Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moscow 2009 - Red Army Choir

The most famous and well-known russian songs such as Kalinka, Katyusha, Ochi Chorneye are best performed, to my mind, by the Red Russian Army Choir. This choir has great voices , and the uniforms that go with it never fail to impress an audience.

However...they cannot go on singing year after year, decade after decade using the same dry army style. 'Kalinka' and 'Katyusha' are songs with a speedy tempo and require choreography, 'Ochi Chornye' needs a woman with black burning eyes on the stage. That's a new era , they have to adjust.

As kids we were crazy about singing the refrain of Kalinka (little snowberry ), and we derived pleasure from the fact that it generates the word... 'kaka' (shit, in many languages). It goes like this: Ka - lin-a- Kaka - lin-a - kaka - lin-a - ka-moya.

[This reminds me of something about the Israelis ( not the kids, the adults).They love the names of two places in the world: Guadalahara in Mexico, and Harare in Zimbabwe. Why so? Well, these two names include the word 'hara' which in spoken hebrew means 'shit'. So the stand-upist will say something like this to his audience: "Last year I was at the soccer games in Guadalahara. Believe me , I didn't lick any honey there." ].

Well, things become more serious when we get to Katyusha, the second song. This song is about a young girl , Katyusha (the diminutive of Katya) , longing for her beloved who's away on military service. So far so good, but the russians gave the song's name to the deadly rocket they had invented. The katyusha , mounted on truck for mobility, is the pride of its russian creators and the sweetheart of the arab terrorists, but our people in Israel get hurt by it.

Now, back to the Red Army Choir. I've been following their video clips of the last years, and there were some minor attempts to introduce slight changes, but the outcome was usually ridiculous. Their main problem seemed to be with Ochi Chornye (Black eyes ,also translated as Dark eyes). It has more than one version . but basically , the song is adressed to a woman with "black eyes, burning eyes/passionate and splendid eyes/how I love you ,how I fear you". It's kind of hard for some colonel in the best and most fearful army in the world to play the role of the unhappy lover in front of some gypsy-like woman.

Surprise, Surprise. The Red Army Choir finally did it all. in its guest appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow . They sang all these three songs and more, with the appropriate addition of dancers and dark eyed women (nice compromise - the colonel doesn't have to sing to a particular dark-eyed woman; he's surrounded by several of them).

Notice the difference between the two soloists: the first one who sings Kalinka, is a light version, in white uniform with licked hair, more like Elvis Presley.
The soloist of Ochi Chorneye is the classical soloist of the Red Army. What a Man! What a Voice!



  1. Thanks for sharing, DUTA. I don't know much about Russian culture, so it was interesting to watch. I enjoyed the second soloist more than the first. Even though I didn't understand a word of what they were saying, I enjoyed it - you explained it very well.

  2. Bica,
    I'm glad you've enjoyed it. It's a tiny opportunity for americans to get acquainted with another culture.

  3. Thanks for sharing the music with us, Duta. I love Russian music and dance (especially the gliding movement that the dancers do). We had been given 2 records of a Russian choir and I've always kept them.

  4. jeannette stgermain,
    Well, You have good taste in everything. Russian choirs and ballet dancers have no competition.

  5. Well, I learn somethign new every day!

    BTw, love that bit on hara! Funny.

  6. I am so glad you stopped by! What a wonderful video! The dancers look like they just float across the stage!

  7. The music is good, I had never heard this choir before. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for sharing, I enjoy any music. I thought I had joined your followers and was awaiting a new blog to come up on my dashboard. I thought you were taking a break. So glad I checked it out. Have a wonderful day!!!

  9. Hi Duta,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post about Sketcher's shoes. I agree with you totally, comfort is of the utmost importance.

    I'm glad I came by to visit you because I enjoyed very much the video. So many different things; the wonderful, talented singers, the women's dresses that almost looked like Mexican Women's dresses. I don't know if you've ever seen a movie entitled "Drumline" but you would enjoy at the very least the drumline. Thanks for sharing this wonderful video.
    Alicia @ Titere con Bonete :0)

  10. ...mmm...

    I'm glad . I was kind of afraid of people's reaction to the words 'hara', 'shit'.

  11. Sandy,
    Thanks for stopping by.
    Well, russian dancers have no rivals in the world.

  12. Dimple,
    You should listen to the Red Army Choir. You'll fall in love with their voices.

  13. Nezzy,
    Thanks for joining as a follower. Have a wonderful day too!

  14. Alicia,
    You're welcome.
    I'm glad you enjoyed the video, and Thanks for the info on the 'DRUMLINE" movie.

  15. When I was a kid, aged about 12 I think, I saw my first Russian open-air show in Wandle Park, Croydon. It was FANTASTIC.

    The most exhilarating part, for me as a young lad, was all the amazing horsemanship of the Cossack troop. Colourful red outfits, daredevil riding, brandishing huge swords and doing all kinds of dangerous looking acts on horseback.

    Their deep baritone voices also added to the show and I've never seen anything quite like it since.

  16. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a performance by Red Russian Army Choir at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park.
    That was a great show, totally unexpected how much energy they would have live.

