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Russian Roulette is a celebration of Russian music and culture at the Sydney Opera House Studio featuring several of Australia’s legendary Russian music acts: Zulya and the Children of the Underground; VulgarGrad; and DJ Sveta.
2007 ARIA Award winners Zulya and the Children of the Underground perform original music inspired by the music of Zulya Kamalova’s homeland. A native of the Tatarstan-Udmurtia region of Central Russia, Zulya began performing at the age of 9.
After moving to Australia in 1991, she studied music at the Conservatorium in Tasmania, and performed in a variety of jazz and African influenced groups, releasing her debut album in 1997. Since then, she has consistently received accolades for her original approaches to Russian and Tatar music.
Her band features Anthony Schultz (accordion), Lucas Michailidis (guitar), Andrew Tanner (double bass) and Justin Marshall (drums). Their sophisticated arrangements draw on Zulya’s unique cultural heritage, adding their own modern interpretations. ‘We try to create music with layers. It’s easy to listen to, but the more you listen, the more you discover.’
Their part in Russian Roulette will be the more intimate, before the convict craziness of Melbourne live music sensation VulgarGrad (pictured above), kings of the Russian criminal sound.
VulgarGrad arose in 2004 out of a collaboration between some of Australia’s best musicians in underground ethnic styles and the gravel-vocal talents of Jacek Koman ‘ who you’ll remember singing the tango version of ‘Roxanne’ in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.
Since then, their raucous performances of Russian thieves’ songs – blatnye pesni – have achieved huge followings in Melbourne’s live music scene.
The criminal world has always been a strong part of Russian culture, and the thieves’ songs are traditionally performed by, for and about criminals in the prisons, gulags and bars of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.
VulgarGrad injects the music with its own perestroika punk and gulag swing, transcending the language barrier and aiming straight for the dancing feet.
Featuring Andrew Tanner on the enormous triangular contrabass balalaika, Phil McLeod (accordion), Renato VaCirca (drums), Rosalind Jones (trombone), Adam Pierzchalski (trumpet) and Nara Demasson (six-string guitar), VulgarGrad delivers ‘vodka-fuelled oompah swing ska punk ‘ gulag style.’
Also featuring DJ Sveta spinning a mix of Russian folk and pop, Russian Roulette will be a multilingual and multicultural feast for the senses. Cheers to that!

Russian Roulette
The Studio at Sydney Opera House
March 14 and 15
Bookings: 92507777 or