[Прочитать статью на русском языке здесь.]
Two days ago, the rock group “Leningrad,” led by front-man Sergei Shnurov, released a music video on YouTube titled “Химкинский лес” (Khimki Forest). (It currently has more than 70,000 views.) The song is an obvious satire of liberal-leaning musicians prone to activist art. It is most obviously aimed at DDT lead singer Yuri Shevchuk, but also within Shnurov’s cross-hairs are controversial artists like Ivan Alexeev (Noize MC).
Much like Shevchuk’s infamous showdown with Vladimir Putin this past May at a charity luncheon, Leningrad’s “Химкинский лес” promises to be a polarizing event in Russian cultural politics. Maxim Kononenko, a longtime enemy of Yuri Shevchuk, wasted no time reposting the music video on his blog, laying into Aleksandr Gorbachev, an Afisha music critic, who called the song “мудацкая” (a colorful word for “idiotic”). Meanwhile, writing at Ezhednevnyi Zhurnal, Natella Boltianskaia — a musician herself (though a classical guitarist) — asked whether Leningrad wasn’t seeking PR for itself (along the lines of: ‘they can’t get arrested in this town anymore’), or perhaps, she wonders, Shnurov was just jealous of “a far more talented musician” (Shevchuk).
Leningrad formally broke up on Christmas Day in 2008. Since then, they have had little activity, though they did release two new songs recently on the web, “Сладкий сон” and “Горький сон.” Shnurov only sings in the latter piece, though both tunes feature Leningrad’s characteristic use of the Russian all-purpose obscenity “хуй.”
“Химкинский лес,” however, is obscenity-free. The video features a dirty, evil-looking snowman (with the Russian word for snowman, “snegovnik,” written across his chest). The video includes a panorama of current events mock-ups, along with allusions to Russian folklore. In the final moments, two armies of snowmen (one white and one dark) fight a pitched battle. They are joined by a collection of famous Soviet and American cartoon characters, who are paired in fights meant to pit American icons against Soviet equivalents. Thus, Cheburashka tussles with Mickey Mouse, Disney’s Winnie the Pooh fights Союзмультфильм’s Винни-Пух, Tom the Cat gets strangled by the Wolf from Ну погоди!, and so on. Perhaps this is meant to highlight the Western influence on Russian culture and Russian music? Maybe it’s an accusation that liberal musicians are American spies? Or it could just be that it looks funny (which it certainly does).
Leningrad’s main criticism of liberal activist-musicians like Shevchuk appears to be the idea that they only pursue their campaigns in order to self-promote and make money. As L!FENEWS points out in a wrap-up about the Leningrad song, many of Shevchuk’s critics remember his May encounter with Putin as an awkward and preachy outburst. “He got so wound up about harping over democracy and freedom,” the paper reports, “that he forgot to even first introduce himself.” Shevchuk’s supporters, however, recall that exchange as a heroic ‘speaking truth to power’ moment.
Below, you’ll find the full music video for “Химкинский лес,” along with my translation of the lyrics. I’ve tried to find a good middle-ground between literal translation and full-on rewording. The original Russian rhymes (see here for the original lyrics). My translation doesn’t. (If anyone would like to offer improvements or corrections, I’m all ears.*)
“Химкинский лес” (Khimki Forest)
Shall I sing you a song about the Khimki forest?
From current events, I’ll mix up a batch,
About cop-parasites and devilish Mercedes,
And other top-secret themes,
Well, here I go about the Khimki forest…
Buy some tickets, brothers,
I’m democracy’s last rock-star!
I’ll spread it over the Internet,
Let the people hear it,
All this violence won’t shut me up,
And I’ll go on tour, giving concerts
I’ll sing about how “them selling off the country has gone on long enough.”
Once all the people know
About our Khimki forest,
Then happiness will come to all
And it will be heaven on Earth,
Now, sure, I’ve not lost anything,
I get my percent,
And live easy,
Hear the ring of the falling cents …. drip, drip, drip
* Note: the YouTube video now features subtitled English lyrics. The band appears to have used my translation, with two revisions, which I’ve since incorporated into the text here. I will hereafter refer to myself as an honorary member of Leningrad, forever.