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Rock and Experimental Music in Smolensk (before and after the Perestroika)

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Pasha The Redhead, Vadim Petrenko, Michael Judenich, Vladislav Makarov (Smolensk 87/88)

An original text by Vladislav Makarov

The first local rock or beat groups began to appear in Smolensk around mid - end of the 60s. One of the first was the band "ATLANTI" (ATLANTS), which imitated the music of Ventures and Shadows. Parallel to them some official so called vocal-instrumental ensembles (ВИА) such as "Bells" and "Slavics" started to play tunes, promoted by the popular (at the time) Belarussian folk-rock band "Pesnyari" (The Singers).

The alternative to the official scene became a student movement of more or less authentic rock groups.The best in the late 60 early 70 was the band STREAM (ПОТОК) from the local Medical college, with their leader Dmitry Basiliya who brought to Smolensk original LPs ,as well as traded them illegally. He was a truly charismatic personality. An informal rock club even took place in the Medical college. It means that a few local bands rehearsed and performed semi officially in this state institution. The leading band STREAM played quite radical stuff by The Who, land later The Beatles and even some of Jimi Hendrix's hits.

In the Pedagogical college of Smolensk, the lead band of the same period was "FLOWERS", playing more simplified versions of the songs of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. But in the mid 1970s rock activity in Smolensk slowly went down, and some bands and musicians settled themselves in local restaurants. But the 80s led to a new stage of development of the local rock movement. On the basis of House Of Youth some bands got rehearsal spaces the possibility of performing in a rock club, officially supported by the local comsomol (young communist league) organization. Another important moment was the visit of popular and well known rock bands from Moscow and Petersburg, such as PICNIC, AQUARIUM, THE CENTER, NOTCHNOI PROSPEKT and many more….

Among Smolensk bands the punk-rock band NYANECHKA (BABYSITTER) became popular, as well as the hard rock band MAGMA. The most original was the group ESH (ЭШ) from the College of Energetics, led by the charismatic guitarist Vadim Petrenko. One of the key figures of Smolensk rock and its experimental scene was an artist and musician (cellist and guitarist) Vladislav Makarov, who influenced few generations of local advanced rockers and not only… In the mid-1980s Makarov was already known in the capitals as a free improviser, collaborating with colleagues from Moscow and Leningrad, participating in the projects of keyboardist and composer Sergey Kuryokhin (Pop-Mechanics), saxophonist Sergey Letov and many other underground activists of the Soviet Avant-garde. It's even possible to say about Smolensk informal school of free improvisation, curated by Vladislav Makarov and visited by local most advanced musicians, such as drummer Michael Judenich and guitarist Vadim Peternko, who would become members of the legendary avant-noise-industrial band ZGA (Riga-St. Petersburg).

In the Smolensk of the 80s some rock musicians reached a cult status…among them was the leader of MAGMA and one of the most known members of Soviet hippie system, the guitarist Valery Pavlov (Pasha the Redhead), who tragically died in the 90s. Another cult hero of the local underground in the late 80s-early 90s was a punk-rocker, Sergei "Kella" Kolobayev. At that time the group of "rock in opposition" THE DISCIPLINE appeared on the local scene, one of the most advanced and original not only in Smolensk but in The Soviet Union in general. The band consisted of the former disciples of Vladislav Makarov: Vadim Petrenko, Michael Judenich and Vladimir Moseikin. All these musicians became known in other cities of Russian Federation and abroad, collaborating with the composer and inventor of original instruments Nick Sudnick and guitarist Vladimir Doodkin (both ZGA), Alexei Borisov (Notchnoi Prospekt), Sergei Letov and many more…

Another disciple of Vladislav Makarov, the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Michael Davydov formed the unique band called SKUPP "СККУП" (With the knees as the Bird) combining the styles of Tom Waits, Captian Beefheart, Phil Minton, elements of Russian folklore and psychedelia. Vlad Makarov himself is still active as a musician, from time to time performing solo and with his sun Eugeny Makarov (actor and guitarist, living in Brussels). He took part in many international festivals in different countries, collaborated with such people as Dror Feiler, Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Sainho and many more.