Photo. Cover of the CD Total Balalaika Show. A wonderful concert in the wonderful old empire style city Helsinki, the capital in Finland. Helsinki`s biggest landmark, Helsinki Cathedral, Helsingin tuomiokirkko, Suurkirkko (in Finnish), is seen in the background on the cover.
This historical event broke some of the "ice" between Finland and Russia. Then the Cold War was turned to a warm and peaceful coexistence between the people.
After the Winter War between Finland and Soviet Russia in 1940, the friendship between the two nations has been fragile, but not on this particular day. The lady speaker opened the show with: "This a outrages spectacle - the Total Balalaika Show!" And so the show continued with sing along Finlandia - Hymn, composed by the famous Finnish composer Sibelius. This concert took place on 12 June 1993 on Senate Square in Helsinki, Finland. In general it was a strong symbolic achievement for reconciliation. Around 70,000 people from both Finland and Russia joined. They stood peacefully and happy together forgetting the Winter War and Cold War for a while.
The music and entertainment were expressed through empathy and mutual respect, which strengthened the link between the two nations. In one way it was a clash of cultures, but in another way the whole event turned out to be in perfect harmony.
Total Balalaika Show was filmed by the world famous director Aki Kaurismäki featuring a concert with the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov ensemble. It was an eclectic mix of Western rock and Russian folk music, including a balalaika rendition of Stairway to Heaven (not shown on DVD release of the film), and folk dancers performing to rock songs. The last song is “Knockin'on Heaven's Door “, a world famous song by Bob Dylan.
Some of the songs performed in the movie are:
Let's Work Together
The Volga Boatmen's Song
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
The Leningrad Cowboys is a Finnish rock band famous for its humorous songs and ludicrous hairstyles. Their website is: Leningrad Cowboys. The Leningrad Cowboys are sort of Finland's answer to the Monkees, a band that was originally created for a movie, but which went on to an artistic life of its own. The film, 1989's Leningrad Cowboys Go America, was written and directed by noted Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki.
Alexandrov Red Army Choir is one of the most famous and magnificient choruses in the world. Today, the ensemble is led by Honoured Artist of Russia Vyacheslav Korobko, who has been leading it since 2003.
The Alexandrov ensemble is a performing ensemble that serves as the official army choir of the Russian armed forces. The ensemble consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble. Website: Ensemble-aleksandrova.
The songs they perform range from Russian folk tunes to church hymns, operatic arias and popular music; examples include The Volga Boatmen's Song, Katyusha, Kalinka, Kernina and Ave Maria. Songs as Let`s work together and Happy together have a strong message to the audience. After the Soviet period, the ensemble has continued performing, entertaining audiences both inside and outside Russia.
In June 1993 the Leningrad Cowboys pulled off the most amazing production: "Total Balalaika Show", a joint concert with the full 160-member Russian Red Army Ensemble, which the Variety magazine called "the most incongruous - and inspired – crosscultural pairing since Nureyev danced with Miss Piggy".
The setting for this sensational show was grandiose: the biggest stage ever built in Finland, on the main square of Helsinki and witnessed by an enthusiast audience of 70.000 people! Today, the Senate Square is one of the main tourist attractions of Helsinki. Various art happenings and concerts have been set up on the Senate Square.
The Helsinki concert was followed in 1994 with a second Balalaika-joint-concert of the Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Ensemble. After this concert Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Ensemble continue to work together. It brings also hope for a better relationship between Finland and Russian in the future!
Stein Morten Lund, 1 December 2009
Websites for more information:
Total Balalaika Show (1994) movie:
A 57 minute documentary of a Helsinki concert featuring the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Red Army Choir and Ballet, who collaborate on a number of US Rock songs sung in English, like "Sweet Home, Alabama" as well as more traditional Russian songs like the "Volga Boatman". The last song is “Knockin'on Heaven's Door “, a world famous song by Bob Dylan.
Watch a video clip from the show on YouTube: Delilah - Total Balalaika Show.
Track Listings on CD:
2. It's Only Rock N'Roll
3. Let's Work Together
4. Volga Boatmen
5. Happy Together
6. Yellow Submarine
7. Cossack Was Riding Beyond the Duna
8. Proud Mary
11. Dancing in the Street
12. Knockin'on Heaven's Door