Alexander Rozenbaum

Alexander Rozenbaum is BardDoc (Bard music, Pop-Jazz)

Alexander Yakovlevich Rosenbaum PAR (Russian: Александр Яковлевич Розенбаум, Aleksandr Jakovlevič Rozyenbaum) (born September 13, 1951 in Leningrad, Soviet Union) is a Soviet and Russian bard from Saint Petersburg. He is best known as an interpreter of the blatnaya pesnya (criminal song) genre. Modern singers in this genre, such as Mikhail Shufutinsky often sing Rosenbaum’s songs.

Rosenbaum graduated from the First Pavlov State Medical University of St. Peterburg in 1974, and worked in the medical field for four years. His musical education consists of piano and choreography courses at a musical school. In 1968, while still a student, Rosenbaum started writing the songs for which he is famous. His early songs were for student plays, but he soon also wrote for rock groups and started performing as a singer-songwriter in 1983, sometimes under the pseudonym “Ayarov”.

Among his most famous songs are the ones about Leningrad, the Soviet-Afghan War, Cossacks, and Odessa. Songs such as “Gop-Stop” (a comedy about two gangsters executing an unfaithful lover) and “Vals-boston” (The Boston Waltz) are popular across Russian social groups and generations.

Rosenbaum is an accomplished guitarist and accompanies himself on either a six- or twelve-string acoustic guitar, using the Open G tuning adopted from the Russian seven string guitar.

Rosenbaum sometimes employs peculiar musical time signatures and patterns in his songs, striving to sound fresh and unique – a bit atypical for a songwriter that employs gangster and criminal slang elements in his lyrics. Though many of his songs are elaborate in their instrumentation, the stress is placed on the primary melodies of his songs and their messages, as is usually the case in bard music.

However many prominent Russian bards shun Rozenbaum and refuse to count him in as a member of their community. While bards used to be treated as outcasts and their music was drawn underground through the years of Soviet regime, Rozenbaum enjoyed official approval long before collapse of the Soviet Union with its tight ideological censorship. “Bard Song Anthology” by Dmitry Sukharev (“Бардовская песня. Антология”, сост. Дмитрий Сухарев, ISBN 5-94799-234-5) widely acclaimed as ‘Bible’ of Russian bard movement, listing nearly every author of every song, doesn’t even mention his name.

His lyrics are quite often heart-wrenching, telling stories of people in insufferable pain, suffering implacable fates, and of love powerful enough to enslave a man. He sees himself not so much as a critic, but a true patriot who sees the worst sides of his country, but loves its people still.

He has stated that his wide lyrical scope is due to his being a sort of medium. For example, he wrote many crime-related songs using their jargon, but he never lived the criminal life in reality. Similarly, many of his songs about the Cossacks were written without the benefit of ever having a single relative from that community.[3]

Rosenbaum’s most popular and culturally relevant song to-date, and his greatest hit, is “Vals-Boston” (Russian: Вàльс-бостòн), which translates to “The Boston Waltz.” The title refers to a dance called the American Waltz, or alternatively the Boston.

In concert, Rosenbaum performs either alone or with his band, usually consisting of at least six other members (drummer, bass guitarist, two keyboardists, lead electric guitarist, and violinist). In his solo concerts, his guitar accompaniment tends to be different every time in some way. He is known for the way he stretches or, contrarily, cuts the length of musical bars in a song, making the song unique and unpredictable every time.

Rosenbaum is strongly opposed to lip synching during his concerts, a practice that has become increasingly widespread in Russia after the Soviet era. Once, during a festival concert, where many performers lip synched, Rosenbaum, all the time speaking into his live microphone, acerbically asked the sound mixer: “Can you turn up my guitar a bit, guys? After all, the little thing’s live!”

Politics

On December 7, 2003 Alexander Rosenbaum took office as a member of the Russian parliament (the fourth Duma) for Yedinaya Rossiya and deputy chairman of the State Duma Culture Committee. When asked by a journalist about what he had to sacrifice to be able to run for MP, Rosenbaum answered:

He was not listed as an MP in the fifth Duma.[5]

He is also a supporter of Yisrael Beiteinu Israeli political party and sang the theme tune for the party in the Israeli legislative election, 2009.

Rosenbaum expressed support for the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and stated, “Crimea is ours.”[6][7] For this he was banned from entering Ukraine.[8] Crimea is since March 2014 under dispute by Russia and Ukraine

Business

Rosenbaum is co-owner of a growing (as of 2007) network of beer-halls in Saint-Petersburg, called “Tolstiy Frayer”.[10] The name has a humorous, as well as gangster slang air to it and can roughly be rendered as “Non-Criminal Fat Chap”. The name is a reference to one of Rosenbaum’s songs.

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