In my latest report on the contemporary music scenes of Eastern and Central Europe, I look at the music scene of Belarus and talks with band Soyuz and the hosts of online station Radio Plato about keeping independent culture alive under governmental oppression.
The Belarusian music scene is a tricky one to explore. Due to the way bands are scattered across Europe and beyond, it can sometimes be difficult to find Belarusian artists online at all.
In 2020, Belarus erupted in protests against the results of that year’s general election, which have been widely reported as being falsified to allow Alexander Lukashenko his sixth term in office. Several hundred thousand people took to the streets of major cities, and more than 30,000 were arrested. In the spring of 2021, Lukashenko signed new legislation making it harder to organise protests, and compulsory for all mass gatherings to seek authorisation from municipal authorities. There are now specific guidelines on when a band can and cannot do a gig, the lyrics they sing, and the type of music they play. The venue and the members’ history of protests will be examined. Many underground venues don’t exist on an official level, with bands playing in secret, sharing information about the concert by word of mouth.
I write about 9 releases from Belarus – tropicalia-inspired SOYUZ, heavy guitars of Syndrom Samazvanca, brecht-like Sveta Ben and Galya Chikiss or Rajsn-Elektronik – a compilation of electronic music inspired by jewish heritage.