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Music manager Dmitry Bezkorovainy – on the flourishing of protest music in Belarus
Ksenia Turkova: Is the surge in protest music (or music that is contextually linked to protest) truly unprecedented? This was before?
Dmitry Bezkorovainy: No, just so written down and timed to events, and even with so many sayings – never. There were separate songs, but nothing more.
K.T .: Why do you think the song “Changes” became a symbol of protest, its kind of anthem?
D.B .: This is a simple and understandable song for everyone, which unites all people, regardless of age and worldview. In my opinion, for the first time it “appeared actively in Belarus during the silent actions of 2011. This song has stood the test of time, it is becoming close to new and new generations of people..
By the way, Andrei Khadanovich’s translation into Belarusian has also appeared. There are several versions – one of them appeared spontaneously, right on the streets of Minsk, and became viral. This is a variation performed by Irdorath.
K.T .: Are there any new protest songs?
D.B .: Over the past couple of months, a lot of songs and videos dedicated to the latest events have been released. Someone did it openly, someone more artistically. In addition, many public figures, including musicians, simply spoke out on their social networks..
I would also like to note that not all songs can be called protest proper – many of them are simply lyrical, but the context made them protest, that’s the whole point. For example, Anya Sharkunova’s song “The Time of Happy People” is exactly like this: it did not contain any political statements, but it is perceived precisely in the context of the news agenda..
I would note the song of the group “Dirt” called “Change” – this is such a paraphrase of Tsoi, but the words there are completely different, and the mood is different. This is an appeal to Lukashenka as a father, to that same Old Man, an emotional letter from his son, who says: “You said that you would not give“ them ”the country, but they are us”.
There are some harsher things. For example, the group “Give Darogu” even before the elections released the song and the video “Bayu-Bai” – this is such black humor about riot police, it is written on behalf of a person who, on duty, needs to destroy, break, beat and “stand for the power”.
One of the main musical surprises is the Tor Band. They are from Rogachev, a small town in the Gomel region, I have not heard of them before. They actually respond to insults against Lukashenka, for example, one of their songs is called “We are not a people”. There are now three or four of their songs on the Belarusian Yandex.Music chart – this is a lot, given that no one knew them before..
Before the elections, Lyavon Volsky released the song “Rusty Dzyarzhava” (Rusty State), and together with the leader of the group “J: Mopc” Vladimir Pugach recorded the song “We breathe heat” (We breathe again).
And there are zigzags at all. When Max Korzh releases two songs with obvious overtones, and then publishes a post that – it is not clear, by chance or not – fits in with the rhetoric of the authorities that one should sit at home and not protest. And there was a strong negative from people. But then he himself came to peaceful protests: to honor the memory of the one who died in Minsk and to support the striking workers. So his position is clear.
K.T .: Is it possible to talk about some kind of unified, solidarity position in the musical environment??
D.B .: We can say that this time the musicians are unusually active. Moreover, if earlier the pro-presidential side was more active, which, with some degree of coercion, took part in the agitation concerts “For Belarus”. They seem to be not for the president, but only he comes to the gala concert from the candidates (others tried to get in, but did not let him in). And if a television artist refused to participate in them, then he could then have problems with concerts and radio rotations. And against a maximum of a dozen, who spoke rather already when something outrageous happened, like overclocking an area in 2010.
Now the opposite is true. There were no agitation concerts. The agitation song for the president was written only by the playful accordionist-vocalist Vitaly Voronko, a frequenter of television competitions in all neighboring countries. Alexander Solodukha, a local meme man, stood next to him on Independence Day. And that’s all. But on the other hand, not all spoke out against violence and for change, despite the understanding of the threat of falling under the concert bans, but very many, moreover, popular ones, gathering spectators who never spoke on political topics. Even before the elections.
Moreover, a number of popular artists agreed to perform at a concert-rally in support of the main alternative candidate – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. But the authorities were simply afraid that at the previous one, without popular artists, from 30 to 60 thousand people gathered and urgently canceled it under a far-fetched pretext and, as I understand it, in violation of the law.
