Monday, March 8, 2010

Why do musicians like Edward Anatolevich Hill's vokaliz hit "I am very glad, because I'm finally back home" (a/k/a "Trololo") so much?

Well, I don't know if this is viral yet, but I've seen it twice, and I'm usually slow in picking things up, so if I've seen it twice then it must be viral.

Let's start with the Tall Ships, who have their own Facebook page. The Tall Ships are a band that I kinda sorta discovered via - I had listened to a Dryve song, and the drummer of that former band, Keith Andrew, shared his new band, the Tall Ships, with me. So anyways, on Friday the Tall Ships posted an update to the aforementioned Facebook page that concluded as follows:

We're thinking of covering this song. Steve pretty much has the vocal down...

The band then shared this video:

However, since the title of the video was Я очень рад, ведь я, наконец, возвращаюсь домой, I couldn't really figure out who did it.

I didn't think much of it - the Tall Ships are on an eastern European record label (Minority Records from Prague), so I figured that was just some idiosyncracy.

Until a Texan chimed in.

Specifically, Josh Haley, well-known among FriendFeed circles as one of the two Ffundercats. Josh, like Keith Andrew, has a musical bent, and is known for his ukelele playing and his remixes.

Well, Josh shared a video with the comment

You can't possibly post a video more awesome than this.

And, although it was a different link, it ended up being the same video.

This one labeled the song as "Trololo," but that probably isn't an official title.

I ran Я очень рад, ведь я, наконец, возвращаюсь домой through Google Translate and got the translation "I am very glad, because I'm finally back home." Well, with that big grin on his face, I hope he's glad.

I initially couldn't find anything about the video, other than a bunch of blog posts linking to some occurrence of the video with a brief comment about how awesome it is. While much of the activity seems to have erupted in late February, and the Tall Ships' version was uploaded to YouTube in November, I did find something on that seems to be from October 2009. But even that site listed the video as "Miscellaneous."

But finally, Know Your Meme provided the answer:

Singing in the video is Edward Anatolevich Hill, a Soviet-era vocalist once celebrated as the “Honored Artist of the USSR” in 1968 and “People’s Artist of the USSR” in 1974.

Because Edward’s performance was poorly lipsynched (albeit to his own vocal track) and entirely composed of mouth music without any lyrics, the song was perceived by some westerners as highly eccentric.

Still more information is available from Justin Erik Hallador Smith:

According to his Russian Wikipedia page, Hill was born in Smolensk in 1934, and finished his studies at the Leningrad Conservatory in 1960. By 1974 he had been named a People's Artist of the USSR, and in 1981 he was awarded the Order of the Friendship of Peoples. He is best known for his interpretations of the songs of the Soviet composer, Arkadii Ostrovskii....

The song he is interpreting, "I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home," is an Ostrovskii composition, and it is meant to be sung in the vokaliz style, that is to say sung, but without words...[V]okaliz was a well established genre, one that seems close in certain respects to pantomime.

I found the Russian Wikipedia page here. Now I can't read Russian, but I can read enough to know that Hill is still alive. And when I ran the article through Google Translate, I unearthed this little tidbit:

Since 1997 involved with his son in a joint project with the rock group Prepinaki.

I searched for the rock group Препинаки and found this page, which I again translated:

In 1996, Prepinaki "have created a joint project with his ideological father (another father! See the spiritual father), People's Artist of the RSFSR Edward Gil - Gil and Sons. As stated in a press release, "the creative task of the project - rethinking the heritage of the Soviet stage 60's - 70-ies." Project "Gil and Sons" recorded in 1997 album "There's song in a circle" and continues to tour.

As for Prepinaki's style, here's what the page said:

The band's style drifted between new wave and bossa-nova, and now represents a unique fusion of dance rhythms of different ages and continents: the traditional pop music, especially disco, Soviet music, hot Latin rhythms.

But, apparently, no vokaliz. But links to a video:

However, most people who see the original "I am very glad, because I'm finally back home" video aren't thinking about the deeper meaning of vokaliz style; most are thinking about bad lip-syncing. I'm fascinated by the fact that the two people from whom I first learned about the video both happened to be musicians.

Does this mean that when the music stars gather as hip joints, they'll demand that the deejay put "Trololo" on the video screens?

Or does this mean that vokaliz itself will suddenly sweep the English-speaking music world?

P.S. Hill's page is here and includes a biography but sadly no music. does list a December 29, 2009 concert, but apparently it was cancelled.
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