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Popular Music in Communist and Post-Communist Europe

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Edited By Jan Blüml, Yvetta Kajanová and Rüdiger Ritter

Through selected topics, the book presents an up-to-date and comprehensive view of the popular music of communist and post-communist Europe. The studies introduce new sources, discuss transformations of the institutional background of popular music of the given geopolitical sphere, its social, cultural-political, or artistic conditions. Thanks to the time span of nearly thirty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the authors have in many ways revised or supplemented traditional post-communist perceptions of the issues in question. This is being done with respect to the genres such as jazz, rock, pop, singer-songwriters, hip-hop, or White Power Music, as well as across the whole region from the former Yugoslavia through Central European states to the countries of the former Soviet Union.

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Mikrofona aptauja: Conformists and Dissidents in a Latvian Song Competition, 1968–1994

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Abstract: ‘Mikrofona aptauja’ was a song competition on Latvian radio and television from 1968 to 1994. It is still legendary in Latvia. Composers were invited to submit new songs which were recorded by the radio station. The best songs were chosen by audience vote. These are ideal for the purposes of studying changes in musical taste and the political climate in Latvia over a longer period. The competition was originally part of the Soviet music industry, and songs by Raimonds Pauls also became hits in Russian versions. The competition became a platform for the emerging independence movement and the rehabilitation of pre-war Latvian culture after 1988.

Keywords: Latvia; Soviet Union; radio; television; communism; popular songs; political songs; Raimonds Pauls

By the 1960s, the Soviet Union had developed an impressive music industry within the framework of the planned economy. Concert organizers, radio, television and films provided Soviet citizens regularly with musical entertainment. The Union of Soviet Composers, representing all genres of music, had 1,200 members.1 The Soviet record industry was comparable in size to the U.K. industry.2 Although the most popular records reputedly sold millions of copies, there were no ‘top ten charts’ or lists of best-selling records. Competitions and festivals had the function of presenting new songs to the audiences and allowing performers to compete with each other.

Research on Soviet popular culture has thus far mostly focused on Russia. The Soviet Union consisted, however, of fifteen republics, each with its...

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