Saturday, October 20, 2007

Finding t.A.T.u.

Believe it or not.
Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. (Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova) star in a movie that will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. They pretend to be lesbians and sing electro pop--I always thought this was a novelty act?
Another surprise--Mischa Barton (American actress of "The OC" fame) co-stars as a Russian girl who falls in love with an American girl she meets at -- where else? - a t.A.T.u concert.

Perez Hilton calls it the "Worst Movie of the Year."

I admit, I am a little skeptical too, but I'm going to see it. You can't judge too quickly.

^^ This is my friend and one half of t.A.T.u. His brother-in-law, who produces t.A.T.u.'s music videos in Los Angeles, is in the middle.

Восточные Сказки - Russian Pop Music and the Middle East

Sitting in one of my favorite hookah bars in L.A. last weekend, I recognized a song playing in the background. It was called "Temptation" and it was, like everything else the DJ at that club plays, Middle Eastern pop. But it sounded a lot like a Blestyashi song I heard on the radio, called "Восточные Сказки."

Found out later that Blestyashi had collaborated with Persian pop star Arash, whose "Boro Boro" album is available on the American iTunes store. I downloaded a couple of songs and it's good ol' hookah bar music. The title track, "Boro Boro," has been mashed up with Pomeha Sprava's hit "Gde Zhe Tvoi Bumer," and it ends up sounding pretty interesting. Below is Arash's collaboration with DJ Alligator, called "Music Is My Language."

Of course, all the Russian parties here in L.A. feature some non-russian pop, usually Tarkan. He's one of the most popular singers in Turkey and has released a hiphop / pop / club music album in English called "Come Closer." I recommend it if you like that kind of thing. Aparently he's been in a New York studio working on his second English language release, which does not have an official date but will come out on the Universal Latino label.

And many Russian stars besides Blestyashi are influenced by Middle Eastern (Arabskaya) music. "Now That's What I Call Arabia" is a top seller on St Petersburg Dom Knigi's online store ( and Kirkorov has done a Turkish-influenced album, "Oy Mama Shika Dam," which caused a little controversy among Armenians (Kirkorov is in fact, half Armenian). The rapper Seryoga released an Oriental themed single, "Mel Sudbi," which was an extra feature on the Dnevnoy Dozor (Day Watch) DVD. Electro pop singer Zhasmin had a big hit last summer with "Indiiskoye Disko," which featured a looped bhangra rhythm against a typical upbeat Russian pop song. All are worth checking out for Russian pop fans, and there are many more examples of the influence that the Middle East has had on Russian popular music. One parody of this phenomenon is the Ruki Vverh song "Devushki Vostoka," which was released on their Konets Popsa/Tancuyut Vse album several years ago.

Below are some mp3 links if you're interested in the Arash/Blestyashi collaboration (this is actually a mashup with the original "Temptation") and the Boro Boro club song. If you have a favorite "Oriental song" of any genre, feel free to add it in a comment and link to a video or mp3 if you can!

Arash & Блестящие Feat Rebecca - Восточная Temptation (DJ Grey mix)

Помеха справа Feat Arash - Бора, бора, где бумер

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Kirkorov Legacy - and Shavi Princi

Hello everyone! I promised I'd keep writing on my resurrected blog, because I've missed it, and I realize that people do actually read it and find it interesting. (Especially thanks to the author of (Post)Soviet Popular Music. Thanks to all my readers, and I hope to share my blog with an even wider audience in the future--but I know that it won't happen unless I spend more time updating it. So here goes, here's the longest post I've written in a while. It is a little random, but based on what I am listening to at the moment. Hope it doesn't disappoint. =)

All right, I will admit it--I do listen to Filipp Kirkorov. And I like a lot of his songs. Sure, he's easy to make fun of, and he probably has as many "haters" as he has fans in Russia and the surrounding countries. Living in a Russian neighborhood, I've experienced this--just after the "press conference" scandal several years back, in which he reacted, let's say, immaturely to a female journalist's questions. Well, she asked a question that I would like to know the answer to--why does Kirkorov release so many remakes? We know that he doesn't write his own music or lyrics, so it's easy to say he isn't really a musician--until you see one of his shows. Then, you realize that he is an Entertainer, a Performance Artist, whose whole life--from his flamboyant fashion sense to his turbulent marriage to Alla Pugacheva--is all about putting on a show. And that's the one thing that he does perfectly. So his music isn't 100% original, and it isn't as innovative as that of many of the other Russian bands that I write about, (for example, Leningrad, Lyubeh and Chicherina).

From talking to people who love Russian music and culture as much as I do, I've concluded that a lot of people dislike Kirkorov--or at least find him hard to take--because they think he takes himself seriously. And if you just view his music as funny, shmaltzy, happy but not serious, it will be a lot easier to like. (For me, that is. Of course it;s a matter of personal taste=])

I write this as I listen to a playlist I compiled of random Kirkorov songs, some old, some new.

Several are from the album "Ты, ты, ты..." (released in 1998). Listen at the link below, and you will probably notice that one of the highlights of the album, the upbeat and playful "Ирочки," sounds very similar musically to "Таганка" and has the same showy musicality as "Люстры старинного зала."

But still, it's fun background music if you're, say, writing a blog post. And Kirkorov's new singles are also fun, in a different way, but with the same emotion and theatrical quality that is so characteristic of Kirkorov. One funny, upbeat song that I recommend is "Gigolo," which can be downloaded on

All of this writing about Filipp Kirkorov brings me to discuss his father, the well-known Bulgarian singer Bedros Kirkorov (well, he was well-known in the 1960s and 70s, when his career reached a peak. His songs are much different from his son's; and not just because there are so few high-quality versions of Bedros's recordings available on the internet. The subject matter and collaborations are different, too. Filipp collaborates with rising stars like Zhasmin and the band in the picture below Fresh Art, and a collaboration with girl group Blestyashi is rumored to be in the works (when interviewed, Kirkorov said that he hoped this would revive his career, much as Valery Meladze's acclaimed collaboration with VIA Gra did.)

However, the older Kirkorov collaborated with the estrada luminaries of his time, and I was pleased to come across an mp3 of Bedros Kirkorov and the legendary Georgian singer Tamriko (Tamara) Gverdtsiteli singing the well-known Georgian song, "Suliko." It's recorded from a live performance, so the quality is not great, but it is definitely worth listening to if you are interested in older Soviet or Georgian music.

This is Tamara, in case you're wondering.

and here is a picture of Bedros Kirkorov from

I think Filipp takes after his mother, but he has his father's eyes =))

....And another song I feel like blogging about tonight connects very tenuously to Kirkorov...actually it doesn't connect. It is Georgian, like "Suliko," so I thought of it. It's by two of the most famous rap artists in Georgia--Shavi Princi and Babe. You can listen and download on, the internet's largest collection of Georgian music.

It's a fun song, in a different way than Kirkorov's are fun. It is a party song, it has a hip-hop beat that you hear a lot lately in Russian pop music. But it's still fully Georgian, in a non traditional way. For more information on the emerging Georgian hip hop scene, check out the eurasianet article I linked to below:

In the picture above, Shavi Princi (center with brown coat), whose name means Black Prince in Georgian, and Babe (center with white coat), whose real name is Mari Topuria, pose with the students from their Tbilisi hip-hop dance class. The two, who are also rap artists and self-taught dancers, met in a dance studio and recently recorded a song together. (picture coutesy of Sophia Mizante for EurasiaNet)

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to comment and share links with me!