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Guide to Russia > Russian Culture



The most comprehensive guide to Russian rock and underground on the Web.


The history of AKVARIUM started in 1972. The band was inspired by Boris Grebenshikov and Anatoliy Gunitskiy. AKVARIUM is one of the most interesting musical formations in Russian rock music history; it is difficult to describe the band in a few paragraphs. However, the most important role in AKVARIUM always belonged to Grebenshikov. He is a talented poet with a very interesting manner of describing very ordinary things and feelings in an extraordinary way. In addition to his musical and poetical sensibility, the man is a philosopher and always searching for meaning in everyday events. His inexhaustible desire to learn something new leads him to many unique outlooks on life, to special and fresh impressions of obvious things. He reads many books and has traveled all around the World. Moreover, the man is very spiritual; he is very interested in eastern cultures and has traveled to India numerous times. He has also been to Europe a few times and in many of his songs you can find references to Paris. Above all else, Grebenshikov has always loved Russia, its marvelous nature, architecture and its mysterious soul! As a result AKVARIUM'S music is a mixture of many different motives and poetry. AKVARIUM'S music is still very much alive to this very day. The musicians changed or were replaced by others every now and then, and the band had some hardships and sour times throughout their history in addition to great and prosperous ones. Some of the participants of AKVARIUM are dead now, but the band still performs and produces new music annually.

The members of the band at the very beginning were extremely talented musicians: Andrey Romanov, Vsevolod Gakkel, Mikhail Vasiliev, and Mikhail Kordukov. As the years passed the band members changed but the music always stayed original and popular. In the late 1970s AKVARIUM started to play at music festivals in Tallinn, Tartu, and Tbilisi. Each performance was a major event because of their mixture of rock-n-roll, bard singing, eastern philosophy and dramatic theater traditions.

AKVARIUM experimented with jazz music, new wave, hard and art-rock, reggae, folk and other musical styles. And it didn't matter what was happening inside the band because no matter how much turmoil the band members went though, there was always Grebenshikov, who stayed loyal to the group's musical goals, inspired everyone, and carried the torch for the new evolution of AKVARIUM.

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In 1981 AKVARIUM became a part of the Leningradsky Rock Club. This was a very interesting Leningrad-based organization, developed to support the rock movement as a whole. Obviously, the club was not official but it also acted as a formal organization, where cultural workers checked out the repertoire of young musicians. All young bands that existed at this time wanted to share their music with an audience, but unfortunately other than small, underground concerts there was no way to perform in front of a large crowd. In these circumstances the Leningradsky Rock Club became home to many young musicians.

The fact that in Soviet times the KGB was always in control of what was going on in every sphere of life, especially in music and the lives of the Russian youth, was also significant. The Rock Club had to approve the creative work of young bands in order for them to have the opportunity of performing their music on stage. In other words, the bands were seeking approval, which had a special name in Russian - "litovat'" - and is virtually impossible to translate into English or any other language for that matter.

Anyways this Rock Club opened up a lot of doors for up and coming rock musicians in Russia and sponsored many rock festivals for the fans. It was considered very prestigious to take part in these festivals, so many young bands tried very hard to be approved. The authorities of Rock Club consisted of many different types of people: some were progressive and understood this young movement, others were stubborn and very Soviet. Sometimes really talented groups had huge difficulties performing their creative work to a live audience, and other times groups were approved but only under the condition that the band would change in some way. Examples are: "the band is good, but the guitarist has to get a haircut" or "the band is ok, but the singer is a hooligan, so he can't perform, but the rest of the band is welcome to play"

AKVARIUM was approved and performed from time to time in the Leningradsky Rock Club. Around the same time, AKVARIUM started to cooperate with Sergey Kuroykhin and his band POP-MECHANIKA. Kuroykhin was known as an outstanding modern Russian composer and artist. Along with his new and beautiful music he liked to shock audiences. For example, he liked to perform on stage with a live goat occasionally. However, despite all this Kuroykhin - a jazz pianist - was really talented and well recognized and respected even abroad. He wrote music to several movie soundtracks and played with many famous musicians from Russia and abroad. This creative union turned out to be very influential for AKVARIUM and Boris Grebenshikov both. In 1986 the foreign phase of AKVARIUM began and they recorded English language albums such as "Radio Silence" and "Radio London".

After 1990 AKVARIUM returned to Russia and created many new albums despite the frequent changes that occurred within the band's line-up. Furthermore, AKVARIUM has written music soundtracks to many famous movies. The band is still around nowadays and every year they never fail to surprise their followers with new and fascinating music, although it looks like all Grebenshikov's best stuff was done in the 1980s - he makes a better philosopher now than a musician. If you are interested and you should be, there are over 50 great AKVARIUM albums to discover, all of which are well worth a listen.

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