Staunton, October 21 – Those of us old enough to remember the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s well recall the critical role that music played in attracting attention to and generating support among young people to join the protests. Clearly, those now making government policy
either do not remember or have intentionally forgotten that lesson.
Instead, in ways that undermine their own position, the Russian powers that be have banned popular rappers from giving public concerts, leading to their radicalization and linking up with the opposition, Aleksey Voloshinov writes in “The Music of Russian Protest” in The New Times (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/186615?fcc).
Last week, Vladimir Putin called on the government to create a new youth patriotic structure to produce content online and otherwise that will attract younger people, the New Times commentator says; but the Kremlin leader has behaved in ways that are having exactly the opposite effect.
Earlier this month, Putin’s regime angrily responded to rap lyrics by Husky on “The Seventh of October” in which he marked the Russian president’s birthday by talking about Putin’s links to organized crime and his use of “’sugar’” at Ryazan in 1999 as being completely normal for the leader, “all in a day’s work,” as it were. Husky’s concerts were cancelled.
Husky had in fact been working on this rap since 2011 but then he ended the work with sarcasm and now with anger. His lyrics have come increasingly angry and the authorities were outraged as well by his words about Russians supposedly eating the dead, something they suggested was promoting cannibalism.
It is now rumored, Voloshinov says, that Husky may face criminal charges. Other prominent rappers, Oxxxymiron, Basta and Noize MC, have come out in support. And that is part of a general shift: rappers are becoming ever more radical and ever more involved with the opposition as the regime restricts their chance to perform in public.
Preventing them from giving public concerts does little good, the commentator says. Most have huge followings on YouTube and other social networks and so continue to reach their predominantly youthful audience despite or perhaps increasingly because of the regime’s hostility to them.
This use of social media has had another consequence, one that few rappers or those in the government might have expected. Because the audience of the rappers is predominantly young, hip and anti-government, rappers who appear to support the Kremlin on a wide variety of issues have been forced to back down lest they lose their followings.
One who supported pension reform, for example, soon backtracked. And another who was positive about Putin did the same when his followers complained that by supporting Putin, he was supporting bans on gay parades. As a result, there are almost no rappers in Russia who remain “completely loyal” to the powers that be.
Another Moscow commentator, Georgy Bovt, says that rap presents a far greater challenge to the regime than did rock or jazz in Soviet times. Those could be banned, and the circle of those who knew them limited. But now, the regime can’t prevent rap lyrics from reaching and affecting their intended audience (bfm.ru/news/426706).