May 01, 2005

Hearing Voices

If you were an aspiring pop singer-songwriter in Soviet Russia of the 1960s, 70s or 80s, and

you were a woman, inspiring female role models were hard to come by – it was a man’s world. Although the rare group showcased high-profile, even flamboyant, female singers, like The Jolly Guys’ Alla Pugacheva, the big pop and rock singer-songwriters – Time Machine’s Andrei Makarevich, Aquarium’s Boris Grebenshchikov and Nautilus’ Vyacheslav Butusov – were all men. It was not until the mid-1990s that Russian female pop-rock singer-songwriters began to come onto the scene – and into their own – in a big way. Zemfira Ramazanova, Julia Chicherina, and Vika Voronina, who lead the groups Zemfira, Chicherina, and Propaganda, respectively, are the brightest female stars in today’s constellation of Russian pop/rock performing songwriters. These three women, whose songs’ emotional and psychological intensity is expanding the lyrical boundaries of contemporary Russian pop, have not just broken popular music’s singing and writing gender barrier. They are showing Russia’s young women what it means to be a strong, independent, successful career woman in today’s music world.

Take a look at Zemfira Ramazanova’s website (, and you’ll see that this 27-year-old from Ufa focuses on her music, not on self-promotion or conforming to a glitzy pop image. Slim, with a fashionably messy, layered bob and a pierced eyebrow, but no discernible makeup, Zemfira often tenders a slight, mischievous smile. The website features photos of Zemfira performing, of her guitar, and candids of her in various sites across the globe, dressed in what you might call cool chic: muted colors, clean lines, leather and jeans.

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