In the Spotlight

Girl-group VIA Gra has changed line-up
nine times, while none of the original
‘singing knickers’ remain in Blestyashchiye.

Meanwhile Moscow mayor won’t pay singers who lip-synch -

By Anna Malpas
The Moscow Times

This week, Ogonyok and Russian Newsweek magazines took a pop at the feeble state of the Russian music industry, or specifically the singers' penchant for lip-synching and the producers' penchant for switching the lineup of their girl groups -- a musical genre that one described as "singing knickers."

The poster boy for Ogonyok's article on lip-synching was old-stager Filipp Kirkorov, pictured in a fetching pair of high-waisted silver trousers. He won't be particularly pleased, since he starts a nine-day residency at the Operetta Theater this week, celebrating his 25-year-long career in show business, at least some of which has presumably involved singing.

However, he is quoted in the magazine protesting a recent decision by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov not to pay performers who lip-synch at municipal events. That's all very well, he says, but the city authorities won't stump up for the sound equipment needed for live performances. The magazine reprints a quote that Kirkorov originally gave to RIA-Novosti in October, where he said that he usually has to do municipal concerts at venues that only have "a mini-disc player and a remote where half the buttons don't work.

"Anyone who has experienced City Day, when the greatest hits of Zolotoye Koltso reverberate ear-bleedingly over Tverskaya Ulitsa, would suspect that this is true, although surely more Kirkorov-friendly venues such as the Kremlin Palace have at least some working microphones. For the record, though, Kirkorov did tell RIA-Novosti that he'll sing live at the Operetta Theater.

The Ogonyok article had some nice stories about the illustrious history of lip-synching in Russia. A sound-man who worked with Laskovy Mai, a group popular in the late 1980s, recalled that the group had a recorded soundtrack that even included comments to the crowd such as "I can't see your hands!" and "Everyone says that we lip-synch, but you can see that it's not true."

Another Soviet-era group, Mirazh, had four or five different lineups of attractive, but similar-looking girls, who toured provincial cities at the same time, miming to the same songs.

When it comes to girl groups, the rules should be relaxed, the producer of bikini-clad quintet Strelki, Igor Selivesterov, told Ogonyok, explaining that a blanket ban on lip-synching would be like "saying Andy Warhol isn't an artist because he didn't draw like [Russian artist Ivan] Shishkin."

All the girls in Strelki actually sing on their recorded soundtrack, he boasted, but on stage they've got better things to do, like dancing and showing off their sequins.

"People call this genre 'singing knickers' and I don't see anything insulting in that," he summed up. As long as the elastic holds up, the producers of such groups can change the lineup as often as they like, Russian Newsweek wrote.

Subtly named girl group VIA Gra has had nine changes of lineup in its 7-year history, while everyone has given up counting with Blestyashchiye and Strelki.

None of the original members are left in Blestyashchiye -- some left to marry rich, others such as Anna Semenyovich, to appear on every second television show -- but no one in the audience asks for his money back, said music agency director Tabriz Shakhidi, who books Blestyashchiye among others.

"The group is very popular and successful."

Interestingly, Blestyashchiye has even become a dynasty, with the younger sister of one of its most famous alumni, Zhanna Friske, joining the group in October. Natalya Friske, a 21-year-old law student, is lucky enough to enjoy the full support of her sister, who has since gone on to a solo career and reality shows.

Friske Senior told 7 Dnei magazine that "I hope she has enough brains not to give up her studies.