When Soviet Hipsters Risked Jail for Jazz
Here’s a fantastic little documentary on the time when Jazz, Rock’n’Roll, anything sung by an emigre, even ‘gypsy’ music was illicit in the USSR.
How people managed to distribute music is extraordinary - they used x-rays.
X Ray Audio: The Documentary explores the curious, sometimes fantastical story behind Soviet Russia’s strangest cultural exports, and is part of a larger project which has seen Stephen Coates and Paul Heartfield publish a book and host muitple live events (the next of which will take place at Rough Trade East in London on March 9). As their website explains, “Giving blood every week to earn enough money to buy a recording lathe, one bootlegger Rudy Fuchs cuts banned music onto such discarded x-rays to be sold on street corners by shady dealers. It was ultimate act of punk resistance, a two-fingered salute to the repressive regime that gave a generation of young Soviets access to forbidden Western and Russian music, an act for which Rudy and his fellow bootleggers would pay a heavy price.”
Take a trip back to a time and place it’s nearly impossible to imagine with X Ray Audio: The Documentary.
There are stacks of Soviet and Soviet Bloc Jazz, funk, disco, electronica and other obscure recordings to be found on YouTube, some of which are extremely good, many of which are not-so-great copies of Western music. Here’s some examples:
Stacks more on the Funked Up East YouTube channel.