Borderline Latin: Leningrad

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

It all began when I noticed that A Band of Bitches seemed to be an ironic, borderline nihilistic Latin version of the Russian band Pussy Riot. You know: the name, the masks that look like highly stylized balaclavas, the fact that their songs show a total lack of interest in social issues, singing instead about the simple things in life. One evening I started listening to both bands with a friend, trying to find more parallelisms to support my argument. But I soon remembered that combining vodka and tequila leads to dangerous places, so I dropped the question and we just started listening to Mexican and Russian bands. That’s how I landed on Leningrad.

Like most people, I first discovered Leningrad through the soundtrack of Everything is Illuminated –a very premium film based on a premium novel: highly recommendable. One of their songs from that soundtrack sounds too much like a danzón to be ignored by Mexican sensibilities. Leningrad is a punk ska band from Saint Petersburg currently composed of 15 members, according to their Facebook page. They are lead by Sergey Shnurov, and started performing during the second half of the 1990s. Their songs are about the simple pleasures of life: drinking, cursing, more drinking and more cursing; but they also sometimes touch on social issues. Russian authorities have responded to all of this with censorship and persecution –isn’t this familiar to every Latin American?

They disbanded in 2008 but they came back a couple of years later. In 2012, only a few months ago, they released a new record called Pez –at least that’s the Spanish translation of the title. From that record, here’s the song “Pez” –doesn’t the video remind you of a good old afternoon family reunion?

[insert-video youtube=a-CnWwbeetE]

Click HERE to read more “Borderline Latin” profiles. For comments and tips, please contact me at:, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.