  • Largest Bard Archive The internet’s largest bard-archive. Everything you want to know about anniversaries, concerts, festivals, birthdays. The site has a huge collection of texts and audio recordings. The downside is that it has no selectivity: classics of the masters are listed on equal footing as works by authors which no one knows.
  • Mikhail Shcherbakov The unofficial site of artist/performer Mikhail Shcherbakov, whose work does not readily fit within any paradigm discussed here. Among living bards who are actively writing and performing their work, he is much better than most. Yet his songs are difficult to see being performed by anyone other than him: the poetry is so fancy and refined, that they really are not appropriate for, say, singing around a fire or in a train cabin.
  • Nest of the Deaf The official website of the bard club “Nest of the Deaf,“, located in Moscow at Bolshoy Nikitskaya ul. 22 – the ideal place to become familiar with author’s songs in their widest possible definition. It is a democratic stage and welcomes a wide variety of performers, from Veronica Dolina and Alexander Gorodnitsky to Timur Shaov and Oleg Mityayev. There are festivals of young authors, concerts in memory of Okudzhava and Vizbor and even song nights with music from beloved films.
  • Russian Music Links
  • Timur Shaov The official site of Timur Shaov, whose work shows what has become of the poetry of Vysotsky, Galich and Kim. Shaov’s songs are full of contemporary realia, which the author skewers mercilessly. Yet there is no second level of meaning, only a superficial level which warrants a laugh, but which does not brook deeper thought. He could be called “Kim for the poor.”
  • Veronika Dolina The official site of Veronika Dolina, one of the few modern bards who could be called a true idealist. In contrast to Shaov, she does not pander to audiences, but fills her poems with trenchant observations of contemporary politics. Over 30 years she has been surprisingly able to sing at once about Joan of Arc, the imaginary city of Innocentville, and the difficult plight of a woman who must feed a huge family, yet never repeat herself.
  • Vladimir Vysotsky Site The official site of the Vladimir Vysotsky Fund. Vysotsky’s poems, songs and prose are here, and you can create your own selection of your favorite songs. The sections “Vysotsky in the Theater” and “Vysotsky in Film” offer a nearly complete profile of this poet and artist beloved by all Russians. The site is as useful for those extremely well-versed in all things Vysotsky, as it is for the novitiate.