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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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