Saturday, January 15, 2011

Life's Soundtrack

Every road trip has its own rhythm and evocative songs that are forever part of the journey. Let’s see, Thelma and Louise had the ballad of Lucy Jordan, Easy Rider had Born to Be Wild, and Convoy had, well, Convoy. The challenge is what is the quintessential music for driving across Russia and Mongolia? Anything but ABBA or Kenny G. (China plays Kenny G non-stop, and I mean non-stop everywhere! Elevators, airplanes, toilets, busses, everywhere!) But the hard truth is that in America we know very little, and very little about modern Russian or Mongolian music. Some 75 years after Russia was leading the world in creating new music, it seems like all we hear in our neck of the woods are either the Red Elvises or Gogol Bordello.  Let’s see what the ol’ WWW has to say on the matter. Dang it! Moskva FM is playing Tina Turner - What’s Love got to do With It? NRJ, Shake your Booty remix, Radio 7, Senza Una Donna Zucchero and Paul Young, Gad - where’s Kenny G? I know he’s out there.

Novosibirsk is home to Radio Uniton, that’s kind of on the way to Ulaan Bataar, and the Top 40 there probably is a better representation than those bourgeois intellectuals in Moscow or St. Petersburg playing ’70’s disco hits. And it sounds like regular old Euro-Pop, boy bands, girl bands, disco with electronic beats. Perhaps the next international revolution in music isn’t going to come from Russia, I hope I’m wrong. 

Mongolian music has a couple of excellent international ambassadors. The first is Hanggai, a punk band out of Beijing singing and adapting traditional Mongolian folk music. Kind of Flogging Molly without the Flogging or the Molly. For something completely different check out Paul Pena’s Ghengis Blues CD and DVD. It’s proof positive that musicians speak to each other in a language all their own, but when they understand each other really amazing things can happen. 

As for our journey, we’re told the best thing is books on tape. The choices for which will have to be discussed in the next post. 

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