I’m in a dark, crowded room on a Sunday night, jumping up and down with hundreds of other people, singing “Devushka proskovya, iz podMoskovya.”
No, it’s not a political rally; it’s a concert by Russian band Uma 2rman, and it’s taken almost 14 years for me to get here.
In 2005, I was in Moscow for work purposes, living away from my boyfriend (as my now-husband was then), my friends, my work colleagues my language and even my alphabet. Even weather was unfamiliar as I was plunged into months of snowy sub-zero existence. Using the (woefully inadequate) Russian language skills which I had built up over three years of evening classes, every evening I would listen to the radio for the weather forecast for the next day. I got very good at recognising “Bolshoi sneg” (heavy snow) and temperatures like “minus pyatnadtsat grad” (-15C).
It was a strange time in my life, to be so very much alone and away from everything familiar.
But it was on the radio that I heard a song I liked. It was an upbeat, fun song and I was even able to recognise enough of the words to sing along in parts. It was the song Uma Thurman by the band Uma 2rman.
I liked the song enough to track down the CD from the media market before I left the country. (It seems incredible to me now that I had enough Russian skills to describe to the man at the music stall “the CD with the song about Uma Thurman that you hear on the radio.”) And unlike other pieces of music picked up on holiday (Uzbek Folk Music, for instance), the Uma 2rman CD is something I still listen to. I may not know all the words, but the tunes are great.
So when one of my colleagues mentioned casually that there was a Russian band playing in London if I was interested, and I saw it was Uma 2rman, I had to go.
It was a great night out, full of catchy choruses and immediately likeable tunes that sail easily between the shores of pop, rock and jazz. One of my (younger) colleagues said this was the first band she liked when she started to like music on her own, around age 10. I was pleased to see the songs that got the biggest reactions were ones I knew from my CD – so I think a lot of the (young) crowd also knew the songs from when they were young.
The Russian language part of my brain is pretty rusted now. I can still recognise words when I hear people speaking, but I struggle to translate them fast enough. While I’m still piecing the first sentence together, the speaker has gone on to the next sentence and I’m left behind.
So despite the time that has passed since I was in Moscow and left my Russian language skills set solid and rusted in my brain, on a Sunday night in London, I can still sing along to the songs of Uma 2rman, and dance like I’m dancing alone to the radio in a Moscow apartment.