  17. PhilipH,
    I can well imagine your excitement. They leave a powerful and lasting impression even on adults.

  18. Rahel/Rodica,
    The Red Army Choir performs in many countries and "conquers" them all.There's no way one can stay indifferent to their well trained voices and army uniforms.

  19. Oh Duta, this really brought up mixed feelings! What a hodge-potch of Russian talent was squeezed into those eight minutes! Watching the faces of the men in the choir as they watched the brightness and busyness of the guys and gals on the stage infront of them was a joy. But I think what those eight minutes really represented is a slow change to the culture of Russia. It was lovely to see. As ever, you gave me food for thought, and thankyou for that.

  20. Vera,
    You see it right. Slow but Steady change in their culture. The finale was in english , led by those two cute singers with not such beautiful legs...

  21. Hello, DUTA!

    I stopped by to thank you for the comment about my son's picture. By the time I saw it, several days had passed, and I wanted to make sure you know I appreciated your taking the time.

    Bonus for me? Your blog is absolutely delightful. I've been sitting here reading posts for quite a while, and smiling throughout.

    What a wonderful gift to add to a day! Thank you!

  22. Duta, I love your blog. You're so inspiring. I liked the Russian music. I met a Russian in Brazil, his name was Igor, it seems Igor is a very popular name in Russia. He was a Hare Krishna! I'd never expect to meet a Hare Krishna Russian in my life.
    I replied to your post in my blog about the Corruption Museum. You were right. I think you can understand many Portuguese words. Hugs!

  23. The Red Army Choir's video of "Sweet Home Alabama" is utterly bizarre, yet extremely well done. They're amazingly talented.

    I am of Russian/Hungarian descent, but since I am Jewish, I'm pretty sure that none of my forebears was a Cossack. Or if so, nobody's talking.

  24. Land of Shimp,
    Thank you for your very kind words.I'm very glad and honored that you stopped by, and enjoyed my blog.

  25. Michelle,
    I'm glad you like my blog.
    Yes, the name Ygor is a common russian name.
    Thank you for explaining to me the brazilian post. I can unerstand words but not whole sentences. Interesting this thing with the museum of corruption. Unfortunately, corruption is everywhere.

  26. heartinsanfrancisco,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. To an american, the russian choir may at first seem bizarre, but one soon becomes aware of the beauty and talent of its members.

  27. Duta, the beauty and talent was not lost on me. What struck me as bizarre was a Russian Army choir performing an American country song.

  28. heartinsanfrancisco,
    Well, they may perform any song they want, they have a vast repertoire which also includes folksongs of other nations.
    What is bizarre in the video "Sweet home Alabama" is their joining of forces with a finnish rock band whose members have funny hairstyles and humorous songs. It happens now and then , this joining of forces - maybe to show that the choir has also a lighter side. I personally don't like it.

  29. Hi Duta,

    Another wonderful and informative post. I always enjoy a cross-cultural experience which includes song and dance. To say this is interesting is to understate the obvious.

  30. Angelina,
    "cross culural experience.." - that's indeed so. Thanks for your warm comment.

  31. Hi, Duta. I stopped by to thank you for visiting me, and have read your posts thru from the beginning (well, scanning everything). I love that your title so clearly states what the blog is about - Places with Character. Your travels are absolutely fascinating, and so beautifully photographed, and I've enjoyed the vicarious adventure ...

    but, even picking out little tidbits here and there, I have no clue who you are. There is nothing 'personal'. I guess in the big scheme of things it's not crucial if this is intended to be just a travel blog, but I can't help but wonder what led you to this life of adventure, how do you fund it, do you have family, pets, what is your profession or career, your history, etc.? In other words, what do you do when you're NOT traveling?

    Sorry if I appear nosey, but I'm fascinated by people and their lives. Could you do a post on 'you'? I respect that you might prefer to remain basically anonymous, or perhaps that you might want to just contact me privately. But I wonder if anyone else has ever wondered about you?

  32. Wander to the Wayside,

    Thanks for visiting and for leaving your detailed and beautiful comment.

    Well, you are the first and only one blogger that asked questions about who I am. In fact, you also gave the answer: anonimity. I prefer to be anonymous. As simple as that. Sometimes I stumble upon blogs that don't even specify male/female, or don't mention the country, and weird things like that.There are no rules. Everyone can write whatever one wants in his blog, provided one doesn't make any abuse of language.
    We are all curious about the other, but at the bottom line, as a blogger, one has to come up with a decent story , give a 'follower' and put a 'comment' on another's blog, and he's in the bloggerie world. That's all that matters.

    As for my travelling,I didn't travel so much as it would appear, and it mostly happened when I was younger.
    Have a Happy Day!

  33. Hi Duta :) I am back from my rest. It is nice to visit here again.
    This was a neat post. I love learning about different cultures and words, their origins. Fun!

    Thank you! So good to see you again :)

    Have a Happy Day!

  34. TheChicGeek,
    Hi Kelly, Welcome back! I hope you had a wonderful vacation. As for my post, I think as you do - that it's nice to learn about different cultures.