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(en) Media, Musicians for Anarchy - British Chumbawamba and Moscow band Mongol Shuudan

Date Fri, 31 Mar 2006 23:32:33 +0300


Musicians for Anarchy http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2006/03/31/103.html
Two bands of varying musical styles and a propensity for anarchist philosophy
are to converge this weekend in an unusual hybrid gig. Moscow band Mongol Shuudan
and British punk-folk-potpourri outfit Chumbawamba will play Apelsin on April Fool's
Day in what promises to be a unique cross-cultural meeting of the anarchist-minded.
There's more than meets the poster-ogling eye at this concert. Contrary to first
appearances, Chumbawamba is the opening band, not the headliner, and the concert --
rather than being organized by some promoter -- was set up by the members of Mongol
Shuudan themselves, in honor of the 17th anniversary of their first official show.
Mongol Shuudan means "Mongol Postal Service," an inscription on Mongolian stamps
sold in kiosks for stamp-collecting, a formerly widespread Soviet-era hobby.
One such kiosk happened to be near the band's rehearsal space when the
musicians were trying to decide what to call themselves.

The group formed in 1989 from a circle of friends
frequenting music classes at a cultural center in Annino.
Guided by an eccentric teacher from the Baltics, the band
members encountered anarchist literature such as the
writings of Kropotkin, Bakunin and Trotsky. Lead singer
Valery Skoroded, 40, said in a recent interview that he did
not remember the teacher's name and exact nationality, but
he did remember that the man was eventually arrested for
"subversion" -- the KGB was still active at the time.
[I cannot imagine what Trotksy is doing in a list of
anarchist writers. Perhaps Tolstoy was meant?--DC]

Nevertheless, Skoroded and his bandmates read up on such
anarchist legends as nearly forgotten Ukrainian
revolutionary Nestor Makhno, who is the band's unofficial
hero and the subject of a few of its tunes. The early songs
were definitely influenced by this pedigree, Skoroded said,
but eventually "the music outweighed the politics" and more
"civil themes" started creeping in, with three songs out of
10 being apolitical. In general, Skoroded now takes a sober
view of the anarchist ethos.

"Anarchism will only work if it is adopted worldwide," he
declared. "It won't work if it's only, say, in one country.
Obviously, this is an ideal and not a realistically
attainable goal. So anarchists are probably the most
romantic people around."

Chumbawamba is a politically active band with nine longtime
members that has morphed through numerous personnel
permutations and a plethora of musical styles from punk to
folk to techno. Speculation notwithstanding, the band's name
is entirely nonsensical and is not supposed to mean anything.
[I've read somewhere that the name comes from a bandmember's
dream in which restrooms were labeled "Chumba" and "Wamba".--DC]

As part of the 1980s anarcho-punk music scene, Chumbawamba
played benefit shows in squats and non-club venues such as
libraries for causes such as animal rights. The band is best
known for the 1997 hit "Tubthumping," from the album
"Tubthumper," one of the group's only releases on a major
label. The song catapulted Chumbawamba from relative
obscurity to brief household-name status as it appeared in
films and television shows.

An eight-piece incarnation of the band came to Moscow for
Radio Maximum's Maxidrom festival in 2003. The lineup this
time is an acoustic five-piece that includes an accordion
player.

In a telephone interview, Jude Abbot, 43, one of the band's
vocalists and a trumpet player, said that the group's
current influences fall within the realm of British
political folk music by singers such as Roy Bailey and Dick
Gaughan.

"We've been influenced by pop and punk, so the Beatles and
the Clash could also be cited as influences," she said.
"We're always listening to various things, nicking bits of
things. We call it 'poplifting,' which is like shoplifting."

In terms of activism, lately Chumbawamba has been working on
the anti-war front, having performed at rallies and released
anti-war songs on various compilation albums, as well as its
newest album, 2005's "A Singsong and a Scrap."

"Lots of bands may express their antiwar views in
interviews," Abbot noted. "But there's not many people
actually singing about it, which I think is really important
to do."

Mongol Shuudan and Chumbawamba play Sat. at 8 p.m. at
Apelsin, located at 15 Malaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa. Metro
Krasnopresnenskaya. Tel 253-0253.
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