Tag Archives: counterculture

Russia’s Rap Revolution: Part II


Губерман: Russia’s Old School Beat Poet

DPP_1250Игорь Губерман (Igor Guberman) is 77 years old. His words evoke the modern urging and restlessness of someone in his twenties.  Guberman shamelessly calls out politicians, human desires, poverty and grasps the frustration of modern life in Russia. I am excluding some of his more provoking writing, which can be found in his book, Закатные Гарики, in favor of equally questioning quatrains.

Что я люблю? Курить, лежать,
в туманных нежиться томлениях
и вяло мыслями бежать
во всех возможных направлениях. (213)

What do I love? To smoke, rest
and bask in foggy worries
and let my thoughts run sluggishly
in all possible directions.

Вчера взяла меня депрессия,
напав, как тать, из-за угла;
завесы серые развесила
и мысли чёрные зожгла.
А я не гнал мерзавку подлую,
я весь сидел её маня,
и с разобиженною мордою
она покинула меня. (5)

Yesterday, depression grabbed a hold of me,
attacked from around the corner;
put up gray curtains
and lit black thoughts on fire.
I didn’t chase her away,
I sat and called to her
and with a disappointed face
she left.

Вольно ли, невольно ли,
но не столько нация,
как полуподпольная
мы организация. (31)

By our will or not,
we’re not so much a nation
as an underground

Нам не светит благодать
С ленью, отдыхом и песнями:
детям надо помогать
до ухода их на пенсии. (12)

We’re not likely to reap
with laziness, rest and songs:
our children we must assist
until it’s they who retire.

Затаись и не дыши,
если в нервах зуд:
это мысли из души
к разуму ползут. (121)

Be still and don’t breathe,
if your nerves are throbbing:
these are thoughts from your soul
crawling towards your rational mind.

Боюсь бывать я на природе,
её вовек бы я не знал,
там мысли в голову приходят,
которых вовсе я не звал. (182)

I am afraid of being in nature,
I’d never go at all,
the thoughts that come to mind there,
I never asked for.

A Riverkeeper in Kirov

When it came to saving the river in their hometown, graduate student-activist Grigoriy Poskrebeyshev and artist Vera Minina knew that only a grassroots revolution would do. After meeting in 2005, the young duo launched Vyatka Riverkeeper in one of Russia’s northernmost cities, Kirov. Many years later, Grigoriy and Vera continue to pave the way as a program of Waterkeeper Alliance in Russia.

Determined to learn the truth about environmental threats in his own region, Grigoriy, then an undergraduate student, set out to see it all for himself. Hitchhiking to protests, events and national parks, urgency and inspiration fueled him as he made his way to Moscow. Here, Grigoriy stumbled in on a meeting of one of Russia’s first green parties, simply knows as “Green Russia.” Later, Grigoriy was elected as one of the party’s regional representatives and currently serves as a well recognized member of Yabloko (Apple), Russia’s leading green party.

Once back in Kirov, Grigoriy resumed his studies at the local university where he met fellow student, artist and environmentalist Vera Minina. As a candidate in the field of Natural Resources and Economic Policy, Vera knew that Kirov needed a comprehensive approach to environmental restoration, conservation and education. After learning about the Waterkeeper Alliance model of watershed protection, Vera saw the potential in applying its principles. The thought of losing the river so prominent in her childhood memories was unbearable. But like all great undertakings, she knew she couldn’t do it alone.

Back on campus, Grigoriy’s name circulated as stories about his travels and environmental thought spread. Vera decided to contact the Grigoriy. The partnership was fated to start yet another Russian revolution – a river revolution. “Through it all, Vera is the person that has supported me the most and I know will continue to do so, no matter what,” says Grigoriy, who now spends more time on the water while Vera, her husband and daughter reside in Moscow.

In Russian, Vyatka is written as Вятка, stemming from the ancient word “вяче,” meaning “larger than.” In turn, the river is one of the largest tributaries of the Kama River feeding into one of Russia’s largest and most famous rivers, the Volga. By early November the river freezes up and remains under ice until mid-April. For locals, the sturgeon was symbolic of the river as one of the many species living in its waters, long before Vera and Grigoriy introduced the coincidental Waterkeeper Alliance logo.

Every summer, paleontologists sift along its banks while families spread out towels and drop in fishing lines. One of the program’s recent initiatives, Project Revival of the Vyatka River, focuses on restoring the health of smaller streams feeding into the Vyatka. “While investigating the watershed, Grigoriy and I stumbled upon unmapped streams that were strangled with garbage or coated with oil,” remembers Vera, “we were shocked.”

Mobilizing and empowering Kirov’s youth is another priority for Grigoriy, “students and young adults are this city’s most active residents,” he reminds us. Members of EcoPolice maintain the cleanliness of urban green space and watershed territory. Candidates at local universities are invited to participate in studies of the Vyatka river, giving future ecologists opportunity to implement their classroom knowledge. In 2010, Vyatka Riverkeeper received funding for a 10 day paleontology themed summer camp which hosted forty participants. Harnessing media, Vyatka Riverkeeper regularly hosts documentaries and movies related to themes of environmental conservation through its “Cinema Club.” Moreover, the end of each showing opens up the room for discussion, possibilities for new partnerships and fundraising.

