Би-2

Bi-2 (Би-2) is a Belorussian/Russian alternative rock band that has been in existence on and off since the late 1980s. Its two founders, Lyova Bi-2 (Лёва Би-2; Yegor Bortnik, Егор Бортник) and Shura Bi-2 (Шура Би-2; Aleksandr Uman, Александр Уман), met as teenagers in Bobruisk, Belarus, where they were both involved in the theater of the absurd. They eventually decided to head in the direction of a rock band rather than continue their theatrical activities. Lyova played the bass guitar, which he’d picked up as a child, and wrote lyrics; Shura attended a music institute and played the double bass. They named their band Brothers in Arms but changed it soon after to the Shore of Truth, and then finally Bi-2. At that point, they had about 15 members cycling in and out.

Despite these odd beginnings, they achieved some success pretty quickly, touring all over Belarus for several years and performing at tons of concerts and festivals. They recorded their first album, Traitors to the Homeland (Изменники родины), in home studios in Minsk—some of their main hits came from that recording.

After 1991, Shura and Lyova emigrated, trying to escape the bleak outlook of post-Soviet Belarus. They lived in Israel and Australia for some time separately, but eventually found themselves in the same place again and recorded their second album. They picked up some popularity in Russia, and went there in 1999. After a rough start, they became very popular in much of the former Soviet Union.

Since then, Bi-2 has continued its creative experimentations. They’ve written film soundtracks (Seventh Day, Седьмой день; What Men Talk About, О чём говорят мужчины), completely changed the sound of their band in one fell swoop (in 2006’s change of membership, going more disco/electronica), and worked on unusual side projects, some of them crowd-funded. These days, the current band—Lyova, Shura, Andrey Zvonkov (Андрей Звонков; guitar), Maksim Andryushchenko (Максим Андрющенко; bass guitar), Boris Lifshitz (Борис Лифшиц; drums), and Yanik Nikolenko (Яник Николенко; flute, keyboards, tambourine)—are still recording, touring, and trying new things.

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“And the Ship Sails” (“И корабль плывет”), 2000:

 

Lyrics for “И корабль плывет”:

Сколько звезд на погоны
Добыли в боях
На пустых полигонах
В неведомых снах

Дайте небо под крылья
Подстреленных птиц
Журавлиному клину
Скорую помощь

Отпустите синицу
На верную смерть
Пусть ее приласкает свобода
И корабль плывет
И сквозь колотый лед

Я смотрю в эту черную воду

Никого не зову
Не жалею не плачу
У вас наяву
У меня на удачу

Луна как стекло
Не любила, не грела
Никого не ждала
Ничего не хотела

Отпустите синицу
На верную смерть
Пусть ее приласкает свобода
И корабль плывет
И сквозь колотый лед
Я смотрю в эту черную воду

 

“Compromise” (“Компромисс”), 2015:

 

Lyrics for “Компромисс”:

Друг дорогой, что ты сделал с собой?
Был худой, молодой, ел сердца
Пил и курил, зажигал и гасил
Думал, будешь таким до конца
Оставлен за спиной возраст Христа
Обратной стороной повернулась мечта

Лежит на струнах пыль
Ржавеет под окном разбитый телевизор
Ты сгладил все углы
И жизнь твоя сплошной проклятый компромисс
Ни вверх, ни вниз

Друг дорогой, как ты ладишь с тоской?
Выбираешь запой или спорт
Может, рискнёшь, стариною тряхнёшь

Напоследок возьмёшь свой аккорд
Оставлен за спиной возраст Христа
Обратной стороной повернулась мечта

Лежит на струнах пыль
Ржавеет под окном разбитый телевизор
Ты сгладил все углы
И жизнь твоя сплошной проклятый компромисс
Ни вверх, ни вниз

Лежит на струнах пыль
Ржавеет под окном разбитый телевизор
Ты сгладил все углы
И жизнь твоя сплошной проклятый компромисс
Ни вверх, ни вниз

 

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Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.