Ever since I came to Moscow in August of last year, it’s felt like I’ve been on a quest to become more russian. Besides all the effort I’ve put into becoming a better Russian speaker, that is. It hasn’t always been obvious – sometimes it’s been as simple as learning to appreciate the at times downright bizarre architecture of Moscow where apartment buildings from the Soviet era can be found sharing the outline of the city with skyscrapers from the naughties. But tonight it was obvious – very obvious.
You see, there’s this little band I’ve been listening to since before I could even speak Russian.
I was sending letters to some girl I found on Interpals, and she recommended them to me. They’re only known in Russia and some former Soviet repulics such as Latvia.
The reason? All their lyrics are in Russian. They are known as Splean.
I have been wanting to see them live ever since I started studying Russian, and tonight I finally got to do it, inside a football stadium in Moscow, with a russian girl on my shoulders (technically from Belarus but her native language is Russian so whatever…). I was screaming the words that I knew, and sharing my love for this “little group” – as they like to refer to themselves – with thousands of russians and russian-speaking people. And even though I literally couldn’t understand anything of some of the songs, all of us had one thing in common: culture.
And I don’t just mean “culture” in the artistic sense of the word: I’ve come to realize that besides the ability to communicate more or less fluently in the same language, the one thing that binds a people together is “culture” in the sense of shared values, shared beliefs and, not least, shared experiences and cultural preferences.
Okay, so I didn’t grew up with Splean on the radio, or listened to them because my parents or my brother introduced me to them, or because I saw them on TV. Hell, the first time I heard them I couldn’t even understand anything of what they were singing about. But I love their songs just as deeply as any russian who’s listened to their music all his or her life. Maybe even more so, because I’ve had to go through a hell of a lot of work to understand what they were trying to tell me through their lyrics.
And tonight I got to confirm that: by the end of the concert, my lungs were burning, my ears were pounding, my feet, hands and neck were sore, and I knew that I could go to bed having given one hundred percent of my energy to share an experience I literally had to go through hundreds of classroom hours to be able to enjoy.
Was it worth it? When you’re singing words along with thousands of screaming people knowing that you are all there for the same thing: fuck yes, it was worth it.
Okay, so my Russian isn’t fluent yet – but tonight, I became a Russian. At least, culturally.