Belarus capital's music scene
The music scene in Minsk and Belarusian showbiz in general resembles a baby that just went from babbling to saying first words... The baby may even make sentences but they turn out to be so random that only loving parents can make sense out of them.
Several factors contribute to musical development delays in Belarus, among them economic crises, the lack of ‘healthy’ competition over radio rotations, the lack of critics, the lack of music TV channels and magazines and a low interest in Belarusian music in the West.
Economic instability has created an environment in Minsk where launching a club, running a festival or bringing a top international star turns into a risky venture. Some factors are deeply rooted in Belarus’ Soviet past. The domination of impersonal pop artistes who congest airwaves and front pages combined with censorship has pushed quality music into underground. There are paradoxical examples when the band regarded as an underground performer inside Belarus gets invited as a headliner to big festivals abroad.
As a result, Belarusian musicians grow convinced that it is much easier to become ‘musical immigrants’ in Russia or Ukraine, get popular there and later return back to the homeland as stars. That’s exactly what IOWA, or Max Korzh did. Another example is the Minsk-based band The Toobes that recently moved to Poland and therefore is listed in Sunset Island Music Magazine’s charts under the Polish flag.
Lyapis Trubetskoy, on the contrary, positions itself as “a band from Hero City of Minsk” when it performs extensively across former Soviet Union. The band is unofficially blacklisted and is banned from gigging in Belarus after front-man Sergei Mikhalok openly criticized the Belarusian leadership. The first ‘black lists’ appeared in Belarus in 2005, informally banning the most famous Belarusian bands like NRM http://nrsm.org/, Neuro Dubel" http://neurodubel.com and Krama from playing gigs. Their songs were removed from TV and radio rotations and concerts were canceled at the last minute for ‘technical reasons’ such as electricity failures or flooding threats across Belarus. Some years later, the black list was expanded to include several Russian bands and the British pop band Pet Shop Boys that called on the authorities in Minsk to release all the protesters detained during the December 19, 2010 post-election protests.
Although lagging behind such iconic clubbing capitals like Berlin, London or even Prague, night life in Minsk has made some progress over the past several years. New clubs open up all the time, yet world-famous music stars are yet to become regulars at Minsk venues.
Around 30 locations on the map of Minsk feature live band performances or electronic music events but you could hardly find ten differences between them if you had your eyes closed and were moved from one venue to another, as they seem to be “blueprinted”.
This guide is not for those who seek to set a record in screwdriver drinking at students’ parties or to leave behind several teeth for the Minsk tooth fairy. It is for those who want to check out music scene in the country that has largely remained a blind spot on the map of Europe.