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Unexposed genius

Musicians will gather this week to remember the late Zoopark singer Mike Naumenko.

Published: April 18, 2012 (Issue # 1704)



  • Zoopark frontman Mikhail Naumenko died in 1991 at the age of 36.
    Photo: FOR SPT

Legendary local rock musician and Zoopark frontman Mikhail Mike Naumenko, who died at the age of 36 in 1991, will be remembered at a memorial birthday event at Dada club this week.

Unlike [Kino leader] Viktor Tsoi, who became a real national hero through his purposeful activities, Mike, in my view, remained an unexposed genius, said the events organizer Alexander Donskich von Romanov, a friend of Naumenko and former member of Zoopark.

On the one hand, his work, strangely enough, initiated a wave of creative reaction all across Russia in the provinces and far-off areas, in the Urals, Siberia, the south, east, west and north. But on the other hand, Mike never did anything to promote himself; essentially, the only thing he did was his creative work.

By and large, he remains underestimated in the sense of the degree of recognition [he gets]. But to any person who knows all the realities of Russian rock music, its obvious that unlike his talented contemporaries like [Akvariums Boris] Grebenshchikov and [Mashina Vremenis] Andrei Makarevich, it was him who created a revolution a revolution in the world of Russian rock.

Donskich von Romanov compared Naumenko to the late Soviet iconoclastic singer-songwriter and actor Vladimir Vysotsky, admitting however that neither Naumenko nor his rock musician friends were fans of the singer.

Just like Vysotsky, many songs by Mike are dramas; they have a character that are not identical to their author, and the characters are different and sometimes walk from one song to another, like Sweet N., Venichka or Vera. But drama is always present in the song; theres often a system of interaction and dramatic conflict in it. This is what led me to at one point create an opera based on Mikes lyrics.

Excerpts from the opera called Prizraki Goroda N (The Ghosts of the Town of N) premiered at St. Petersburgs Gigant Hall in April 2011. Donskich von Romanov defined the genre as blues opera.

The word blues embodies a certain sadness. As [artist and filmmaker] Viktor Tikhomirov put it, Theres always a sadness about a life that was not lived in Mikes songs. About a life that he could have lived, but didnt.

Although influenced lyrically by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, T. Rex and Bob Dylan, Naumenko rethought the original subjects, placing his songs subjects and characters in the realities of the Leningrad of his day.

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