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Sunday 10 July 2016

VulgarGrad bring you the old songs of the Russian thieves (called blatnie pesny or blatnyak), along with punk classics of the Perestroika era and a strong dose of contemporary St. Petersburg swearing ska.

VulgarGrad arose in Melbourne in late 2004 out of a collaboration between some of Australia’s best musicians in underground ethnic styles and the incredible vocal talents of one Australia’s most formidable stage and screen actors, Jacek Koman. Since that time they have caused a sensation on Australia’s live music and festival scene, proving that what Australian audiences really seem to need is a wild night of old-fashioned Russian criminality. After all, if Russia and Australia have anything in common, it’s convicts.

Throughout the twentieth century, criminal culture always played a strong, if unofficial part in Russian cultural life, and this was never more highly developed than in the thieves’ songs, or blatnye pesni – performed by, for, and about criminals in the prisons, gulags and seedy bars of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. Famous exponents of the genre include Leonid Utesov in the 1920s and 30s, Arkady Severny and the great Vladimir Vysotsky in the 60s and 70s, while more recently, groups such as Leningrad and La-Minor have incorporated the blatnyak style and lyrical content (prison, Mama, drinking, and stealing) into their contemporary acoustic punk and ska sound. VulgarGrad combine the best of these traditions with a dash of perestroika punk and their own inimitable brand of gulag swing to produce something that transcends the language barrier by aiming straight for your convict heritage and your dancing feet.

Listen back to Global Village with Roger Holdsworth, for a live set from VulgarGrad.

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