Akvarium

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About Akvarium

In Russia, Aquarium is so much more than just a band. Established at a time when forming a rock band and performing concerts was illegal (it was still the Soviet Union), Aquarium started as a band, but grew to become a community; and since 1972 it has become an institution. Quoting J. Frederick Bailyn, "It all began when the musician inside Boris Grebenshikov defeated the student in him in the early '70s, and the underground acquired its leader." Grebenshikov was studying applied mathematics at Leningrad University when he first formed the band with Anatolii Gunitskii, a childhood friend and poet/playwright. They soon added Andrei Romanov (flute, piano), Vsevolod Gakel (cello), Michail Fainstein-Vasiliev (drums), and Alexander Alexandrov (bassoon). Gunitskii left to pursue a theater career, but his lyrics remained a large part of their repertoire. Recordings were an entirely underground affair, and concerts in those days were arranged by word of mouth and took place in apartments and dormitories. They had to be acoustic in order to attract the least attention. Still, the shows were often broken up by authorities, and the community that had grown around the band basically existed at the fringe of Soviet society and political oppression. The situation began to loosen in the '80s, and Aquarium started making a name for themselves outside of Leningrad, appearing at a rock festival in Tiblisi in 1980. The relative freedom had also allowed them to perform with electric instruments, and their punk performance was a bit much for authorities, resulting in Grebenshikov being fired from his state-sponsored job. By the mid-'80s, Aquarium was known throughout the Soviet Union both for their acoustic and electric performances and were incorporating a dizzying array of diverse musical and cultural influences into their music. In 1986, the band was so popular that, based on Aquarium's refusal to continue a show, Soviet authorities allowed detainees who had been removed for dancing to return. With their growing popularity and Perestroika relaxing the constraints placed on artists, Grebenshikov was courted by Sony in the United States, and put Aquarium on hold to release Radio Silence. The album removed Grebenshikov from his longtime band, and put him in the company of the Eurythmics to somewhat lackluster results. Once the lure of the West ran its course, Grebenshikov returned to Leningrad (soon to be changed back to St. Petersburg) and by 1993 had re-formed Aquarium with new members and a renewed creative drive. Aquarium has played rock & roll, blues, punk, reggae, psychedelia, folk, chamber music, and virtually any other style you can imagine at some point during their career. Bandmembers come and go, but after more than 40 years, Boris Grebenshikov's Aquarium is still going strong and remains not just one of Russia's most important bands, but one of rock music's most eclectic and prolific bands. ~ Sean Westergaard

HOMETOWN
St. Petersburg, Russia