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Music / Viktor Tsoi

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Цой, Виктор Робертович. Кино. Цой жив!
Viktor Robertovich Tsoinote  (1962 to 1990) was a Soviet singer and actor of Korean and Russian ancestry. He grew up in Leningrad, and became interested in music in his teens. He wanted to sing rock songs about life on the streets of Leningrad, but was frustrated that the Soviet government favored the happy pop singers of Moscow.

Tsoi then led the band Kino and became a leading member of the underground rock scene of Leningrad, where he made his stage debut singing "Elektrichka," a song about a man who does not want to go where his train is taking him. This metaphor for the frustration Soviet youth had with their lives propelled Tsoi, and Kino, to fame. His music was immediately banned from live performances, but he and his fans didn't mind, and he gave secret concerts.

He married Marianna in 1985, and later that year their son Sasha was born. In 1986, as Mikhail Gorbachev was beginning to liberalize the Soviet Union, Tsoi and Kino were allowed to perform in concerts. He released a song called "[We await/demand] changes!" This activist sentiment was carried over into 1987, when his album Blood Type unleashed "Kinomania," and Tsoi and Kino went on tours for the next three years.

His biggest concert was in 1990, when he sang to 62,000 fans in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Sadly, he died in August 1990 in a car crash in Latvia, just as he had finished recording an album. He was remembered as the pioneer of Russian rock music, and a wall on Moscow's Arbat Street is covered with graffiti dedicated to him. His fans' motto is "Цой жив!" ("Tsoi is alive!").

Although his main occupation was music, Viktor Tsoi was also a decent modernist artist. He made many of his album covers himself and was one of the pioneers of what would be later called Russian Neoacademism.

Kino albums

  • 45 (1982)
  • 46 (1983)
  • Nachalnik Kamchatki (Chief of Kamchatka) (1984)
  • Eto ne lyubov (This is not Love) (1985)
  • Noch (Night) (1986)
  • Gruppa krovi (Blood Type) (1988)
  • Posledny geroy (The Last Hero) (1989)
  • Zvezda po imeni Solntse (A Star Called Sun) (1989)
  • Chyorny albom (Black Album) (1990)

Film roles

  • Holidays' End (1986)
  • Assa (1988)
  • The Needle (1988) as Moro.
  • Sex and Perestroika (1990)

Tropes found in his work:

  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Expelled from art school for poor performance - though many assume it was just a pretext, and the actual reason for expelling was his eccentric punk lifestyle. His first album, 45, also had two songs about it, Bezdelnik and Bezdelnik 2. "Bezdelnik" is Russian for "slacker".
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Discussed in Sledi za soboy (Watch Yourself), a song about all the numerous ways death can strike without warning or reason.
    • Said song was originally recorded for Gruppa Krovi but was removed from the final tracklist. It appeared a couple of years later as the last song on their final album, released after Tsoi's fatal accident - the lyrics even reference a car crash.
  • Elvis Lives: "Tsoi is alive" is a common saying among Russian rock fans: what Elvis Presley was to America, Tsoi was to Russia, although in Tsoi's case, it tends to be more metaphorical, referring to his legacy.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Kino's last album, after Tsoi's death, was simply titled Kino. The cover was simply the word "Kino" on an all-black background, which earned it the popular name Black Album
  • Protest Song: The narrator of "Peremen" ("Changes") demands, well, changes in the stagnant world he lives in. It is strongly associated with Perestroika, although its popularity transcends the movement - in 2012, both major parties used it in conferences.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Tsoi's Signature Style, with a strong emphasis on "and the truth".
  • Translated Cover Version: "Gruppa krovi" was covered (in Korean) by South Korea's Yoon Do Hyun Band, who considered Tsoi Korean enough to include him on a tribute to Korean rock. Tsoi himself also recorded the song in English for Joanna Stingray, a big fan of his from America.
  • War Is Hell: Many of his songs. "V nashikh glazakh" ("In Our Eyes") features soldiers' misfortunes, and "Gruppa krovi" is about unwillingness to engage in the conflict and the possibility of pointless death.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Most of Kino's songs' lyrics are fairly meaningful... with the exception of "Alyuminevye ogurtsy" ("Aluminum Cucumbers"). Tsoi himself said explicitly that its lyrics were meant to create certain associations without actually making any sense.