Here we go again: Russian rock/pop

Boris Grebenschikov, the founder of Aquarium, is the Leo Tolstoy of the Russian rock, independent and alternative universe. Back in the Soviet times, in the first half of the 1980s, Aquarium was one of a pretty large number of “underground” bands that the Soviets grudgingly tolerated. They could even give concerts in small culture houses and record albums that got chain-copied onto thousands of tapes. Not that Aquarium’s, or Zoopark’s, or even Kino’s lyrics was particularly anti-Communist–it wasn’t, but it sounded very disturbing to Soviet censors, who sensed a menace in everything they could not understand.

I won’t pretend to understand it all either. Here’s the song that gave the title to Aquarium’s 1993 album, Radio Africa. I tried to do without punctuation marks where possible.

A dazzling day

my nature doesn’t let me sleep

the firemen are driving home

they have no business here

Soldiers of love,

we’re moving like phantoms of fairies

on streetcar tracks

we know electricity by sight

but is this a good reason?

Untie my hands


am calling Captain Africa

A hundred thousand words

all in vain or a theft of fire

from blind gods

we know how to burn out like spirit

in spread-out palms

I will take my own

there where I see my own

a white Rastafari, a transparent Gypsy

a silver beast in search of warmth


am calling Captain Africa

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