“We always saw Vyatka Riverkeeper as an ethnic project, not just an environmental one. We want to connect people to their rivers because the water on land is like the blood in our bodies, it is essential – it tells our story and connects us all,” passionately explains Vera. Over the next five years, she will work with Grigoriy to publish “One Thousand Russian Rivers,” a collection of stories and legends told by locals about Russia’s smaller, less known rivers like the Vyatka. “Our vision is bridge generations through citizen fueled research for this project. We believe it will instill a sense of pride and responsibility for the well being of rivers in Russia,” tells Vera.

Looking to the future, Grigoriy brims with excitement. “I want to see the Waterkeeper Alliance movement in Russia grow,” he adds, “and I don’t see any reason why it won’t.”

Russia’s Rap Revolution: Part I

Having lived most of my life in Brooklyn, I never expected one of my favorite rap duos to be two scrawny guys from Moscow. You never know, right? Well, these guys are putting counterculture lyrics to self-made, avant garde synth beats. Ночные Грузчики, roughly translated to  Nighttime (Truck) Loaders, consist of Е. Алехин и М. Енотов (photo below).

Photo courtesy of Андрей Верещагин

The title of this song means “To Stop.” The writers rap about wanting to stop time altogether and linger in a pause between the approaching end of summer vacation and anticipation of the first day of school, when the streetlights turn on even thought it’s still light out.

Я хочу остановиться где-то между днем и ночью,
Когда небо еще синее, а фонари уже включены.
Остановиться и вспомнить все прошлое до минуты,
Хотя бы на миг поверить, что больше этого никогда не забуду

I want to stop somewhere between day and night,
When the sky is still blue but the streetlights have already turned on.
To stop and recall the past up until this very minute,
To believe for just an instant, that I’ll never forget it.

Я хочу остановиться где-то между летом и осенью,
Когда деревья уже желтые, но каникулы еще не окончены.
Вдруг обнаружить себя на пустыре за железной дорогой,
Среди мальчишек, передающих по кругу бутылку «Красного востока».

I want to stop somewhere between summer and fall,
When the trees have turned yellow but school vacation isn’t over yet.
To suddenly find myself in an empty lot behind the railroad,
Amidst a group of boys passing around a bottle of red.

Я хочу остановиться где-то между домом и снами,
Когда мама была красивой, как в моменты наших тюремных свиданий,
А папа смешным, как когда, пьяный в доску
Пародировал Джима Керри в образе из фильма «Маска».

I want to stop somewhere between home and sleep,
When mom was beautiful, like in those moments during our secret dates,
And dad was funny, drunk as heck,
Imitating Jim Carrey from the “Mask.”

Я хочу остановиться – больше так не могу
Любить на бегу, молиться Богу…
Спешить на праздник или на каторгу –
Какая разница? – мне нужен перекур.

I want to stop – I can’t go on like this,
Loving on the run, praying to God.
Rushing whether to celebrate or to toil.
What’s the difference? I need a smoke break.

Я хочу остановиться – больше так не могу
Кадры мелькают быстрей – время сжевало пленку
Часы, как мельница, вращают стрелку…
Я не пшеница! Меня нельзя на мукУ!

I want to stop – I can’t go on like this
Camera stills are passing faster and faster,
Time has chewed up the film.
Clocks, like mills, turning their arms,
I’m not wheat! I’m not for flour!

Я не могу остановиться и немного нарушить законы
переиграть все по новой чтобы жизнь сложилась по-другому
вычеркнуть из истории некоторые эпизоды
избавиться от стыда за то чем занимался эти годы.

I can’t stop and change the laws a little,
start playing from the beginning so that life turns out different,
cross out certain episodes from history
and rid myself of the shame of all that I’ve done during these years.

Я не могу остановиться и стать немного моложе
поверить снова меня ждет судьба ни на чью не похожая
понять что мне нужно занять немного равновесия
избавиться от инстинкта принимать неверные решения.

I can’t stop and become a bit younger,
Believe there’s a fate waiting for me unlike any other,
Understand that I need to become more level headedness,
To let go of instinct to make uncertain decisions.

Я не могу отделаться от «не могу» и всё испорчу
поддавшись желанию сделать быстрее и проще
быстрее в объятия горькому сожалению и старости
удары сердца отдаются в воспаленной простате.

I can’t get away from “can’t” and ruin everything,
having given in to the desire for faster and easier,
faster into the arms of regret and old age,
heat beat resounding in an inflamed prostate.

Я не могу остановиться – на бегу
отправляю послания неведомому богу
пока спешу как на праздник на каторгу
мне перекур не нужен уступите дорогу.

I can’t stop, I’m on the run,
I’m sending my wishes to an unknown God,
meanwhile, I’m in a rush whether to celebrate or to toil,
I don’t need a smoke break, please let me through.

Я не могу остановиться – на бегу
как белка в вентиляторе прыгаю через лопасти
стоит замешкать – меня тут же порубит
только бежать по краю и не смотреть в пропастью

I can’t stop, I’m on the run
Like a squirrel in a fan, jumping over the gaps,
Any meddling and I’ll get chopped up,
Only to run along the edge and not look down.