The Symphonic Juncture

A [Symphonist]: "The one who is not afraid to raise the primal force."

- Boris Asafiev (1917)

Russian Hip-Hop: The turn of the Russian 21st century!

Hip-Hop, with its tenacious relevance and sympathetic virality, despite its “niche” favorability and opinionated reception throughout the ages, is a fundamental element of contemporary youth culture on a global scale. Originally hailing from the 19th-century plantation-work song and its “call and answer” tradition [technically called antiphonal singing], the typified musical genre of rapping can trace its heritage to the West African “griots” [musical storytellers, equivalent to English Bard or French troubadour] and Jamaican practice of “toasting” [monotoned, rhythmic oration over recursive beat]. However, rap’s lineage can be traced even farther North to the Gaelic practice of “Flyting” [versified insult-flinging battle between two parties] and the Norse poetical tradition of “Senna” [oral/written, two-person exchange of insults and admonishments]. However, its ‘modern’ identity grew from the 1910s jazz movement and its improvisational base-beat/fugitive-melody structure which, through the interwoven polyphony of 1940s bebop [the jazz for intellectuals], expanded into the sonorously cacophonic 1960s Free Jazz aesthetic [Ornette Coleman ‘Free Jazz’ c. 1961 for a taste].


But it wouldn’t technically be “Hip-Hop” until after the “electrified 70s” when jazz not only got funkified but rocked, digitalized, and experimentalized upon, all thanks to revolutionary innovations such as the modular Moog synthesizer, Dr-3 Drum machines, synth-pianos and MIDI technology, along with exploratory instruments and compositional post-isms [e.g., Serialism, post-tonalism, microtonality, Musique Concrete]. In this creatively saturated environment, bolstered by the 30-40 year development [1940-1970] of Jamaican Disc-Jockey and turntable culture Hip-Hop was born as a musical personification of marginalized, 70s urban youth.


As Adia Winfrey so curtly said:

Hip Hop culture emerged when young people armed with records, rhymes, spray paint, cardboard boxes, and shamanic vision found their voices.

But far away from its 1970s, Bronxian home, Soviet Russia would get to rap 10+ years after everyone else [late-1980s] and only as America’s commercialist equivalent 10 years after that [early 2000s]. Once Perestroika began and “The Transition” [1982-1991, meaning state-to- private capitalism] started advancing Soviet youth’s restlessness, coupled with further societal inculcation of discotheque, dance, Electronica, and Punk as a result of the 1980s Moscow Olympics and 1985 International Youth Festival, once Soviet breakdancing conjoined with rapping in the mid-late 80s, Russian Hip-Hop had begun. What it meant to be Russian was changing and no longer looked like anything but could very well look like anything. As Russian Scholar Dr. Irina Six stated:


rap is the first genre...that shows a strong interest in reconsidering the Soviet past through its meaningful and relatively deep lyrics” (Six, 2008)