Rock activism

Between nationalist commitment and internationalist anarcho-punk, the rock movements in Blarus are divided, but all testify to a more or less anti-establishment political commitment.

It's indecent, judged N. Khrushchev when he spoke of rock and the choreographies that it inspires. Does this devaluation on the part of a Soviet leader offer a prism from which it would be possible to understand the representations of rock music in communist regimes?? And vice versa, does this make all the representatives of this musical genre individuals seeking provocation, even political protest through their productions??

Understanding politicization through the prism of musical material

The answers that Yauheni Kryzhanouski provides by taking the case of blarus rock are nuanced, halfway between the excesses of an overpoliticization that sees only activists behind the artists (p. 335) and the concealment which does not allow the identification of implicit underlying positions. underlying musical productions. The conception of protest on which this research is based is intended to be broad, since it goes beyond the discourses and positions adopted in a game of institutionalized political competition (p. 16) in order to encompass symbolic actions that challenge the frameworks imposed by authoritarian speech in politicized areas and therefore reject the symbolic domination exercised by the state ideological apparatus (p. 17).

The manifestation of this protest via rock can take different trajectories. The whole purpose of the work is to examine the forms that this politicization takes as well as the contexts that favor its deployment. In this regard, the author highlights two movements: national rock and anarcho-punk DIY (Do It Yourself). Their development as well as their compositions present singularities. From a rich empirical material collected (profiles of musicians in terms of social origin and training and some statistical sources, but above all 67 interviews carried out with artists and cultural actors in the Blarussian artistic field), four types of politicization can be seen: by the conventions (the character, even the non-conformist myth of rock), by the profession (approach of distinction in relation to the targets whether it is the Russian underground for national rock or in relation to it for anarcho-punk), by the capture (links with agents of the political field itself such as the National Renaissance), through censorship (intervention of political power).

Music as a vector of differentiation

All political scientists and sociologists interested in a sensitive reading of social reality and more broadly rock fans will gain a large number of welcome insights both from the point of view of the Blarus case and, more generally, on the way of understanding music in an authoritarian context. Diachronic reasoning in two parts (from the 1980s to 1995 on the one hand and, since 1995, under the effect of a symbolic sovitization driven by the President of the Republic Lukashenko still in power today on the other hand) allows us to clearly understand the appearance of national rock during the first period, and the expression of the two rock movements in the second. If the theme of the autonomy of music in relation to politics is of course understood (see in particular p. 327 et seq.), it is ultimately the logics of differentiation thought of as political vectors which constitute one of the most stimulating contributions of this work.

National rock (which does not fall under identity rock, because it is not linked to the extreme right nor to ideological activism as a central character) cultivates its singularity in relation to Russian underground rock. It is intended first and foremost to be a manifestation of Belarusianism through the use of traditional melodies, and especially the Belarusian language (chapter 2). The two main ensembles Mroja and Bonda in the 1980s developed songs that also distanced themselves from Soviet history. They leave a path that other groups follow in their wake, as one of the interviews reveals: they discovered a simple truth, that a Belarusian must remain a Belarusian in music. Enough fruitless searching. We must act (p. 93).

This differentiation is also found in the field of rock itself with impacts on politicization during the second period. Although divided on the need to take an open political stance, anarcho-punk DIY uses the Russian language, explores a sound materiality bordering on the audible or even the register of the vulgar and is very rarely present in political opposition gatherings (p. 303-319). The distinction relates to the ideological matrix of far-left internationalist anarcho-punk, but also and above all to professionalization. He rejects commercialization as well as the productivist concepts imposed by the cultural industries (p. 252-253). The artists claiming to belong to this label then intend to represent the authenticity of the rock aesthetic gesture. Thus describing the plurality of paths of protest against the Lukashenko government, it should be emphasized that the aesthetic materiality of both songs and visuals (p. 196-219) of albums, in the media or in political meetings does not constitute the pivot of the approach. adopted. However, she is involved in key passages where she promotes the analysis of differentiations between groups (p. 308-314).

Music and politics over time

The theoretical choices made by the author essentially cross approaches to politicization emphasizing the constructed nature of the mechanism (Jacques Lagroye) with critical sociology of culture (Pierre Bourdieu and Gisle Sapiro). It is surprising that chapter 4 but also the second part do not mobilize sociological resources on the concept of musical scenes. Will Straw's work on the tension between visibility and invisibility of these scenes, as well as their territorial anchoring, would have allowed a rise in general, since their scope goes beyond a specific framework of a political regime. Furthermore, would it have been possible to re-introduce this reflection on the links between music and politics in Eastern Europe over the long term?? The extraordinary work of Andras Kappeler (Russians and Ukrainians. The unequal brothersParis, CNRS editions, 2022) on relations between Russia and Ukraine invites us to do so since it identifies both very different representations and uses of music. Remaining attached to the monodic tradition of Orthodoxy, Great Russia is reluctant to learn and develop polyphony while kyiv, exposed to the influences of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, has integrated this concept into its musical production. Belarus having a historical trajectory close of that of Ukraine, can this musical singularity not be established in this heritage?? Finally, the power of music on the public is not the subject of particular treatment. The work focuses first and foremost on the formulation and circulation of musical works and not on the reception, except through the prism of canceled or dispersed concerts attesting to the aura from which these groups benefit. This exploration would have led to the mobilization of other methodologies. But it would have made it possible to discuss Adorno's theses through a contribution to the study on the commodification and agency of music in political contexts.

Beyond these elements of discussion, this research has the undeniable merit of contributing to what we could call differentiated acoustic globalization. Rock is one of the musical genres that has been able to export and circulate widely across the globe. Global attraction defined as a convergence of national and regional trajectories in a universal history does not only involve so-called wars. major or the emergence of intergovernmental organizations whose aim is to establish common methods of regulation. It is also based on the circulation of musical works which tends to expose us to the same sounds, recently following the global success of K-pop. But as Appadurai suggests by taking other cultural examples, the soundscapes that result from this circulation do not lead to standardization. Appropriations do not mean reproductions, but renewed creations. These are hardly foreign to politics. Decoding these relationships is more necessary than ever given the divide which sometimes tends to become the new way of globally understanding our time: the opposition between democracies and authoritarianisms.