Thursday, 30 September 2010

Perception of music unbiased

When I was growing up in Russia there were two worlds of music in our view: pop artists who's image was more important than their music and other artists who's music meant to us more than their image. The first ones were all over the place, they were in magazines and on MTV - when it first appeared in Russia in 1998. Only thing we (when I say we - my friends and I) knew about the other ones was their music, which we couldn't really get from a high street music store - we had to buy bootleg CDs from specialized stores and a bootleg superstore called "Gorbushka". When I was 18 and that was a few months before I started performing my music professionally, I worked at one of the hundreds of stores in "Gorbushka" - selling world music and reggae and it was like an information point to many people who were interested in reggae and dub, and where they could actually get it. A few bootleg stores like that were the only places in Moscow where you could buy most of drum&bass, reggae, r&b, hip-hop and they were like these little spots of spreading news about new releases. This is where people would come and ask: "So what new albums have you got?" because there wasn't much known about artists other than Russian pop stars in the Russian media and will buy like ten CDs at once to listen to for the next month. Only in 2005 a section on reggae music was opened for the first time ever in a licensed music store and that seemed like a victory.The only gossip magazines were about Russian and a few foreign pop stars, who we were not interested in anyway, so that passed by me. Foreign press was almost unavailable, and a very few items of US and UK magazines were sold may be in two on three shops in the whole of Moscow and at a price that was equal to a weekly salary of an average person at the time - that was out of reach too. Hip Hop, reggae, drum&bass and jungle in our perception was the music to us that was free from gossip, publicity stunts, we knew about the artists one thing: their music and when it was released. In our minds it was different from Russian pop artists we were sick and tired of hearing about on TV every day. When I was 13 I recall only one music magazine that was available at the time and it was about mainly rock music - "Rovesnik", I used to save pocket money my mom gave me for breakfast to buy it. It was a window to foreign rock stars and the history of music. At the time Internet was not available everywhere and was so slow that it took 10 minutes to load a page, so it wasn't a popular source of information on music, PCs were rare in Moscow homes too. Once though I read an article about Lauryn Hill and this magazine would only cover a hip hop or soul artist only if their impact was so great you couldn't ignore it. I went and bought "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and I was the only one in my neighbourhood listening to her. It was so fresh and it is still one of my favorites. So from that time I started buying hip hop and later reggae cassettes (mostly at the time) and CDs along with my rock music. Because it wasn't easy to get this sort of music, once somebody got it, we would discuss a new album for a week. %98 of Russian music fans at that time would not understand lyrics of the non-Russian artist though, especially slang, because of lack of knowlegde in English, it was the beat and performance that was fascinating :) I learned about soul music from a friend I met at class at Russian Music Academy and it happened that her father was a big soul music collector. When I went to the big music store in Arbat, I didn't find any section on soul music, there was only a tiny spot called "jazz" and may be one our two soul compilations stuck in between jazz CDs. My friend's father had to order CDs and DVDs from United States and get them shipped to Moscow. My friend was like a window to r&b, soul and gospel music for me, she was my main information, only die hard music fans and collectors knew about Anita Baker, Faith Evans or CeCe Winans in Russia, it was so exclusive. Then I started listening to drum&bass and electronic music and again I didn't even know how the djs and artists look, nothing about their image. It was all about the music. When I was 16-17 I also used to go to a very closed member bar/club "Shtopor", where the entrance was masked and two metal doors were opened at secret password and fingerprints - that place was one of those little cultural islands where I learned about non-mainstream music, art and literature, also indie movies were shown there. Every piece of information was exclusive at the time and when I moved to London I almost drowned and got lost in this world of music and everything about it here ... In a way lack of information tought me to appreciate the artists for their music and what they are saying rather than anything else, and their story would only mean to us something if it directly linked to and inspired their music.

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