Friday 29 March 2013

Louna: Armenian Russian LGBT friendly "protest rock sensation"

Awesome. I did not know about this band until reading this article on Advocate: Meet Russia's Female-Fronted Protest Rock Sensation ["The Russian punk rock band Louna, and their sexy butchy lead singer Lou Gevorkian, talk about gay life in Russia, their beef with Madonna, and the masks we all wear."]

"Louna is widely considered the most successful rock band of the modern protest movement in Russia (though Pussy Riot has certainly gotten all the press internationally). [...]  Now Gevorkian and her Louna bandmates have found themselves with a larger audience, significant portion of which is queer girls. In fact, when we asked if Gevorkian was a lesbian, through a translater and publicists in Russia and the U.S., she was perplexed. She reminded us that while commonplace in America, such questions aren't usually asked in Russia, where there's been a crack down on anything promoting homosexuality. Still she and her bandmates, Vitaly Demidenko and Ruben “Rou” Kazarian, were eager to talk about their new album Behind a Mask (which has many songs that could speak to LGBT issues), their growing LGBT fanbase, and why punk rock is a lesbian thing in Russia."

I dig a bit further, and her full name is Lousine Gevorkyan. She is originally from Kapan (Armenia).

Wikipedia: Lusine «Lou» Gevorkyan (Russian: Лусинэ Геворкян, Armenian: Լուսինե Գևորգյան,
born February 21, 1983) is a lead singer of Russian nu metal bands Tracktor Bowling and Louna. Gevorkyan was born in Kapan. She was one of the founding members of the Russian band Sfera Vliyaniya, but she left this group one year after the establishment. Later, she was picked as the lead singer of another project, Tracktor Bowling, that became one of the most popular metal bands from Russia. In 2008, she founded one more group, Louna, and at the moment Lusine appears in both.

Another Armenian in the band is Rouben Kazarian / Kazariyan (Rou). According to Louna website, he is "the quiet maestro of Louna. Rouben holds a PhD in Political Science, is fluent in Korean, English and Russian, and is the composer of almost every hit song in the history of Louna."

He is working at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences as a staff researcher for the Korean Department. Here is what he had to say re human rights in Russia, religion and church in an interview posted on The Pit:

Rou: [...] we agreed that we would address the most pressing and sharp social issues in our lyrics. It was just natural, given the fact that the situation in the country began to actively stagnate, human rights were regularly violated, and those in power increasingly distanced themselves from solving social problems while at the same time plundering the country. We have been really angry about it and unfortunately nothing in our country has changed since Louna’s first day. [...] One of our strong and common convictions in Louna is atheism. We do not have anything against the beliefs that people have, but we are definitely against the Church as a form social organization and control. Unfortunately despite the advances in science, technology and knowledge the XXI century still has brought back the relics of the dark ages – religion has returned with a vengeance in Russia and in the world. That is an obvious result of the lack of education in our consumer driven society. Religion is a convenient tool to breed docile and unthinking people easily controlled and manipulated. Business is our statement against all this. Mama is a different story. This is how we see our fans and first of all ourselves coming to what we are now. I think the best way for me to describe Mama would be to cite Bon Jovi: “Welcome to wherever you are, this is your life. You’ve made it that far”
Back to the interview with the Advocate re LGBT rights and being gay in Russia. I do not agree with Lou that "There’s really not any real social problems as such as long as you don’t scream about it on every street corner." This is exactly THE indication of the problem. But I agree with her about marginalising and scandalising LGBT related culture and people, and using it by politicians & co to distract people from real issues. Similar things happening in Armenia too.

Advocate: You’ve done some work with LGBT groups. What does it mean to be gay this day and age in Russia?
Gevorkian: There’s really not any real social problems as such as long as you don’t scream about it on every street corner. It’s true that same-sex marriage is prohibited in Russia, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be together. However, the pop music industry has marginalized LGBT culture in Russia in the eyes of ordinary people by making them seem vulgar and laughable. It makes gays seem like freaks in the eyes of ordinary people. The church has tried to turn this around to their favor by making it a problem. I, on the other hand, really think that the scandalous attention given to such things serves only to distract people from political and economic problems. It’s like the situation when Madonna performed in Russia a few months ago. The politicians wanted to sue her for spreading gay propaganda when she voiced her support of LGBT issues during her show. By doing this they sparked another cheap scandal in order to make it look like they are doing something, like they’re doing their jobs. They use their power to show people that they are in control and that they make the rules.

Advocate: Lou, do you or any of your bandmates have a gay following?
Gevorkian: Of course, I have quite a lot of lesbian fans here. They are my friends. We always share our problems and emotions with each other. They’re just normal people who listen to rock. I don’t divide people between sexual minorities or majorities. I’m only interested in the human qualities of a person. Your heavy metal punk sound isn’t generally a genre that’s thought to have many gay fans. Is that assumption wrong?
Kazarian: I agree. And as I said earlier, gay culture [in Russia] is basically coming from richer people who are not into rock music. But you’ll find many lesbians listening to rock music. Besides that, we tend to play heavier than usual rock, and that probably appeals even less to the LGBT audience. I think that is a common prejudice. The LGBT community is definitely a minority in every country, but fans of really heavy music — like death metal, grindcore, hardcore etc — are a minority, too. So we’re ready to try to fix that injustice.
Gevorkian: As far as I know in Russia there are lots of girls who have homosexual relations who love rock and punk music.

Thursday 28 March 2013

TIME: Gay Marriage Revolution

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G .

...and totally inspiring.

TIME's cover story "chronicles how, thanks to a massive shift in public opinion, gay marriage went from inconceivable to inevitable in less than two decades."
TIME's new issue, featuring the story, 'How Gay Marriage Won,' hits newsstands Friday. Two couples who were photographed to illustrate the story appear on two separate covers this week. See more portraits from TIME's cover shoot. 
*Cover photographs by Peter Hapak.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Attack against gay friendly DIY bar and disruption of diversity march feature in the UK Foreign Office "travel advice to Armenia"

For the first time, updated "travel advice to Armenia" by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)  features attack against gay friendly DIY bar in Yerevan and disruption of diversity march by neo-nazi groups and elements.
In May 2012 a gay-friendly bar in downtown Yerevan was attacked and a diversity march in central Yerevan was disrupted by nationalist groups. See Local Laws and Customs.

Under the Local Laws and Customs, British Foreign Office continues:
Homosexuality was decriminalised in 2003 but is still viewed with disapproval by many Armenians. Local LGBT groups occasionally suffer from verbal and physical harassment. Although same sex couples are often seen holding hands and kissing in public, this is common in Armenian culture, and is not necessarily an indicator of sexual orientation. You should be discreet.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Soviet prisoners: criminal tattoo as "secret code language"

I posted about Russian Criminal Tattoo encyclopaedia and related small exhibit of photographs "Bodies As Text" in London.

The photo above I spotted recently in Saatchi gallery (London) as part of broader exhibit of Russian (ex-Soviet) art.

More about the author Sergei Vasiliev here: "Taken between 1989 and 1993, Sergei Vasiliev’s photographs of Soviet prisoners document the secret code language of criminals in the USSR, evidence of a gritty spirit of picaresque resistance within a violently repressive culture."