Vladimir Putin says rap music should be 'controlled'

'If it is impossible to stop, then we must lead it and direct it'

Chiara Giordano
Saturday 15 December 2018 18:30
Vladimir Putin speaks on the phone in his office in Saint Petersburg
Vladimir Putin speaks on the phone in his office in Saint Petersburg

Vladimir Putin wants to find a way to control popular music genres like rap, as its growing in popularity among Russia’s youth.

The Russian president has called on cultural leaders to devise a way of “directing” rap music, rather than banning it outright.

“If it is impossible to stop, then we must lead it and direct it,” he said.

Mr Putin told cultural advisers at a meeting in St Petersburg on Saturday that attempts to ban artists from performing would have an adverse effect and instead bolster their popularity.

The president said that rap was “based on three pillars: sex, drugs and protest”.

But he said he was particularly concerned with drug themes prevalent in rap, claiming “this is a path to the degradation of the nation”.

Mr Putin’s comments come amid a crackdown on contemporary music that evoked Soviet-era censorship of the arts.

Young Russian musicians have spoken out about the hurdles they have faced in recent weeks.

Fans at a concert in support of rapper Husky, in Moscow in November 

Nikolai Kostylev, one half of the electronic duet IC3PEAK, told The Independent that problems started about a month ago.

She said events her group were due to play at would be cancelled at the last minute by venue managers, who claimed they had received threatening phone calls.

They have also come up against bomb scares, unannounced fire inspections, and unexplained electricity failures, she claimed.

At times there have even been arrests on arriving into town.

“It’s all very unpleasant and terrorising,” Kostylev said. “We’re doing nothing illegal, just singing our harmless, ironic songs. But we’ve found ourselves subject to a witch hunt by the security services.”

The latest gig to be targeted was on Thursday in the city of Voronezh, 400 miles south of Moscow.

Only a fraction of the group’s fans were able to hear them play a 20-minute set after plain-clothed officers blocked entry to the club, itself already a replacement venue.

IC3PEAK are only one of a number of groups to have come up against the authorities in recent weeks.

On the same day the band was battling “food hygiene officers” in Voronezh, the teen band Friendzone saw a gig cancelled in Yaroslav, central Russia.

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Their repertoire, which includes hits “Maybe, Baby” and “Cute Boy”, is considered “extremist”.

Meanwhile, the teen rapper GONE.Fludd cancelled a show in the northern city of Petrozavodsk, following an intervention by the local prosecutors’ office.

And last month another rapper, Husky (Dmitry Kuznetsov), was imprisoned while on tour in the southern city of Krasnodar.

Music critic Artemy Troitsky has described the moves to ban concerts as a “ham-fisted response to the political awakening of Russian youth”.

On Thursday evening, internet TV channel Dozhd reported that the president’s own staff had become angry at the heavy-handed actions of local officials.

A source “close to the Kremlin” told the channel that the president would “put an end to the idiotism,” it said.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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