Not Your Average Hit List

© This link for the illustrations.

© Per A.J. Andersson for the texts. Written September 2005, updated November 2011.

Music Far East

What do African, Asian and East European music have in common? Well, being less well known is a good guess.

— • —

Looking outside of the beaten Anglo-Saxon tracks, myself I have mostly turned eastwards. Hence the headline above. Not that Ethiopian, Japanese and Russian pop music share many characteristics, but for the most part they're different. And that's a quality in itself, exciting the curious parts of me. I've shamelessly used travels abroad, fellow co-workers and friends to find new things. And then there's always the stuff you discover when you're suddenly caught off-guard.


Formed: 1979 (Moscow, USSR)
Members (1989): Artur Berkut, Sergey Mazayev, Aleksandr Sitkovetskiy, Leonid Gutkin, Viktor Mikhalin, Ruslan Valonen
My discovery: 1990

Progressive rock group that came to prominence via the fabled Tbilisi rock festival in 1980. Delivered cassette albums and later on vinyl releases on the "national" Melodiya label. Eventually recorded an album or two in the US, with meager success. Still a legendary band in Russia, with a fan-base livening up for the group's 25-year celebration.

The total output during the group's heyday was actually quite limited, with some of their best music put on the "Kamennyy kray" ("Stony land") album. This 1989 release was produced in Los Angeles - courtesy of glasnost and perestroika - and featuring Michael McDonald on backing vocals.


Formed: 1985 (Israel)
Members (1992): Ze'ev Nechama, Tamir Kalinsi etc.
My discovery: c. 1996

Catchy, hard-driving pop music with hebrew rhythms. With a longevity unheard of in Israeli pop band history.

Hamelmal ABATE

My discovery: late '90s

One of the best singers from the horn of Africa. Known to some as the Queen of Ethiopian pop. With lots of brass and steady rhythms typical of this genre.


Born: 1973 (Poland)
First album:
My discovery: 2001

A major Polish rock artist (comparable with the likes of Melissa Etheridge) with star status in early and mid-90s. Not much recent news, apart from her activities writing songs for fellow rock and pop musicians.


Born: 1973 (Poland)
First album:
My discovery:

Came to notoriety through the Eurovision Song Contest and has become the leading lady of the Polish rock scene. Has found time to act in movies in between albums.

(Katy) GARBI
1963 (Greece)
First album:
My discovery:

One of the leading ladies of Greek pop (together with Anna Vissi), whose releases since the early 90s all have gathered gold, platinum or multi-platinum status. The electro-pop "Evaisthisies" (1997) cemented her status as super-chic as well.

Katerina TOPAZI

First album: 1996
My discovery: 2001

With her fourth album, the Salonika-born Topazi hit hard upon the Greek music scene. "Paramythi mou mikró" (2001) featured a heavier sound and song selection (often composed by her husband Khristos Dantis), perfectly matching her powerful vocals and sending the title track and more up the national charts.

2000 (Moscow, USSR)
Members: Yulia Volkova and Lena Katina
My discovery: 2002

Musical project of Russian entrepreneur Ivan Shapovalov was wildly popular in Russia and most of Europe during a year or two. Energetic rock and suggestive videos were mixed with a lot of hype around the young duo's lesbian identity (or not). Western edition of debut album was produced by Trevor Horn, with a history involving yet another scandal-clad media item - Frankie Goes to Hollywood.


Formed: (1990)
Members (1997): Robert Janson, Anita Lipnicka, Rafal Kokot, Michal Marciniak, Pawel Marciniak, Slawek Romanowski
My discovery: 2002

Melodic pop with much lyrical qualities and a touch of progressive rock. A popular group centered around Robert Janson as the main composer. Has more than a tendency for releasing albums beginning with an E...


1978 (Fukuoka, Japan)
First album:
My discovery:

A hard-hitting Japanese pop icon, with Led Zeppelin amongst her musical influences. A heavily-promoted pop-rock artist since early on, Ayu (as she is known among her fans) fills concert halls and arenas back in Japan and throughout Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. Her often extravagant music videos and high profile inside Japanese showbiz makes her a kind of Japanese equivalent of Madonna.

(née Yumiko)
Born: 1978 (Fukuoka pref., Japan)
First album: 1999
My discovery: 2003

Japan's "punk princess", SHIINA Ringo mixes a lot of humour and a lot of dash and odd visuals in her music, as well as in her multiform videos. Lately she joined the group Tokyo Jihen, whose music is even more energetic.


Formed: 1981 (Leningrad, USSR)
Disbanded: 1990
Members (1989): Viktor Tsoi, Yuriy Kasparyan, Igor' Tikhomirov and Georgiy Gur'yanov.
My discovery: 2003

Once the musical superstars in a changing nation, whose music sounded like American alternative rock à la Cure. Not honey-combing life in the Soviet Union in their lyrics, they gathered an almost Beatlemaniac following with the new generation. When leading man Viktor Tsoi died from a car accident in 1990, it only served to enhance the legend.


1964 (Miyagi pref., Japan)
First album:
My discovery:

A much lauded film score composer among the anime fans of West and East, KANNO Youko has collaborated with a number of conductors and orchestras. She's a gifted pianist herself, and her scope of composing includes classical genres as well as jazz and various ethno-cultural themes.


1954 (Tokyo, Japan)
First solo album:
My discovery:

Debuted with techo-pop group P-Model in 1979. Since 1989 he has pursued a solo career as a composer of often instrumental music, renowned for its poetic and "vocal" qualities. He has scored for numerous TV documentaries and successful anime series. And now and then resurfaced with P-Model.

Achinoam NINI
Born: 1969 (Israel)
First album: 1991
My discovery: 2004

Born in Israel with a Yemenite-Judaean parentage, she moved to the US at age 2. In her late teens love brought her back to Israel, where she finally settled. A pop singer with crystal-clear vocals, she has nurtured _two_ successful careers in music - one singing in Hebrew (with her given name) and one in English (performing as Noa).

Not Your Average Hit List 43 minutes... Alla är Ambition Consequences Door to Door The Dreaming Dzien i noc État d'urgence In the Spirit of Things Kaze no tani no Naushika Lights in the Night Martwa woda Nuit d'amour Once in a Million Open Door People Are Strange The Royal Scam Stationary Traveller Victim of Love Whore Music Up North Music Out West Music Far East Music Down South Films I Like a Lot Comic or Not On and Off TV About Me There's so much more out there ...