Travelling to another European country we always have a mission to discover and explore the local music scene. So of course on our recent trip to the Baltic States we tried to find out more about how the pop and rock scene develops in these young countries. Usually, the best thing to start is the local record stores. That was the first threshold because Lithuania hardly has any stores specialised in music. The are mostly dependent on what the malls have to offer. Latvia is somewhat better with a fairly good store in Riga old town. We didn’t make Estonia’s Talinn so feel free to fill us in if you’ve been there.
Second threshold was that the artists and albums we wrote down were hardly available. Lithuania’s store only stacked up the recent top 10 and Latvia had some back catalogue but the copies we bought were mostly the last ones. Now this is a problem we encountered all over Europe. The local market is sometimes so small that the cd-releases are printed in low amounts and don’t get reprints.
But after some effort we’ve got a nice first introduction to at least Lithuanian and Latvia popular music. Some impressions in short:
The culture in the Baltic States is still forming with their cultural identity conflicting between being Western while the Russian influence was so dominant over the years. And, while they maybe look to the West for inspiration, economically they are still dependent on their export to their eastern neighbour. No wonder the latest release of singer Intars Busulis as a bonus disc sung in Russian.
The Lithuanian scene is …well, not so impressive (bad eurodisco is very common). They have some good music but you have to search. Still bands like Biplan, Foje and Skyle gave us a hint that something good is going on.
The Latvian scene came across better quality wise with Imants Kalniņš as their absolute guru. Very folk-fuelled but interesting. Britpop has made an impact here.
Forget about catching new local artists on MTV, it’s all Russian.
Second hand vinyl is hard to get, no wonder, the Soviet regime wasn’t to keen on local pop. Second hand cd’s…we didn’t find any but who knows, they have to be there.
More on the Baltic States and their music scene can be found on the page we created after our visit. Any additions are, as always, welcome.
DOUBLE BASS & PAUL ROYAL Vote
The history of electronic music
within European pop
Part 7: Where did it all go wrong? 1
That's the question we are asking ourselves in this episode. We left of where the synthesizer gave an enormous creative push to the European music scene at the start of the eighties. Mid eighties the synthesizer was so imbedded in the music scene that producers where choosing it as the key instruments in their studio dismissing traditional instruments like guitar, bass and drums into a supporting role or less.
It was cheap, the possibilities where endless and you didn’t have to argue with all kinds of musicians. The machine did it all. So in this episode we're getting a bit technical with the machines like the Fairlight and the Synclavier, that would leave a definite mark on the musicscene of the late eighties and early nineties. .. Read more...
Artist of the month...
Spliff Imants Kalniņš(Latvia)
XXX If one artists made an impression on us and Baltic music it is Imants Kalniņš. As the staff of the Riga record store Muzikas Pausales said Imants is the start of Latvian popular music. And that with the razorsharp pens of Soviet censors breathing in his neck. His career came about under difficult circumstances that seem examplary for live in the seventies in the Baltic States. In interesting musical figure and rightfully our artist of the month.
Frank Boeijen Groep Renata Przemyk (Poland)
Unikat (2006) ♪♪♪♪♪
Frank Boeijen Groep
A steady figure since 1992 Renata Przemyk has been evolving her unique style within Polish popmusic. Together with writing partner Anna Saranieckiej (who is also a poet on her own account and Renata's manager) she developed something that is between gothic rock, folk music and post punk singer/songwriter. After ten years the duo felt it was time to take another step. It took them two years but with impressive result. 'Unikat' suprised fans and critics with is intense lryics and most of all introvert production. The central theme was built around people staying together while their relationship has already been watered down to a bitter standstill. Although rumours sad it was a very personal album nothing certain ever came out. As it turned out we think it's Renata's masterpiece up untill now.
She took up an acting career after this but we hope she'll come up with a new album soon. Click here to read why we consider 'Unikat' Renata's masterpiece.
Splif Czech singer/songwriter Jaromír Nohavica will be performing some selected dates outside the Czech republic this fall. Around as an author since the sixties Nohavica began to perform himself 1982. The tour is built around his tenth album 'Virtuálky'. Although usually labeled as a folksinger his performance can become more then that. According to his website: "He has fully overcome the role of the “martyr of folksinging” from the 1980s, and his popularity has not declined since 1989, but indeed the reverse: as a unique artist pursuing his own path, he has been able to come to terms with the radical post-Communist transformation of folk music within Czech society. " See for tour details his site.
Azerbaijan: Eurovision scandal
Spliff Despite attempts by the authorities in Baku to downplay the incident, news that the names and addresses of 43 citizens who voted for the Armenian entry (Inga & Angush) in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest had been obtained by police in Azerbaijan continues to go round the international media. Azerbaijan became third in the finals of may 2009. What is really true about this rumour is currently being investigated by EBU officials. If it's true it is a sad example how music and ethnic rivallery is mixed. Meanwhile both countries are already preparing for next year. And Armenian duo Inga & Angush are recording for a new album later this year. My guess is it won't be a hit at their neighbours governement office.
Retour a la noir
Spliff Attention vinyl fans! Universal has been browsing it's French catalogue again and has released some addition to their LP reissue series 'Back to black'. Next to artists like Hallyday and Nino Ferrer the most interesting are reissues of the albums of Alain Bashung and Mylene Farmer. Interesting because albums like 'Chatterton', 'Fantaisie militaire' (Bashung) and 'Anamorphosée' (Farmer) were previously never released as LP. So it's more 'finally' then 'back'. Typically Universal makes no mention of these special releases on their website but the Lp's can easily be ordered at www.fnac.com.
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