What Is Russian Hardbass?
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the amazing world of Russian hardbass I’ll start this article with a brief history lesson. The genre originated in Saint Petersburg, Russia during the late 1990s, drawing inspiration from bouncy techno, hardstyle, as well as local Russian influences. Since this time the movement has spread to numerous other European countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. This makes sense culturally and historically and the themes and concepts translate easily. So while I use the term Russian hardbass for the genre, the music may come from countries other than Russia itself.
If you’re asking, “what is hardbass?” then I should explain that it’s a subgenre of techno and house music. But what makes it unique is its fast tempo (usually 150–175 BPM), aggressive energy, heavy basslines and excessive bounce. You can often finds elements of hip hop worked into the mix, which generally is also performed at high speeds.
Another element that makes the genre so distinctive is its heavy, if not excessive focus on Russian and Slavic culture. There’s a specific focus on gopnik culture, a working-class subculture that is often depicted as wearing Adidas or Puma tracksuits. It also draws on elements of blatnaya pesnya, a genre of Russian song characterized by depictions of criminal subculture and the urban underworld. You’ll also find elements of chastushka, humorous folk song with high beat frequency, full of humor, satire and irony. On the whole, these cultural elements are almost satirised, coming across as ‘aggressively’ Russian or Slavic, and even at times focusing on Soviet and Communist themes and imagery.
With this new understanding of the genre, you should be able to appreciate the work of Russian hardbass legend DJ Blyatman, a shining example of all things hardbass.
DJ Blyatman is basically the perfect example of Russian harbdass. He is a Slovakian producer who rose to prominance in 2017 with his debut album HARDKVAS. He takes all of the elements and tropes discussed above and doubles down on them. You’ll find the heavy pulsing, bouncing bass and techno/house beats of hardbass, accompanied by a mix of English and Russian rapping.
What really makes me love his music so much isn’t just the stupidly catchy and high energy music, it’s the themes and aesthetics. He has completely abandoned any notion of subtlety with his music and doubled down on gopnik and blatnaya pesnya influences. Thrown into this mix is plenty of Russian pride and even some Soviet focused elements, even putting out music about partying with Stalin.
You’ll often find that he releases songs with other artists from withing the scene, some of the most notable of which include (among many others) Russian Village Boys, Nick Sax and Boris (the Slav King) who hosts a successful Youtube channel called Life of Boris. The other thing that should definitely make you want to check out his music are his amazing music videos. Honestly, I can’t stop watching these, they’re just fantastic. They double down even harder on the above mentioned elements. I’ve included a number of my favourite songs’ videos below for your enjoyment.
It isn’t all just upbeat bouncy elements though. There are numerous solely music-based tracks that take on Russian folk and classical elements as their base and offer a more serious and somewhat darker tone. You can find one such track Chernobyl here or Balalaika here.
Overall, I’ve personally come to love the music of DJ Blyatman. If I ever feel like putting on something high energy and insanely catchy then he’s always one of my primary contenders. Russian hardbass just hits different to other music and DJ Blyatman hits different to all other Russian hardbass. So go dive into this whole new world of music and follow the rabbit hole down. This is just one artist in a rich and truly unique music scene that you should definitely explore.
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