Good news. In a goodwill maneuver, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an amnesty for a slew of prisoners, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, both of the punk rock band Pussy Riot.
The women were sentenced to two years in prison for staging a protest performance in a Russian church. Over the last several months, Tolokonnikova, known as Nadia, has been the subject of intense international concern, first for her health as she staged a hunger strike, and then for her safety as she disappeared for several weeks during the course of a transfer. She later turned up in a Siberian prison colony.
It’s easy to see this move as a public relations tactic in advance of Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games, and the president was very clear that amnesty was not granted because of the specifics of the cases (30 Greenpeace activists will also be freed), but rather in honor of the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution. He said, “I was not sorry that they (the Pussy Riot members) ended up behind bars. I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behavior, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women.”
Lawyers for the Pussy Riot members hope the women, who were scheduled for release in March 2014, will be freed within the next few days. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was convicted along with her bandmates but had her sentence suspended on appeal.
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This morning, inside of a Russian court surrounded outside by furious protesters, a judge declared Russian punk band Pussy Riot guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The charge ultimately came with a sentence of two years in jail, and the ruling comes five months after band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were initially imprisoned for performing a “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In the February 2012 performance, the group donned neon“colored balaclavas and played a song entitled “Mother of God, Chase Putin Out,” which resulted in their immediate arrest and detention at the hands of Russian police.
Over the course of their time in custody, the band members have received support from numerous high“profile musicians, including Paul McCartney, Peaches, Madonna, Sting, Peter Gabriel, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bjí¶rk. Despite the mounting global pressure from celebrity musicians and human rights organizations on Russian authorities to release the women, the judge declared that the two“year sentence is a “caution to others” according to the Wall Street Journal’s live blogging of the trial.
In their closing statements preceding the sentencing, band members defended their actions against the prosecution’s accusations of religious hatred. Samutsevich declared that Vladimir Putin‘s government had appropriated the Orthodox Church as a political tool in order to control the Russian populace, and repress human rights and civil liberties. The band’s performance, Samutsevich continued, was an attempt to reclaim the Orthodox culture, which the government had co“opted as an oppressive arm of the Putin regime. Contrary to the charges against them, the band members claim, their performance was meant to reunite the church with the Russian spirit of “civic revolt and protest.” Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova also drew parallels with persecuted Soviet“era poet Joseph Brodsky and the absurdist Oberiu poets of the 1920s and ’30s. Brodsky was denounced and eventually expelled from the USSR, while the Oberiu poets were condemned for “literary hooliganism” and arrested.
Russia’s notably troubled history with media censorship has been worsening, as the trial’s outcome suggests. The Huffington Post claims that recent laws have increased fines to almost $9,000 for those who take part in unauthorized demonstrations, and that NGOs must register as “foreign agents” if they are to engage in any political activity. Though the three members of Pussy Riot supposedly laughed after their sentence was announced, it remains to be seen whether their sentencing will trigger a larger backlash against Russia’s draconian censorship laws, as they implied in their closing statements.
Below, watch a bystander video of the protest gig that resulted in the band’s arrest.
After sentencing, the band remained defiant, with Alyokhina stating bluntly, “I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ˜so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.”
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It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to call New Jersey pop punk act Man Overboard a touring machine. Their schedule for 2012 has so far included dates in the United Kingdom, United States, continental Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. As if that weren’t enough, this summer they played every single date on notoriously brutal The Vans Warped Tour. We caught up with guitarist Justin Collier at their Mansfield, MA Warped Tour stop to talk stage dives, Russian punk shows, and why little girls love New Found Glory.
OS: You guys played a killer set earlier today, even though you had a pretty early time slot.
JC: I think that a lot of bands get really bummed out when they first come on the tour and find out they have to play either really early or really late. They think that if they play first, then nobody’s going to be there, and if they play last, then everybody’s going to be gone already. Even though some kids at our signing today told us that they missed our set because they didn’t get there until 1 p.m, I think a lot of kids do get there early. Some of the people who arrive early and don’t have anyone to watch will think, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that band. I’ll check them out.” And that’s half the battle of Warped Tour. That’s what you’re here for”to get new fans.
OS: But by now, you guys have become a fairly established act on the tour, and it doesn’t seem like you need to try incredibly hard to get a lot of people out to see you. There were a certainly a lot of people out there this morning.
JC: It’s different in different places, you know? When you play somewhere like Boston and there are 20,000 people out there, it’s a little easier than when you play Kansas and there are only 5,000 people for all of the bands on the tour. Being from a city like Boston or Philly, where I’m from, there are always good shows. There would be bands that I’d see in Philly and I’d think, “Wow, they’re huge,” but I’d see them somewhere else and realize that they weren’t as big as they seemed.
OS: Being from a place with very intense scene loyalty, like the Philly or Jersey area, how do you feel when you tour abroad? You guys have toured in some very distant places recently, like Russia and Ukraine. What effect do those experiences have on the feeling of musical place you get from your hometowns?
JC: It makes me really appreciate being from the city of Philadelphia. I think that I didn’t before, but now I do, because there are things like R5 Productions and other really great companies, people, and collectives that do shows and events and all kinds of cool stuff. I have a very high standard of how punk shows should be run, but then we would go somewhere like Russia and, not to their discredit, they just haven’t been bred the same way that Phildelphians and Bostonians have been bred to run punk shows. I’m used to some pretty cool shit, but other places are just different and you have to get used to it. It’s always an adventure going somewhere else anyway.
We could dedicate an entire blog to the many types of songs that can be played with a guitar, or even one that explains how the instrument is used in different countries. However, this time we will focus on one of the greatest guitar acts on OurStage, one that takes World music to the next level by using this instrument as the inspiration.
We are talking about Six Strings and a Piece of Wood, the name behind some of the most popular and beautiful guitar pieces on our site. Six Strings was born from the amazing talent of Radomir Vasiljevic and Goran Kulic, two very talented composers who know how to create art with the guitar.
One can easily tell how great Six Strings truly is simply by visiting its OurStage profile. OurStage fans really dig the music and are not afraid to show it. The act has won the World and Latin Channel prizes several times and is a regulars in the Top 10 charts.
What makes Six Strings such a fan favorite is its ability to create pieces that express a million things without having to use lyrics to do so. They communicate with the listener with the sole voice of the guitar, and are able to create poetry that moves and inspires.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring pieces by Six String is Papazjanija, a piece with Balkan-ethno influence, played on a nylon strings guitar. Play Papazjanija and you’ll immediately travel to foreign lands, or try the beautiful Gypsy Market for an exciting taste of the acoustic guitar.
Greece, Spain, Russia¦ The music by Six Strings and a Piece of Wood can take you anywhere in a matter of seconds, and than take you back where you are at. Try it and you’ll understand why fans around the world love this act. Here is a playlist to accompany you on your journey. Bon Voyage!