This article gives a fascinating glimpse into the human spirit's indomitable quest for freedom of artistic expression:
They called it magnitizdat, or self-publication on reel-to-reel tape recorder, and it was a brand new medium for Soviet dissidents. Vladimir Kovner was there at its birth.
'In 1961 was the first major recording of Okudzhava,' Kovner recalls. 'It was in a communal apartment in front of 20 people, all friends. We had a couple of tape recorders on a small table, with some vodka of course, and that was it.'
The performer that evening was Bulat Okudzhava, a poet and former soldier whose father was executed during Stalin's Great Terror. In the late 1950s, Okudzhava began setting his poems to a spare guitar accompaniment and performed them at small gatherings of friends. Unofficial recordings of those performances, such as the one Kovner taped in 1961, began to circulate. Those recordings created a movement.
'At the time there were only songs approved by the Union of Song Writers, and all of them glorified Soviet power,' Kovner explains. 'Okudzhava glorified women, love, mothers. When he sang about war, his songs were sad. He never glorified war. That point of view was incredible. And those songs accompanied by just a guitar were very attractive to us.'
Soon, other guitar-poets began disseminating recordings. Copies of their performances spread quickly and beyond the reach of the Kremlin's control...
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