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Entries in Russia (51)

Thursday
Jan262012

Karina Yunusova and Lux Leopard

I saw the Russian rock band Lux Leopard at Sochi's Bar London on January 7.  Music producer Pavel Lesnevsky was in the audience and told me that his team was filming a band that night and I should watch.  I was already on my way out before the band started playing that night.  But, I was caught by surprise by the English language lyrics when they started performing (see the video filmed that night of Try To Be King).  I stopped to watch because of the singer's energetic and arresting performance and because the musicianship of the band stood in contrast to the Russian cover bands that constitute much of the live music in this region. There was a real guitar player here, a real singer and bass player and the best "Keith Moon-style drummer" in south Russia.

 

I could not quite pin down what it was about the vocalist that caught my attention, there was something of Shirley Manson's formidable stage presence.  But her charisma is all her own and she has considerable vocal range, too.

Last night, I happened to be in the studio working with the editor on a video featuring me and about central Sochi, when Lux Leopard singer Karina Yunusova and guitarist Yevgeniy Kuznetsov arrived to add tracks to a previously recorded song. The impromptu meeting gave me a chance to ask about their history, music and plans for the future.  

Lux Leopard formed about four years ago, after Karina moved from Novy Urengoy, east of the Urals, to Sochi in search of a warmer climate.  She had been a competitive gymnast and competed in the Russian Championship for a spot on Russia's Olympic team   Later she studied English and Spanish at the university level in Moscow. After considering her options, Karina decided rather than returning to Moscow to work as a tour guide, she would try out Russia's Black Sea Boomtown. Sochi.

Soon after Karina arrived, she was introduced by mutual friends to Yevgeniy, bass player Aslan Gedkafov and drummer David Oganyan, who had been playing together, but needed a singer.  Yevgeniy told me it was a quick decision by all to join forces after they heard Karina sing and she heard them play.  Lux Leopard performs English language songs of their own composition.  Yevgeniy writes the music and Karina the lyrics. She told me that she likes writing in English because she feels it is the best language for their brand of driving and seminal rock 'n roll. I asked her if there had been any performers in the English-speaking world who she had been motivated by.  She told me that when she was a teenager, she heard Garbage singer Shirley Manson and that it had an immediate impact upon her.  Yevgeniy said that Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach has been a notable influence on his playing.  He also listed trip hop bands Portishead and Morcheeba as groups that informed his ideas of music.

Lux Leopard is gaining a significant regional following.  I asked them why they had not relocated to Moscow, which is the center for music in Russia.  They told me that the crowded and competitive bar scene made it difficult to get gigs that paid for the additional costs.  Anyway, Lux Leopard is developing an international following and since Sochi now has an international airport, they can reach the large European market just as quickly from here.  Since the group now has a sufficient catalog of original songs, they are ready to start playing to international audiences.

As for future plans, Lux Leopard has set their sites on a recording contract and international success.  At least for now, they are a welcome part of Sochi's growing music scene.

 

Friday
Jan202012

Google's Sochi Problem

Google has a problem in Sochi.  Actually, Google has several problems.  Sochisider Pavel Lesnevsky pointed this out to me.  He asked if I would write about it and try to get some attention brought on the problem, so that Google would make the changes necessary to fix it.

A use of Google's search engine at google.ru using the following words: ночная жизнь сочи - which means Sochi nightlife in Cyrillic (Russian characters)- will see these search results:

Notice that the first page is dominated by domains devoted to websites about Miami, Florida.  The same thing happens when a user searches культурная жизнь Сочи- cultural life Sochi.  The search results point the user towards sites about Miami.

Also, a user who uses Google's online translator and types in сочи , which is the spelling for Sochi, will get the result: Miami.

Everyone in Russia understands that Miami is a popular and fun place.  Many Russians have visited or would like to visit.  However, this mistake is not good for anyone.  Users do not find the information they need, it damages local businesses in Sochi and hurts Google's image.

Can we get some help here?  This is surprising that no one has taken care of this problem.  I think Sergei Brin is from Moscow....

Thursday
Jan192012

January 19, Epiphany in Sochi

Last night in Sochi, the beaches were full of bathers at midnight, despite the cold and damp evening.  The occasion was the celebration of Epiphany, which is celebrated in the Orthodox Christian Church as the day that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and one of only two times when all three Persons of the Holy Trinity manifested themselves to humanity.  In colder areas of Russia, those observing will cut a hole in the ice (often in the shape of a cross) and immerse themselves in the water, sometimes 3 times.  In Sochi, thousands of people come to the beaches and plunged into the Black Sea at midnight.  Last night, I was there for a brief and chilly swim.  The water temperature was about +8 to 10 Celsius ( 46- 50 Fahrenheit).  

 

Tuesday
Jan032012

Sochi New Year

I flew to Sochi on New Year's Eve, arriving at about 11 a.m.  The skies around Sochi were clear and the approach to the airport offered great views of the snow-covered Caucasus Mountains.  Later, on the ground, there was less traffic than usual.  Businesses were closed and people seemed to be preparing for New Year's revelries.  

Caucasus Mountains from Sochi Airport

That evening, restaurants and clubs were booked with celebrants.  Administration Square in the city center had a concert and fireworks display.  There were dozens of fireworks displays all over the city. This site has some great photos.

 

Fireworks Display- New Year's Eve

Orothodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7, so the holiday season in Russia and in Sochi will include this week.  Sochi's streets are quiet and most businesses are closed.

Happy New Year!

Sunday
Dec252011

Rosa Khutor Opens

 

Rosa Khutor

 Rosa Khutor opened today, December 24, for skiing and snowboarding.  The gondolas across the mountain brought skiers up to enjoy the snow that has been falling for the last few weeks.  Locals have been looking forward to this for weeks and the recent showing of the snowboard film, The Art of Flight, had many people primed to take to the mountains.

Rosa Khutor Ski Area

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