Russian Language Blog

The Amazing Russian Pop – 80s Edition Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 in Culture, Russian for beginners, Russian life

I’ve been very busy «на прошлой неделе» [last week]. What was I so busy with you might ask. Well, I was wasting time doing research on YouTube. All those hours of watching and yes, singing, Russian hits from late 80’s and early 90’s…

I am no «меломан» [audiophile]. Instead, «что для меня ценно» [what matters to me] when I listen to these old songs is not so much their «слова и музыка» [lyrics and music], but «воспоминания» [recollections] they stir up. «Ну вот, опять ностальгия» [Here goes nostalgia again].

This post is not about the short history of late-Soviet and early post-Soviet music. Instead, «это скорее о личном» [it’s more about something personal].

Ok, so I was too young to remember this song by «ВИА Верасы» [pop-group Verasi] when it first came out. But it remained hugely popular for a long time. So I’d say that’s probably my earliest musical memory, hearing the song about «малиновка» [robin] on «радио Маяк» [the Mayak radio station].  «Маяк» [Lighthouse] was the official “voice of socialism” radio station, broadcasting over the entire Soviet Union. Even if you’ve never heard of this radio station before, you mostly likely have heard its official «позывные» [call sign]. By the way, you can still listen to this radio station online.

This one reminds me of that hazy period when old-style «танцплощадки» [dance floor] were getting renamed «дискотеки» [discos], but not everywhere at the same time. So when I was at «дом отдыха» [sanatorium] with parents, we went «на танцы» [to dance]. But at «летний лагерь» [summer camp] there were already «дискотеки» [discotheques] even thought the songs were the same.

As a child, I could not for the life of mine understand why it is such an unattainable goal to find a man «чтоб не пил, не курил и цветы всегда дарил» [who wouldn’t smoke, drink and would always bring flowers]. Turns out, this is one of the «вечные проблемы» [eternal problems] that has yet to be solved by many (since there’s only one Putin, but that’s from a different era).

The words to these songs are both remarkably ridiculous and heart-warming in their lack of sophistication. How can you not feel «Я играю на балалайке. Это – самый русский инструмент. Я мечтаю жить на Ямайке. На Ямайке балалаек нет» [I play balalaika. It’s the most Russian instrument. I dream of living on Jamaica. There are no balalaikas on Jamaica]. Or how about the profound truth of «Бухгалтер, милый мой бухгалтер. Вот он какой, такой простой. А счастье будет, если есть в душе покой» [Accountant, my darling accountant. He is just like this, simple like this. Happiness will come if the soul is at peace.]

BTW, the word «комбинация» means both “combination” as in alpha-numeric combination for a password and “a slip” as in a type of undergarment. And that was probably the first all-girls band too.

Next, logically, would be the first boy band (ok, the first with a major «сексапил» [sex appeal]). Wanna take a guess at who that was?

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  1. Delia:

    Wonderful post about ностальгия, love and remember all the songs you posted! Just a minor thing: in the very first sentence it should be “I WAS very busy last week”

    • yelena:

      @Delia Hi Delia, great to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed the post. Oops, what did I type in the first sentence? (Here’s a little secret of mine – I almost never proofread what I write, but I guess I better start, lol)

  2. Fatemeh:

    Thanks for this nice post dear Yelena

    • yelena:

      @Fatemeh Fatemeh, you’re very welcome and thank you for the comment!

  3. Minority:

    Well, though I was born in the end of 80s, I know a little about this music. 🙂 ‘Cause may be Yelena isn’t music lover but please be sure I am. 🙂 For me, Russian pop music of 80s can’t exist without mentioning of “Браво” [Bravo] band. 🙂

    Or “Секрет” [Secret] 🙂

    And “Машина времени” [Time-travelling machine] of course:

    And this song is one of most significant songs of that period in my opinion: “Замыкая круг” (sung by a lot of artists)

    Also I can say 80s are great period for Russian rock bands, but it’s not pop music. 🙂 🙂 🙂 But I will tell something about it too 🙂

    “Кино” isn’t my favourite group at all but the talent of Victor Tsoi is obvious to anybody (guess it’s our Russian Elvis):

    “Nautilus Pompilius” is another great group, a little strange but I like some of their songs. Oh.. I was a fan of this group in my schooltime.. Which one should I choose? 🙂 ok, let’s this be a cheerful one.

    “Ария” [Aria] is my favourite one. I still listen to it sometimes.

    Oh.. Here was to go “Алиса”, “Пикник”, “Аукцион”, “Агата Кристи” and may be somebody else, but I just gonna stop this madness. No more songs for this comment. Wanna more? 🙂

    • yelena:

      @Minority Minority, I have a big smiley face for you 🙂 Bravo was going to be in Part 2 🙂 Oh, and as for the Russian rock – I think that early and mid-90s were the golden age of the Russian rock and as such merit a separate post (it’s still just a draft at this point). How would you like to guest blog it?

  4. Minority:

    I wanted to embed videos in my comment, but it seems it didn’t work 🙁
    Here are the links to all of the videos I added to my previous comment (part of them lost):
    “Машина времени”:
    “Замыкая круг”:
    “Nautilus Pompilius”:

  5. Gerry Grable:

    That was a great post, Lena. I enjoyed the musical trip.

    • yelena:

      @Gerry Grable Thanks, Gerry. Glad you enjoyed it. Watch out for Part 2 in the next couple of days.

  6. PaulS:

    I’ve just started reading your blog to try and understand more about the language and culture so thanks for the posts 🙂

    I started swapping music with a friend in Russia and you have some really good stuff!

    • yelena:

      @PaulS Hi Paul and welcome to the blog! Glad you’ve found it interesting so far. What kind of music do you usually like listening to?

  7. PaulS:

    Hi Yelena, thanks for the welcome 🙂

    I listen to everything from Acid Jazz through to Death Metal….so my tastes are quite varied. I made my name the link to my profile so you can see.

  8. Minority:

    Yelena, I prepared text for the post about rock, how can I send it to you?

  9. David Gregorio:

    I was wondering if anyone could help track down a Russian singers name.
    The music is sort of a mix between techno/dance and folk. I believe the song’s title is “at the trial”. The artist was popular in the 80’s and was on a famous talent show. He died traveling after a show.
    I’d love to get a hold of the song again.