March 21, 2006

Belarus Rocks Out for Change

Belarus Rocks Out for Change

Rock is protest. Everywhere. Not only in Belarus.

Volha Karatkevich, Belarus: Rocking the Political Boat, in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3/17/06

Milinkevich… arrived half way into the concert that took place on Bangalore Square. Speaking in Belarusian, in itself an act of defiance, he pumped up the crowd, railing against the current regime for its crack down on basic freedoms. Closing his speech he declared that all Belarusians should be able to live in a free and just society where they can always listen to “beautiful Belarusian rock!”

Michael Schwirtz, Rally the Opposition!, Indolent Youth, 3/19/06
warsaw_concert

Belarus Solidarity Concert in Warsaw [marekf / Flickr]

Should this week’s protests turn into a full-fledged revolution, alternative rockers N.R.M. will provide the soundtrack. N.R.M. loosely translates as “Independent Republic of Dreams.” In Belarus, “slandering the president” can land you in prison; passing false information that might harm the state to foreigners (say, by playing such slander on the radio) could land you there too. Police wallpaper the streets with the friendly reminder, “We are always near you.” So even with a new law that says 75% of all music played on Belarusian radio has to be performed by Belarusian artists, N.R.M. doesn’t get much airtime. Says N.R.M. headman Lyavon Volski, “Now [DJs in Belarus] are starting to look for Belarusian roots among western singers. Apparently, Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler has some.”

Lukashenko (or, as supporters call him, Father, or Bat’ka) would have you listen to something a little less slanderous. You can see it here, performed by a pop band campaigning for Lukashenko; translated into English, the lyrics go something like this:

Well-set and slim

He won’t teach you evil

Father can bridle anyone

Father is stronger than the rest

He will settle conflicts

He is reliable and calm

He just throws a glance – and you see

Who is the master in the house

Chorus:

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na

Listen to Father!

In the morning, day, and night…

Listen to Father!

If you feel bad

Listen to Father!

If you are ok

Listen to Father!!!

Translation Andrei Khrapavitski, Listen to Father!, Belarus Elections 2006, 3/09/06

At Bangalore Square, the message from N.R.M. may be slightly more subtle, but the sentiments are as strong:

My generation

Had been living in the darkness.

Now the darkness for it

Is also the light….

My generation

Is having a good time and is drinking,

Is standing on its knees,

Dislikes itself.

It would be good to buy dollars,

And to sell rubbles,

And then to go rather far off

From this land…

We — Belarussians, together with brother Russia —

Had been looking for the roads to happiness…

We were united by neither much nor little —

By the participation in the stupid struggle…

My generation

Is waving its wing,

Is pecking the bloody food

By the window.

N.R.M, My Generation, as quoted by Philip Kennicott, Rock Band Speaks to Generation of Belarussians, The Washington Post

You can hear more clips of N.R.M. songs here and here.

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