Linda edges out the Cilla Blacks of Communism

Helen Womack on a new wave of Russian rock, with a Tibetan touch

RUSSIANS, who have been bombarded with Western pop music since the fall of the Iron Curtain, are raving about a new singer in high boots and a silver mini-dress who reaches them in their own language with teasing songs like "Play with me, tenderly as you want".

Linda is a little like Madonna, although far less crude. A better comparison might be with the Icelandic star, Bjork, but that is not exact either. She is original.

"At last we have an alternative to Alla Pugacheva," said Vitaly Matveyev, a classical pianist who also takes an interest in popular music. Ms Pugacheva, the red-haired star of "Estrada", a peculiarly Russian form of pop-singing that echoes the style of Tom Jones and Cilla Black in the 1960s, has dominated the domestic pop scene for the past 20 years. Mikhail Gorbachev's final act as president of the Soviet Union was to award her a medal. While undoubtedly talented, some feel she has been in the limelight too long and exercises too much influence over the careers of young singers.

Apart from Ms Pugacheva, in her white stretch limo, and a few other highly paid stars of Estrada, which was officially promoted under Communism and still gets large amounts of air-time, Russia also has a range of rock bands aping Western styles, from heavy metal to punk.

But Linda fits into neither category: she is a new post-Communist phenomenon. She sings in Russian with the voice of a child, but that is just a strand in a whole tapestry of sound woven by musicians from Russia, Japan, Bolivia and India. When she performs live, she is joined by dancers from Cuba and Guinea Bissau, former students of Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University.

The man behind it all is producer Maxim Fadeyev, who draws his inspiration from the world's ethnic traditions, especially those of the vast Russian Federation.

"Soviet leaders paid lip service to national culture, while in reality doing all they could to wipe it out," said Mr Fadeyev in an interview together with Linda in their private studio near the Moscow Hippodrome. The accidents of Soviet history were responsible for some of the musical influences they experienced, combined with others which are a product of Russia's new freedoms - although neither has ever travelled outside the borders of the old Soviet Union.

The two CDs which have made Linda and her group famous are called the Songs and Dances of the Tibetan Lama. Both use eastern rhythms and melodies. Now they are working on a new double album to be called Mother Wolf, which will incorporate Russian folk choirs.

Mr Fadeyev comes from the city of Kurgan, on the Siberian side of the Urals, where he was strongly influenced by his mother, a gypsy musician. His brand of ethnic rock attracted no interest in the music business until he met "Linda" (her real name is a secret). Now they receive sponsorship from New Russian businessmen who prefer to remain anonymous, although Linda, still only 20, claims her lifestyle is that of "an average Muscovite".

Linda is from Kentau, near the Chinese border, a home-town even more far-flung than Mr Fadeyev's. Her grandparents were exiled to the bleak steppes of Kazakhstan by Stalin, and her parents continued to be confined there, working in the local factory. A Jew, Linda grew up in barracks with people of many nationalities, including Greeks. "The barracks were full of their music when there were birthdays or weddings," she remembers.

The Songs and Dances of the Tibetan Lama are quite hypnotic - though neither Linda nor Mr Fadeyev has been to Tibet. "The Lama is a symbol, an embodiment of the spiritual," says Mr Fadeyev, who wrote the music and the meditative, subtly erotic words. "Do it so there will be no pain," goes one song. "Too little flame, I want a bit more," goes another. Mother Wolf, to be released in the autumn, will be about ecology and violence. "The wolf is the embodiment of motherhood," says Mr Fadeyev. I hear a track called "Kitaboi" (Whale Hunt). The music is much heavier than the playful Tibetan collection. Says Mr Fadeyev: "I want you to hear the struggle of this great creature of the deep and the little earth devil."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue