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Russian News: Crackdown on Musicians Posted by on Nov 29, 2018 in Culture, News

If you follow Russian news, you might have heard that several performers have had their concerts canceled lately—for various reasons (or excuses?). Many commentators and the musicians themselves argue that the cancellations were motivated by a sort of “moral panic” over the bad influence of the affected bands on the Russian youth. Let us take a look of what brought on this wave of cancellations and how people reacted.

crowd at a concert

Image via Pixabay

Who Was Targeted And Why?

Several bands (гру́ппы) and performers (исполни́тели) have been affected. The Meduza website has a table of the recent incidents (in Russian). Some of the more famous examples include the electronic duo IC3PEAK (pronounced “icepeak”), known for its creepy music videos like the one below, and the rapper Хаски (“Husky”). The common theme in all recent disruptions is that the performers were accused of promoting suicide, violence, drug use, and other social ills. For example, Novaya Gazeta («Но́вая Газе́та») reports:

Ха́ски задержа́ли у краснода́рского клу́ба Bounce 21 ноября́, где был отменён его́ конце́рт и́з-за предупрежде́ния прокурату́ры, обнару́жившей в пе́снях рэ́пера призы́вы к суици́ду, наси́лию, экстреми́зму и пропага́нду нарко́тиков.
Husky was arrested on November 21 near the Bounce nightclub in Krasnodar, where his concert had been canceled because the prosecutor’s office had found encouragement of suicide, violence, extremism, and drug use in his songs.

What Happened?

A lot of the affected performers had a hard time securing a venue (площа́дка) for their shows, with confirmed venues canceling and new ones unwilling to rent their space, allegedly under pressure from law enforcement (called силовики́ in Russian slang). BFM describes the multiple disruptions experienced by IC3PEAK during their ongoing tour:

Причи́ны ра́зные — рекоменда́ции пожа́рных, информа́ция о бо́мбе, непола́дки с электри́чеством. В неофициа́льных бесе́дах ме́неджеры клу́бов признаю́тся, что на них да́вят све́рху.
The reasons range from fire safety considerations to bomb tips to problems with electricity. Unofficially, club managers acknowledge they are under pressure from above.

Similarly, Husky was denied entry into a concert venue and climbed on top of a parked car to perform for his fans. He was then arrested for disorderly conduct (хулига́нство).

What Was the Reaction?

After learning about Husky’s case and other instances of cracking down on musicians, Russian rappers Oxxxymiron, Basta, and Noize MC organized and performed in a benefit concert to raise funds and awareness. Here is how Oxxxymiron announced that concert on Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

Я БУДУ ПЕТЬ СВОЮ МУЗЫКУ: Баста, Oxxxymiron, Noize MC. Концерт солидарности. В нашей стране участились отмены концертов и запугивание исполнителей. Артистов обвиняют в проблемах общества, ведь это проще, чем заняться решением этих самых проблем. Творчество – это отражение реальности, иногда кривое, иногда правдивое, но никак не сама реальность. Его нельзя понимать буквально. 12 суток ареста сейчас отбывает в Краснодаре рэпер Хаски, в чьих текстах увидели пропаганду того, чего там нет, заблокировали клип и сорвали ряд концертов. Его будущие концерты также находятся под угрозой срыва, а значит под вопросом как его свобода самовыражения, так и честный заработок. Это беспредел. Мы можем не разделять взглядов Хаски, не понимать его музыку или акционизм, но при этом должны принципиально поддержать его в этот сложный момент. Поэтому, раз он не в состоянии сейчас выступать и зарабатывать сам, мы выступим с концертом солидарности и перечислим ему всю выручку. Речь здесь не только и не столько о Хаски, сколько о всех нас и нашем будущем. Приходите и, даже если презираете хэштеги, поддержите нас в соцсетях хэштегом #ябудупетьсвоюмузыку. Билеты в кассе «Главклуба» и по ссылке в описании инсты. @noizemc @bastaakanoggano

A post shared by Oxxxymiron (@norimyxxxo) on

Husky, who’d initially been sentenced to a 12-day sentence, was released ahead of that concert. There has been considerable coverage of the many artists whose shows have been disrupted, too. Whether the trend will continue remains to be seen, but it appears that many Internet commentators learned about the “banned” artists precisely as a result of the controversy around them. Streisand effect, you say?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.