Russian Resources: Music




By: Anthony Davies

When you're learning a language, it's great to be able to listen to music as a way to supplement and support your study. In this part of his series on Russian resources, guest blogger Anthony Davies shares his top tips for what kind of Russian music you might like to listen to.

Russian Music


Виктор Цой и группа Кино (Viktor Tsoi & Gruppa Kino)

Дальше действовать будем мы (Dalshe deistvovat' budem miy)

Look out for the мы at the end of the line in the chorus, useful for helping you get your head around the infamous ы sound in Russian, which many learners who consider themselves fluent struggle to pronounce correctly. Do be careful, it does sound a little more constricted in the throat when spoken, rather than sung. So make sure you listen to the ы sound in words such as мы, быстро, опыт, using (see below).

На кухне (Na kuchne, In the kitchen)

Very slowly sung, but with less than clear pronunciation - will prove a good listening exercise for Beginners to get used to the sound of sung Russian. Will also prove useful listening practice for Intermediate Learners, who will be more familiar with the vocabulary. Watch out for the enjambement which gives the song a poetic feel, with individual lines working as individual sentences, or running into the following. This is a feature of some of Tsoi's other songs (e.g. Бездельник, below).

Бездельник (Bezdel'nik, The idler)

Clearly sung, at a moderate pace, good listening practice for Intermediate level. Also includes good examples of the use of the genetive with negatition.

Other Tsoi songs that you need to know, to show you have more than a little cultural acumen:

Группа крови - Gruppa Krovi (Blood group) moderate-fast speed, clearly sung, moderate vocab

Пачка цигарет - Pachka Tsigaret (Packet of cigarettes) common vocab, slowly song, not entirely clear

Перемен - Peremen (Change) Less clearly sung, fast, mostly common vocabulary, some complex grammar

Звезда по имени сольнце - Zvyezda po imeni solntse (A star going by the name 'Sun')

Кончится лето - Konchitsya Leto (Summer is ending)

Kino's music gives a real sense of the печаль (sorrow) and bleakness of life in Russia during their time. Especially «На кухне» and «Бездельник» above, Highly recommended.

Мороз по коже, Сплин (Chill on the skin, Splean)

Clearly, slowly enunciated lyrics, good for listening practice, and matching sounds to letters. The grammar, however, is not always straightforward (so don't be discouraged!). Be aware of more difficult comparative adjective forms, which change the last consonant - this song may help you learn those!

See other Splean songs:

Просвистела, ДДТ (DDT)

Clearly and slowly sung, with syllables at the ends of lines given even length. Great not just for understanding meaning, but also expression.

(Mind the translation in verse 1: *I wish to hug you)

Other DDT songs you should know (clear sung, at varying speeds):

Метель - Metel' (Blizzard)

Родина - Rodina (Motherland)

Осенняя - Osennyaya (Autumn song)


Спектакль окончен, Полина Гагарина (The Show is over, Polina Gagarina)

Lots of good basic vocab, mostly straightforward grammar, and clearly sung at a reasonable pace. Watch out for the genetive of день (дня) and the reflexive possessive pronoun 'свой', relating to 'мы', so in this case meaning 'our'.

Невеста, IOWA (Nevesta - Bride/Fiancée)

Slowly sung, with straightforward grammar for the most part, and simple vocab. No translation currently available, see how you get on with it!

Бьёт Бит, IOWA (Byot bit, The Beat beats)

Entertaining with a lyrically simple chorus and more complex vocab and grammar during the verses, good for Intermediate learners.

И м я 5 0 5, В р е м я и С т е к л о (Name 505, Time & Glass)

An extremely clever, poetic piece using wordplay that will keep Advanced learners more than satisfied, let alone challenged. These artists are Ukrainian, and wordplay is their middle name, featuring in their band name itself. The video is also most entertaining. Enjoy!


В л а д и м и р В ы с о ц к и й ( V l a d i m i r V y s o t s k y )

Sung slightly faster, with more expression (sometimes making the lyrics less clear), Vladimir Vysotsky (Владимир Высоцкий), a famous song-writer who passed away before the Soviet Union did, in 1980. Not all songs are translated into English, almost all into German and Hebrew. Find songs with a suitable translation for yourself, and then find the song on YouTube.

For example:

A song between a couple watching TV who reprimand each other. See if you can spot the use of shortened forms, some of them archaic (for example бы --> б). See if you can spot Vanya accusing his wife of writing complaints about his work, harking back to the way the Soviet system operated, where everyone watched one another.

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