5 things – Maciej Ceglowski

The brief: Tell us about 5 songs *and/or* films. It could be the ones you think are the greatest. Or that move you most. Or that are under-appreciated. Something along those lines.

The people: Webstock speakers and assorted Webstock people.

Today with Maciej Ceglowski.

Happy Birthday – Russian style

America may be the most powerful nation on Earth, but its “Happy Birthday” song is almost as insipid as its national anthem. Compare the Happy Birthday technology enjoyed by the Russians:

The song orignally appeared in the animated series “Cheburashka”, but is now universally used. Gena the crocodile sings about how a magician will land in a blue helicopter, show everyone a movie for free, and leave 500 eskimo bars as a birthday gift. Too bad birthdays only come once a year! And Gena the crocodile is right.

Changes – KINO

To continue the theme of Russians having better music, while the West had to endure the Scorpions’ “Winds of Change” as the price for bringing down the Berlin wall, the Russians got to listen to KINO:

Our hearts demand change
Our eyes demand change
In our laughter, our tears
And in the pulsing of our veins
We’re waiting for change

Viktor Tsoi was the real deal—a punk, slacker and thorn in the side of the State who radiated cool. Tsoi wrote underground hits in a country where “underground” was not a safe marketing phrase, and rebellion was not a pose. Tragically, Tsoi died in an auto accident in 1991.

Shave your Beard – Ros Serysothea

This song is a window into a different world, before the Cambodian genocide. Rock and roll hit Cambodia in the 1960’s, and the Cambodians ran with it, producing an amazing and eerie sound. I find it beautiful but impossible to listen to without thinking of the awfulness that followed.

Casablanca Moon – Slapp Happy

Dagmar Krause, lead singer of Slapp Happy, is another source of amazing and eerie sound.

Black raven – Balagan

And for something older:

In Soviet times, folk music was sanitized and schmaltzed up past all recognition. The real stuff is a capella and sounds kind of spooky. This Cossack song has several elements typical of Russian folk singing-high overtones, strange intervals, a soloist that starts each verse, voices coming in and out with a kind of ‘wall of sound’ effect, and lyrics padded out with vowels for effect. A black raven brings back a golden ring; recognizing the ring, the woman knows that her lover has been killed in battle. Typical stuff. You can imagine hearing this on level 200 of Tetris. There’s a nice duet version on YouTube, too: