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The Bob Dylan of Russia: Boris Grebenshikov, Aquarium Sing Out Against Their Russian Overlords But Not Without Consequence

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Oct 15, 2014 01:34 PM EDT

A truly phenomenal talent, Boris Grebenshikov has helped pave the way for Russian rockers, practically coining the phrase himself. Noted as "The Bob Dylan of Russia," Grebenshikov and his band Aquarium has escaped the clutches of the Russian government with his valiant protest songs and literary excellence.

"Love in the Time of War" croons over the recent events surrounding the Russo-Ukrainian conflict engulfing Ukraine. When the violence ensued, he did not take to protest, he took to his studio, showcasing his vast literary aptitude through song, which he is known for among many educated Russians.

"I feel how the shadows become thicker / the river's on fire / but the bridges are up," he sings from a wooden stool and biker garb — seriously, get a look at this guy, he could be a Hell's Angel. His words aren't unlike Russian poets Marina Tsvetaeva or Vladimir Mayakosky. The human condition, thus, is central to his craft.

And as one can imagine from the precedents of Tsvetaeva — her husband executed in light of her anti-nationalist views — BG came under heavy fire. As he recounts, via BBC, black cars periodically stopped outside his house.

A fear growing inside the protest singer, his cellist, from his band Aquarium, was once picked up by one of these black cars and told to take a good look at his apartment, as it would be the last time he would ever see it.

He was released shortly thereafter.

But the voice of BG is similar to an early-1960s Dylan, singing prescient words of uprising and despair, a nation descending into turmoil. While Dylan may not have invited the "Voice of a Generation" illusion, BG takes it head-on.

Befriending fellow Russian poets has allowed him some sort of relief from the unnerving black car visits outside his homestead. While most would flee the nation, he feels it proper to stick around, citing that his fan-base is here and in need.

For a nation wrought with poverty and despair, as it looms over a stifled Ukraine, BG is a light shining through the cracks of a country unable to join the European Union out of its own pride.

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TagsBoris Grebenshikov, Ukraine, Russia, The Bob Dylan of Russia, Bob Dylan, Marina Tsvetaeva, Vladimir Mayakovsky, BBC Culture, aquarium