Drinking songs appeared in Russia at a time when the tradition of long celebratory feasts became widespread. Lingering, often thoughtful, Russian drinking songs were performed in chorus with one or two solo voices. In recent years, the tradition of singing during dinners in Russia is becoming less popular. There is a risk now that Russian folk songs, which were not included in the repertoire of folk singers, may disappear altogether.
Russian drinking songs
Russian folk songs that are performed during celebratory feasts are often sad. It is as if after having fun at the dinner table, laughing and dancing, Russian people crave the opposite emotion.
Russian drinking songs frequently talk about the memories of loss, women’s difficult fates, and harshmilitary or Cossack days. Using the songs performed collectively among friends or relatives, people had a chance to get rid of heavy thoughts, feelings and negative emotions. As they say, fight fire with fire.
Another popular theme of Russian drinking songs was love, happy or unrequited. Because these folk songs were constantly performed, everyone knew the lyrics and sang them with any given opportunity. The most popular such songs can be considered “You are my darling”, “Oh, frost, frost,” “Am I to blame?”
Zhanna Bichevskaya – You are my darling (1983)
Oh, frost, frost
Original Russian drinking songs
Russian author’s songs have been performed by people for so long now, including during celebratory dinners and feasts, that many consider them folk songs. Some of them over time have even been edited. Depending on the circumstances and emotional state of singers, some songs were shortened, for example. In contrast to Russian folk songs, author’s drinking songs have a coherent plot, often ballad type. For example, the song “Walks along the Don” (based on the poem by Dmitry Oznobishin “Wonderful pandora”, 1835), “Brave Khas-Bulat!” (based on the poem by Alexander Ammosov “Ellegiya”, 1858).
Chorus “Peresvet” – Walks along the Don
N. Sazonova, I. Makaroav – Brave Khas-Bulat! / From the movie “The Women” (1965)
Drinking songs of some professions
We would like to separately mention the drinking songs of groups of people that are united by a common field of activity: archeologists, ethnographers, tourists – people who spend time in expeditions and long hiking trips. In such groups in place of folk material songs by Bulat Okudzhava, Alexander Rosenbaum, Yuri Vizbora and other bards are performed.
Oleg Mityaev – How wonderful / Tourist song
Among people of certain occupations and activities (pilots, railroad workers, paratroopers, students, etc.) there is a special set of drinking songs associated with their occupation and common interests.
Alexander Rosenbaum – Black Tulip / Clip from a war film “Afghan Breakdown”