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Den Sorte Skole / Oligarkh

Den Sorte Skole

A musical Tower of Babel.

Black schools were founded in the aftermath of the American Civil War to make sure that the white supremacy could be maintained. The pen is known to be mightier than the sword, but without proper education (this school of segregation was in a poor state) you’re destined to remain a slave to your former master.

The distinction between “us” and “them” is also found upfront on the critically acclaimed debut album by Den Sorte Skole [The Black School]. The title “Indians & Cowboys” is meant to be read ironically, as nothing else in their aesthetic champions such a worldview. Like the cover art, the music of the Copenhagen-based collective is a seamless collage of everything that exists between heaven and earth, gathered from every corner of the planet. This is true world music.

To call it their first album is misleading. Since their foundation in 2003, Den Sorte Skole have released a number of mixtapes, named “Lektion” [lecture]. Like “Indians & Cowboys” these are woven together by samples taken from a three-digit number of vinyl records. Because of clearance issues however, the trio haven’t able to sell their music (though it can be downloaded for free from their website).

Which says alot about the scope and finesse oftheir project, in which the removal of a single piece of music – be it a reggae track from the Himalayas or field recordings from the pygmees of Cameroon – will cause the whole thing to collapse. It’s with good reason that Den Sorte Skole has been called a musical Tower of Babel.



Purifying rap beats.
“Oligarchy, a rule by the rich.” When the Soviet Union collapsed at the start of the 90’s, a lot of businessmen became incredibly wealthy through buying government institutions as they were being privatized. Especially during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency this gave them enormous political influence.

It hardly seems coincidental that Victor Volcovich from St. Petersburg named his musical project after these types. In his productions, which are equally influenced by Slavic folk music and aggressive club music, you can sense a deep frustration over the state of affairs. In that sense, the many references to religion in the form of samples and song titles seem to be implying that God might help us.

Thanks in particular to the frenetic drum grooves of Evgenii Bugaev, this nevertheless is music that tries to rough up the listener. But as with any intense musical expression – be it hardcore punk, death metal or drum and bass – Oligarkh carries with it a promise of catharsis, that the work of art will lead to an emotional cleansing.

That’s why the music of Victor Volcovich comes to its full right in a concert hall, where it’s reinforced by the video collages of Anton Chizhenok. By uniting news reports, cartoons and movies with Oligarkh’s heavy beats, the spectator is brought into the collective Russian consciousness.

Text: Kim Klev

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