And when there was a post-election beating of people, even representatives of the state stage came out against the violence: Inna Afanasyeva, Aleksey Khlestov, the Tyani-Push group, which once wrote the anthem to the Almaz special forces. And now it was working against people on the streets. This is a straightforward act on their part..
K.T .: Were there any detainees among the musicians?
D.B .: Today, the leader of “Give Darogu” Yura Stylsky was detained for the second time. Probably for the same reason – after the elections, under a large white-red-white flag, he led a column with a demonstration across the city. Philip Chmyr of Drum Ecstasy was detained on the first evening after the elections, before the clashes began, for taking pictures of riot police, although he did not even have time to take a photo. Other guys were detained. Someone – objectively – by accident, even outside of stocks. Someone on stocks.
K.T .: Are there musicians who used to be, as they say, “far from politics”, but now they felt the need to be creatively involved?
D.B .: For me, the most striking examples are J: MORS and Naviband. The first ones – for almost 20 years, as among the most popular rock groups in Belarus, they have never played either for the opposition or for Lukashenka. Moreover, in the last two times they were banned from radio. I do not know of any other such cases. And now the leader of the group spoke out against violence and for changes even after the first crackdown in early June, is a member of the coordination council, against which a criminal case has already been opened, and yesterday the group played in Soligorsk in support of the striking miners.
The second are younger, about 5 years in the active phase. They have many beautiful songs in Belarusian, they are all about love, tender, a guy with a girl, initially a duet, and then a family. On the one hand, they performed with equal success on state TV, received state awards, went to Eurovision, and on the other, they went to perform at the alternative rock festival Basovishcha, which takes place in Poland, under white-red-white flags, with such oppositional subtext. But in the end they made a choice.
K.T .: How responsive are Belarusians in general to react to political changes that promise changes?
D.B .: It seems to me that this is not about some incredible expectations of change. Not about sweet paradise. And it’s not about whether we are going to Europe or to Russia. And about the fact that the authorities – and before that were not ideal – over the past few months have turned society against themselves so strongly by their actions that many did not want to put up with the prospect of living for another five years under such leadership. Moreover, they speak any language, any geopolitical orientation. And when their voice was stolen, and even brutally and obviously deliberately beaten, it all intensified many times over. And this united so many at such a deep level that it is difficult to describe. For example, among my classmates there are guys who are for the DPR. So even they clearly support the protests. And this is an indicator that any parallels with Ukraine that are trying to build both in Russia and the government in Belarus – which until recently said that the enemies and puppeteers of candidates in the East – they are so funny and far-fetched.
K.T .: How Belarusian protest music is supported in other countries?
D.B .: On a number of European radio stations, they were taken into rotation. First, a familiar producer from Lithuania asked me to send Belarusian music for broadcast on Lithuanian radio. He was called because he often performed concerts of banned Belarusian artists in Lithuania in 2011-2015. At the largest, in November 2013, the Lyapis Trubetskoy group gathered 12 thousand people.
In general, I sent him, and then the guys from this radio – the first channel in Lithuania – offered to play songs. And from the Lithuanian television, they also asked for clips, they put them daily in the morning and afternoon shows. Then I threw this selection to my friends in different countries. So the songs of the Belarusian artists, advocating for change, began to be played on the first channel in the Czech Republic, on Raadio 4 in Estonia, now acquaintances are sending newsletters in Germany, we communicate with Poland and France. Some songs are played in Ukraine. I tried to communicate in Russia, but they explained to me that it was unrealistic there. There is only the TV channel “Rain” talks about it.
Journalist, TV and radio host, philologist. She started as a correspondent and presenter on NTV under the direction of Evgeny Kiselev, worked on TV6, TVS, REN TV, radio stations Echo Moskvy, City FM, Kommersant FM. From 2013 to 2017, she lived and worked in Kiev, participated in the creation of the information radio station Radio Vesti, directed the Russian-language broadcasting of the Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, was a host and executive producer. Since 2017 works for Voice of America in Washington DC.