JULIA !

Dear Readers, this month we will continue a great topic we have been covering in recent months in this column – Women in Rock’n’Roll ! I have been inviting the top female names in Russian rock’n’roll to tell us what it is like to be a woman in our great Culture. Our contributor this month to this fascinating topic is Julia Kirsanova. She is the keyboard player for the great Russian band ‘the Lowcosters’. Over to you, Julia.

Being a woman in rock’n’roll, I can’t say this creates any special problems for me. But if we’re talking about the band as a whole, transporting my instrument would be a huge problem for me. Luckily, my bandmates help me with that.

I can’t quote a woman in the history of rock’n’roll who has had the biggest influence on me, because I cannot remember any such person. This is because I wasn’t interested in rock’n’roll before and in any event I wasn’t familiar with who’s who and wasn’t trying to follow in anyone’s footsteps.

But there is especially one woman in the history of Russian rock’n’roll who I admire. There have been only a few famous women here, but Aguzarova’s name comes to mind first [Zhanna Aguzarova was the famous lead singer of the legendary Russian band “Bravo” in the 1980s and early 1990s]. But to me, she’s rather an example of individual style and expressiveness which doesn’t match my own vision of a rock’n’roll diva.

I never thought I would be connected to this type of music but around the age of 14, I felt the electric guitar’s irresistible pull. Initially I more or less mastered the acoustic guitar, then started learning how to play the electric one. The first composition I learned was indeed rock’n’roll. One of the problems I encountered as a women were my little, delicate fingers which lacked the strength and ability to extract decent sound; permanent callouses on the fingers to very little effect. As a result, I lost interest in this musical instrument. But it was the guitar lessons in the rock school that led me to meet at least two of our band members who had been studying there as well but with much greater success, probably thanks to their strong male fingers. Before them I had been in another band, where I had already been mastering a keyboard instrument. But the real rock’n’roll in my life started with the Lowcosters.

I have never suffered any kind of harassment in my rock’n’roll life due to being a woman. Regarding other female rock’n’roll performers’ support and their friendship, I manage completely fine without that. Maybe we never formed a rock’n’roll community of fellow musicians who stay in constant touch. I’m more within the band and consider it a type of family. We’re all connected by friendship at the very least and I find support primarily among my bandmates, men and woman.

I do not have all-time rock’n’roll heroines. If I have any, they’re jazz musicians. Truth be told, in that genre I understand the male performers better. Among the female musicians who match my vision of the rock’n’roll spirit, I would name Gwen Stefani. Even though she works in a different genre, I like her delivery, her playfulness and sexuality. In my view she projects precisely a rock’n’roll image. I also remember the 5.6.7.8’s, a Japanese girl rock’n’roll band. I would say they’re entertaining.

Am I optimistic about the future of women in the Russian rock’n’roll ? As far as I can see, the issue of male and female isn’t that poignant in Russian rock’n’roll. At any rate, it’s an issue of our society as a whole. Modern culture is still as masculine as it was a century ago. Society doesn’t see women as creators. Why do we know so few great women artists, classical musicians, orchestra conductors, etc.? The masculine society has always expected women to fulfill very different goals. Society continues to expect interesting, new and even great things primarily from men. It’s strange to wonder why there’s so little feminine art. The issue of female representation in the arts first came to the forefront only in the 1970s. And for female art to become equal to male art in people’s minds (including those of women themselves), that won’t happen at this time. It’s not a mater of oppression but of the very culture of the western countries. As for the bands, I don’t know how things are in all-female bands, but in mixed bands women feel great.

Richard, you asked me about some rocker friends, in both the UK and Russia, from time to time saying that rock’n’roll is men’s music and that real rock’n’roll should be performed by men. Yes, I think rock’n’roll is indeed men’s music, but only 70%. Only a woman can bring in the remaining 30% of playfulness and sexuality. And overall, women in any kind of music or endeavour bring in something special, because the men around them start behaving a little differently; at the very least, their eyes start sparkling.

Outside of rock’n’roll, right now I have two other great, serious passions – science and bossa nova. Science (humanitarian research) is my job, but I’m genuinely interested in it and enjoying it. I’m particularly interested in the modernistic and avant-garde elements of art creations as well as urban studies. My work is published in academic journals.

Bossa Nova music won me over with its rhythms and exotic harmonies: I feel it as if it’s playing somewhere inside me. I was lucky to find a like-minded colleague who shares my feelings for bossa nova – our drummer. He plays bossa nova perfectly on the guitar and I sing. All in all, we formed a band within the band.

Thanks Julia, for your great insights as a woman in the Rock’n’Roll World. And a big Thankyou to all the talented women world-wide who enrich our Rock’n’Roll Culture ! Originally we had planned for Julia’s article to be the concluding one in our series on female rockers. But I’m delighted to say we have one more quality female Russian rockin’ star who’s agreed to write for us on this topic. Her name is Natalya Terekhova and she will tell you her fascinating story next month. Stay tuned !

Richard Hume
Moscow