Marco Werman: When you think of Russian punk rockers, you might think of Pussy Riot, the self-described punk protest band, they're actually in New York right now. But long before Pussy Riot, there was the real deal. Yanka Dyagileva, one of the most popular figures in Russia's 1980s underground punk scene. She died at the age of 24, an apparent suicide. Now the Russian government is putting up a plaque to commemorate Yanka Dyagileva. Alina Simone is a musician and songwriter and a contributor to our program. Her family left the Soviet Union when she was a child, her album "Everyone is crying out to me, beware" was a collection of songs by Yanka Dyagileva. Alina, explain why Yanka had such a devoted following?
Alina Simone: Well, she had a cult following, this was an underground scene right? She was associated with some far more prominent Siberian punk rock groups and Siberian punk during this time, during the 80s in the Soviet Union had a cache that the rock scene in Moscow and St. Petersburg did not. Siberia was really sort of the center of the punk scene at the time. And as the only female solo singer in this group she stood out.
Werman: And now the Russian government wants to put up this plaque to commemorate her, why?
Simone: It's actually a really interesting story, the plaque is going up on the side of the house, where Yanka was born and where she was living at the time of her death in 1991, and it's been an initiative that has been in the works for some time. It was put forward by fans, and in the summer of 2013 it was actually defeated. The city government of Novosibirsk,, the 3rd largest city in Russia, The commission felt that she was a promising artist, an emerging artist but you know, she really died too young, and she wasn't well-known enough to merit a plaque. And actually interestingly, some of the people who argued against the plaque said that Yanka herself wouldn't have wanted to be the subject of a government sponsored plaque and I agree with them, I think that's actually true. Then this year, the fans who put forward the initiative said that they would independently raise the money for the plaque you know, and it went through the city commission it's got the signature of the mayor and they're moving forward! They've got a local sculptor whose going to work on it, and so this plaque to a female Soviet punk singer is going to go up in Novosibirsk.
Werman: So how is Yanka, I mean aside from, you know the Russian government giving her a plaque, how is she viewed in today's Russia by the vast majority of people?
Simone: Unfortunately, people don't know very much about Yanka, I mean all of her recordings were, you know made kind of on very rudimentary equipment using pretty rudimentary instruments she never got the benefit of
lavish studio treatment. and so in that sense her recordings remain a little bit inaccessible to the mainstream right, they've got a very raw quality that wouldn't necessarily play well on
mainstream radio. That's why initiatives like this are so exciting because it's really bringing these important moments in Soviet history to light.
Werman: Alina Simone, good to speak with you today, thank you.
Simone: Thanks Marco.
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