Musical Road Trip, Part 5 – Eastern Europe: SoundCloud rap, Álvaro Soler and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Musical Road Trip, Part 5 – Eastern Europe: SoundCloud rap, Álvaro Soler and more
The National Theatre in Sofia, Bulgaria. Source: Pikist.

In The New Federalist’s summer series, Juuso Järviniemi tours across Europe by entering European capitals’ names in the Spotify search box. After listening to George Ezra and çifteli-backed rap beats in Central Europe and the Balkans, he finishes the tour in Eastern Europe.

We have published four articles in the series so far. You can discover Mediterranean capitals here, visit Western European capitals here, explore Northern Europe here, and travel across Central Europe and the Balkans here.

Sofia: Álvaro Soler – Sofia (2016)

The Bulgarian capital Sofia is named after the ancient Saint Sophia Church, located just next to the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The Spanish singer Álvaro Soler’s sunny-sounding summer hit Sofia may not be dedicated to the city, but the female name and the church both have their origins in the Greek word for wisdom. Though the song might sound deceptively cheerful, it tells the story of how Sofia left the singer for another man. I hope Bulgaria doesn’t leave the EU for another union – that wouldn’t be wise.

Bucharest: Oskar Schuster – Bucharest (2015)

All sunshine fades away as we travel north to Romania, accompanied by ominously melancholic instrumental music from the German composer Oskar Schuster. The three-minute track is at times reminiscent of a music box, while at other moments it sounds like the opening credits of a horror film, as the camera zooms towards a castle lit by the full moon. After all, we’re talking about the country of Dracula.

Chisinau: 7 Klase – Plec din Chișinău (2019)

After O-Zone who gave us Dragostea Din Tei and SunStroke Project whose 2010 Eurovision Song Contest performance brought us the Epic Sax Guy meme, could the boy band 7 Klase be Moldova’s next big musical export? At least based on this song, they are keen to explore the great wide world out there – the title translates as “I’m Leaving Chisinau”. Though this song lacks the earworm element that would be required for international fame, the other ingredients for a hit seem to be there. I’d say give them a chance, and send them to Eurovision in a year or two!

Kyiv: Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – Kyiv (2020)

Those who were enchanted by Oskar Schuster in Bucharest will have an occasion to celebrate him as the uncrowned king of Eastern Europe. Namely, the most popular song for Kyiv is another gloomy instrumental from Schuster. For the sake of variation, we’ll instead take the British artists Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, who give us a more upbeat instrumental interpretation of the Ukrainian capital. In the true jazz spirit, the song is entirely a product of improvisation, featuring guitar, drums and bass. Let’s get grooving! (Does anyone say that?)

Minsk: jonatan leandoer96 – Hotel in Minsk (2017)

From the Swedish rapper who also performs as Yung Lean, Hotel in Minsk channels existential angst typical of the “SoundCloud rap” of recent years. The main story looks similar to Álvaro Soler’s Sofia: the artist is asking the object of his affection what the other guy did better. For its part, the piano in the background could almost be from Oskar Schuster. Now we’re only missing the boy bands and the jazz. Jonatan Leandoer Håstad spent some years of his childhood in the Belarusian capital, which might help explain the otherwise mysterious title for the track.

Moscow: Benji & Fede – Moscow Mule (2018)

Moscow has many strong contenders, like Michael Jackson’s Stranger in Moscow and an English version of Dschinghis Khan’s classic Moskau. (And Moscow River, in case anyone else here likes Giuseppe Ottaviani.) The Italian pop hit by Benji and Fede wins the day with 38 million streams and positive vibes to contrast with the depressed night in Minsk. Of course Moscow would be in the song title thanks to vodka: Moscow mule is a drink made of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice.

Tbilisi: Viper Diva – Born To Be Slytherin (Tbilisi Mix) (2020)

As we travel south towards the Caucasus, the glossy pop from a major record label changes into techno music played in underground parties, coming from a duo of French DJs. The French La Stud website tells that the mention of Tbilisi in the title is a nod to the Bassiani techno nightclub located in the city, which among its other events organises LGBTQ parties, and was raided by Georgian authorities in 2018. With slight further googling, it turns out that the club is at the centre of social and cultural conflicts ongoing in Georgia, concerning not only LGBT+ rights but also drug policy. I for one learned something new tonight!

Yerevan: Ludovico Einaudi – Yerevan (1999)

In Yerevan, we get removed from all kinds of cultural and other conflict, and instead seek calm and connection with nature. The Italian TV and film composer Ludovico Einaudi collaborates with the Armenian duduk player Djivan Gasparyan, bringing Mount Ararat in front of the listener’s eyes. Located on the Turkish side of the border, the mountain permanently watches over the Armenian capital from the horizon. “What’s a duduk”, I hear you ask. It’s a traditional Armenian woodwind instrument whose sounds are included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Baku: KESI feat. ICEKIID – Baku (2020)

The tour of 49 European capitals ends in Baku but strangely enough, with a Danish rap song with no connection whatsoever to Azerbaijan. According to my wobbly Danish skills, the song is about wanting to get back together with your ex. Featured on an album released just weeks ago, the song has already racked up more than a million listens. A reminder that you can find just about anything when you enter uncharted waters, and that the world of music evolves continuously. Who knows what we might find if we went on another similar tour of Europe in a few years’ time!

This ends our Spotify tour of European capitals. Which of today’s songs was your favourite? And what European capital has the best song to its name? Share your thoughts by tagging us on Twitter or dropping a comment on our Facebook page!

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