A few presidential debates may rough up the political waters in America, but that is nothing compared to the lengths some people will go to make a political statement in Russia. One group of people in particular is Pussy Riot. They are a feminist band, and their goal is to oppose Russian president Vladimir Putin by inciting anarchy whenever and however they can, all to the tune of some punk-rock music.
Forming in mid-2011, Pussy Riot is comprised of a dozen members who give impromptu and often extremely politically-charged performances in various locations around Moscow. When performing, each band member wears a brightly colored balaclava that completely hides their face, to the point where the identities of several members are unknown to the general public. They are only masked vigilantes fighting against oppression. The lyrics to their songs call for women’s rights and the downfall of capitalism, which they consider to be an enemy of humanity and freedom. However, these laments could be the cry of any old rock band with half of a guitar and a distaste for government. What sets Pussy Riot aside is the daring way in which they give their “performances” to the public. Almost like guerrilla warfare, the band pops up in random places around the city, such as in subway stations or on the tops of buses, without any warning and proceeds to proclaim their beliefs to all present through the use of song. In fact, the entire style of the band is based around this theme of strategy and covertness. Most of their songs are purposefully barely over a minute long, because at that point in the performance, the police are on their way.
One such encounter with the police last March led to the arrest of three members of Pussy Riot, sparking a global phenomenon. Musicians Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were detained after starting one of their guerrilla performances in the middle of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow. Charged with hooliganism, the three faced up to several years in prison for their actions. In response to this trial, musicians and other people of influence from around the world began to pledge their support for the band and its feminist beliefs, including Elijah Wood, Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein and even Madonna. However, though Pussy Riot showed appreciation for such support, they refused to accept any aid from such artists due to the band’s fervent rejection of the Western world and its capitalist structure.
For a band that relies so heavily on voicing their opinions, Pussy Riot’s music is not exactly YouTube-sensation material. Their songs typically involve a shredding guitar solo interlaced with the sound of a rather worn-out voice spouting rebellious lyrics. And no self-respecting punk rock band would be complete without the ever-present, crashing beat of the drums to back them up, and Pussy Riot is no exception. Only a small amount of musical talent is necessary to audition for a part in the group, and one member was even quoted as saying how their type of punk music is more like screaming than singing. But that is not a problem for this band, because with Pussy Riot, musical excellence is not the objective. Above all else, the objective is to send a message.
Pussy Riot is not connected to any record label, they do not have hit singles on the radio, and they are not planning a world tour. For all intents and purposes, they are not for sale (although what songs they have are available for free on Myspace). They are a group of revolutionaries who have engaged in a battle against what they believe to be an oppressive system, and for their weapons of choice they have chosen music.