Russian Music: Любэ


Любэ, most commonly transliterated as Lyube, is my favorite Russian band. I was first introduced to them in one of my college Russian classes, when a professor played their song “Не валяй дурака, Америка” (Don’t Play the Fool, America) for us. It’s all about how Alaska rightfully belongs to Russia and Catherine the Great never should have sold it to the United States, and it ends with them screaming about caviar in the background. It is, quite frankly, hilarious.

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That evening on the phone, I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed it to my USSR-born boyfriend (now husband) and discovered that he not only knew the song well, but considers Любэ his favorite band. He recommended a few more songs to me, but this was years before the arrival of helpful sites like YouTube and I didn’t get the chance to really investigate them more until my semester abroad in Russia, when a compilation CD of their greatest hits was one of the first things I bought.

The band was formed in the final years of the Soviet Union and is led by lead vocalist Nikolay Rastorguyev. The other members include: Aleksey Tarasov (backing vocals), Sergei Pereguda (guitar), Pavel Usanov (bass), Vitaliy Loktev (keyboard, bayan), and Aleksandr Erokhin (drums). Many of their songs have military or patriotic themes (in addition to mine and my husband’s, Любэ is also apparently Putin’s favorite band), but they sing in several styles, including rock, folk, and ballads. My Russian is a little short of the vocabulary necessary to appreciate some of their songs in full, but the lyrics of those I can understand are often beautiful. (Though they have several humorous songs besides “Не валяй дурака, Америка,” it’s not their standard style.) I also love Rastorguyev’s voice, which can be both gentle and harsh.

Here are some more of my favorite songs. Note: I’ve done my best to find versions with English subtitles, but some of the translations are better than others.

“Конь” (Horse)

A patriotic song about walking at night with a horse through golden fields of rye.

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Ты неси меня река (Carry me, river)

A song about love and the beautiful Russian countryside.

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Главное, что есть ты у меня (The most important thing, is that you’re with me)

A song about being separated from your love

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Позови меня тихо по имени (Call Me Softly By Name)

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Это было, было (It was, it was)

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Давай-наяривай (Let’s Play)

Fun song about living life to the fullest. “I said goodbye to my youth, but I have a hangover of spring inside”

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Там за туманами (There Beyond Fog)

A song about homesickness

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Давай за (Let’s Toast)

A song about war and the life of soldiers. This video has a particularly good English translation, but the unfortunate addition of a bunch of machine gun sound effects from some video game that aren’t in the real song.

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Комбат (Battalion Commander)

Another war song.

And war is war –
Bullets, vodka, cheap smokes.
At war it ain’t easy,
Shoot, or you’ll get shot.

And war is war.
Girl, think of me.
At war you never know,
Maybe we’ll get them, maybe they’ll get us.

Full translation

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My rating: (4.5 / 5)