Russian folk music artists
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Russian traditional music specifically deals with the folk music traditions of the ethnic Russian people. It does not include the various forms of art music, which in Russia often contains folk melodies and folk elements or music of other ethnic groups living in Russia.
Ethnic styles in the modern eraSoviet postage stamp depicting traditional Russian musical instruments.
The performance and promulgation of ethnic music in Russia has a long tradition. Initially it was intertwined with various forms of art music, however, in the late 19th century it began to take on a life of its own with the rise in popularity of folkloric ensembles, such as the folk choir movement led by Mitrofan Pyatnitsky and the Russian folk instrument movement pioneered by Vasily Andreyev.
In Soviet Russia, folk music was categorized as being democratic (of the people) or proletarian (of the working class) as opposed to art music, which was often regarded as being bourgeois. After the revolution, along with Proletarian "mass music" (music for the proletarian masses) it received significant support from the state. In Post World War II Russia, Proletarian mass music however lost its appeal, whereas folkloric music continued to have a widespread support among the population, inside and outside of the Soviet Union. However the authentic nature of folk music was severely distorted by the drive to 'professionalise' performers, regardless of the genre they worked in: thus all folk singers were obliged to both learn Western-style classical notation, and to learn to perform classical repertoire – or else risk losing their right to perform as 'professionals'.
In the 1960s folk music in Russia continued to receive significant state support and was often seen as the antithesis of Western pop music. The fact that numerous Soviet folkloric ensembles were invited for foreign tours raised the prestige of the folk performer to that of academic musicians, and in some cases even higher because access to the West and Western goods was very desirable.
Ethnic (folk) music in Russia can often be categorized according to the amount of authenticity in the performance: truly authentic folk music (reproductive performances of traditional music), folkloric and "fakeloric" performance.
Russia is a multi-ethnic country with some 300 different ethnic groups, many of them non-Slavic, living within its borders. This article deals specifically with just Russian ethnic music.
Authentic folk music
This music is closely tied in with the village life and traditions. It was usually not performed by professional musicians. From the Central Committee's resolution of 1932, which prescribed musical literacy (in parallel to the drive to industrialise the Soviet Union), there has been a marked decline in authentic folk performance practice. Festivals, competitions and the work of ethnomusicologists have made attempts at preserving what has survived. In recent times there has been a movement by musicologists to study and reproduce authentic folk music in an authentic performance style on the concert stage. This movement in Russia is spearheaded by members of the faculty of folk music at the Moscow Conservatory under the direction of Dmitri Pokrovsky. More recently, Russian folk songs with strong religious (spiritual) components have been performed by singers like Zhanna Bichevskaya, Olga Arefieva and Elena Frolova