What does бабушка think of those new dance moves?…What do people call them now? The ‘rocks’ and ‘twists’ and all sorts of hip-shaking dance moves were unfamiliar to the older generation in the Soviet Union (USSR). By 1968 they would be introduced to rock-and-roll for the first time, via smuggled and copied records from countries beyond the ‘iron curtain’. Blogger Caroline Ritchey writes about the ways that pro-western youngsters got a hold of such music in her post ‘The Original Hipsters’. However that is not to say that the Soviet Union didn’t have its own thriving music scene before the influx of western rock-and-roll. On the website ’17 Moments in Soviet History’, the authors/editors showcase a variety of music created within the USSR in the 1960s, including the following from the popular quartet ‘Akkord’ (circa 1966):
The tune is very ‘old-timey’, but at the same time it’s no where close to a stringent Soviet marching song. It’s similarity to an American singing group at the time was striking to me.
On the other hand, the Soviets did play around with some interesting sounds, effects and new beats, like in ‘Grandma, Teach Me to Dance (1962)’. Does that sound like a folk-style song? Maybe a mashup of modern and traditional music at one? According to ’17 Moments in Soviet History’, the describe it as a”mix of dixieland and charleston music, so alien [or unfamiliar] to the Soviet canon”. All I can say for certain is that the background beat reminds me a bit of the ‘Super Mario Brothers’ theme song, and that it was interesting to compare this side of Soviet music with the others.
By the 1960s, people were listening to all sorts of music in the USSR, and a lot of it wasn’t smuggled into the country either. Though the Soviets were a bit slow to adopt western music trends, they left a remarkable music legacy of their own within their borders. The two samples of Soviet music above show how much difference can be seen in music tastes among the population, without the direct influence of foreign sounds.