Izhevsk, not a very big Russian city, is known as the industrial centre of it’s region and a birthplace of famous Kalashnikov rifle AK-47. For the most people it’s all the information they’ve ever heard of this town. But many don’t know that Izhevsk used to be a capital of electronic music and underground rave culture in Russia.
It all started in 1985 when a music collectors’ club started working. Local melomanes were drawn there instantly and the whole group quickly became very close. Together they shared records and ordered new ones from Moscow and St. Petersburg. It didn’t take long for them to start making music of their own. Young prodigies felt that the music industry in the country needed a new kind of sound, so they started experimenting with electronic music. Some said it suited well to the general industrial surroundings, others felt that the rhythm of it helped them to get through the day.
All the music in Izhevsk had a certain recognisable sound. Partially it was because of their similar tastes, partially because of the equipment they all used. Musical instruments were not easy to find back then so they shared. Old soviet keyboard “Polyvox” was in high demand among all of them.
The phenomena of Izhevsk was discovered by accident. A music video of the band “Stuk bambooka v XI chasov” (“Clatter of the bamboo at XI o’clock”) was featured on TV in “Programm A”. The video was noticed by famous artists, who came to the town and contributed to the popularisation of “Izhevsk wave” on a national scale. But then came the 1990’s and many musicians left the small industrial centre to work in Moscow and St. Petersburg. For example Konstantin Bagaev, a member of “Stuk bambooka”, got a job at a national tv channel. The scene fell apart and it brought an end to the fist generation of electronic music.
Only several years later, in 2000’s, the rave culture was revived in the city. Around 50 new groups of younger musicians started their journey. They called themselves “Podvodny Izhevsk” (“Underwater Izhevsk”). The most successful bands among them were An-2 and D-Pulse. Andrey Zakharov, who was a part of this movement, once managed to get out of the country and fly to Europe. There, in Hamburg, he walked in in a random record store and played the records of Izhevsk’s bands to the shop assistant. 30 minutes later he was meeting a representative of the “Was Not Was” label. Eventually, they signed a contract for 4 musical albums to come out in Europe. One of them was produced by An-2. A similar story happened with the guys from D-Pulse in Prague.
At the same time, an Izhevsk label “Kama Records” was working closely with the young musicians. The company helped produce remixes of Tchaikovsky’s melodies and organised various festivals. A club “Vavilon Disko” (“Babylon Disco”) was built and it had the best sound equipment available at the time. “Vavilon” became a temple of innovative sound. DJs from England, Germany, Iceland, USA came to play their music and brought home CD’s of local bands. This is how the second generation of “Izhevsk wave” became well known even in foreign rave culture. But by 2008 Kama Records and Vavilon were shut down. Supposedly, investors have stopped supporting the local music scene because of the developing financial crisis and bands had no chance of surviving. Once again, many left for bigger cities and bigger opportunities.
After this the rave culture of Izhevsk came to a logical end. Couple of local musicians still produce CD’s though. Sometimes they even play music at small events and in clubs. But the interest in electronic music has diminished and they mostly perform for their friends or very few musical connoisseurs who still remember the rich past of Izhevsk underground wave.
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But there is still hope. In January of 2017 a group of young enthusiasts organised a first rave under the label of “ABCD” – “Any Body Can Dance”. They have grown enough to bring their raves to Moscow and St. Pete and already work with international DJs. So who knows, maybe there is a third generation of Izhevsk wave on the rise?