Welcome to the online resource for democracy now part II. This album is a follow-up to part I, which was originally released in 2009. Thematically, this album explores some of the same areas, but also opens up new ones. It’s set against the background of particular historical events: the Chechen Wars that began in 1994, and that continue, in reduced form, today.
I came across the subject of Chechnya while searching online for sample material for the first democracy now album. I’d gotten used to seeing the by-now familiar jihadi propaganda videos showing insurgent attacks on American forces in Iraq. Suddenly I was looking at something similar, but in Russia. A Muslim insurgency in Russia? Who were these people?
Of course I’d been aware of the hostage-takings in Beslan in 2004, and in a Moscow theatre in 2002. But this material was older, maybe from the mid-late ’90s. Vaguely I recalled glimpses of BBC news reports from back then, something about a place called Grozny, something about destruction on the scale of Stalingrad in World War II. I just about remembered grainy images of Russian soldiers, bogged down in bitter street-fighting and battling wintry conditions.
It had piqued my interest then, but at that time in my life I was in the throes of my original musical love: Jungle… scraping together the pennies to buy the latest records, and pondering how I could spread the word about this new music in my hometown – at that time still a very white and musically conservative place. That was the winter of 1994/1995: a pre-internet world, and one that seems a thousand years ago now.
So who were these people: the Chechens? I’ve spent the last three or four years trying to find out. Something about them, and their story, has gotten under my skin. Although I’ve never been there, something about their history hooked me. Theirs is a dark and dreadful tale in many respects, but there are moments of courage, and hope, and even humour amid the carnage. The album democracy now part II is my attempt to process what I’ve seen, read and heard about the Chechens, and the terrible history they share with Russia. For in many ways, the story of Chechnya is also the story of post-communist, free-market, democratic Russia.
The album democracy now part II presents the listener with a particular challenge that the first in this series largely avoided: many of the voices are not speaking English! Obviously I hope that the listening experience may prove worthwhile in its own right. However, for those desirous of greater clarity, this page offers ‘subtitles’ – where the majority of non-English vocal samples employed throughout the album are translated. As for the other pages, I suggest reading them in the order in which I’ve presented them. Please note that the majority of images interspersed throughout the text have tags attached. Simply hold your pointer over each image or click on it to access the text.
You could begin by orienting yourself with the maps I’ve provided in Where. After that, I present a timeline of Russian-Chechen relations in When. This page is by necessity very brief, and is intended only to provide the reader with the bare essentials of the historical background. Next, the Who page offers short biographies of some of the principal personalities who I felt were relevant to the subject in hand.
The bulk of the information in this resource is contained in the Reading and Watching pages. Both of these pages open with a short introduction, followed by reviews of books, documentaries and films that influenced me in the making of this album. I’ve divided these two pages into sub-sections in an attempt to make them a little more user-friendly.
I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Eamonn, Dr. Buzz, Droid, Rollers/Sparkers (esp. Johnny Rollers), Bullitt, Ross Carew, Emma and especially Marat for their help in putting this resource together. A particular word of thanks is due to Oliver Bullough for the endless patience he showed in answering my questions about Russia and Chechnya. Needless to say, I take full responsibility for the content here; all opinions expressed and any factual errors are mine alone.
The albums democracy now parts I and II have now been released together as a limited edition double-CD on D1 Recordings. Each album is approximately an hour long. Together, they represent around five years of research, sample-sourcing and re-contextualization/writing.