Most kids don’t listen to specific music genres these days — they choose what they think sounds cool in general, whether it’s rock or hip hop or jazz or whatever. There’s an amalgamation of genres that make up modern “alternative” sounds. This compilation is a resonant blend of Lithuanian alternative music approved by locals and potentially alluring globally.
Romantic clashes of subcultures are long gone, unfortunately — their artifacts ruminated on and stacked up in supermarkets worldwide. What’s left is a bipolar and ever-changing interaction of alternative and pop. Loosely understood, alternative music is an attempt to describe any music that doesn’t quite fit into the mainstream sound of a given era. And the latter phrase should be emphasized, as alternative music sounded completely different in the 90s compared to the 00s.
Today the average listener has access to more music than ever, and much of it stands outside of current trends. Recently, one streaming service launched Alternative Hub in order to unite all of their alternative programming into one dedicated space. And there are different playlists for every decade.
Alternative to what exactly, you might ask?
According to the music journalist Anthony Carew: “To orthodoxy. To the status quo. To playing it safe. To being in the music business for the business, not the music. To the man. To repressive politics. To racism, sexism, classism, etc. [...] If alternative music must be an alternative to something, the safe answer is this: to whatever your parents like.”
The history of Lithuanian pop music is complicated, if not tragic. Some say an alternative to mainstream music was born in the 1960s in the US and the UK. In Lithuania at around the same time, the freedom fighter killed himself, ending two decades of fierce resistance against soviet rule.
In 1972, a 19-year-old student, Romas Kalanta, set himself on fire in central Kaunas. His funeral became a mass demonstration, and hundreds were arrested. Officially they were called “asocial elements”, but in fact it was an excuse for the stagnating soviets to oppress the rising hippy movement — a strict “no” to long hair, jeans and, of course, guitars. That’s why there was no proper music scene in Lithuania compared to its Baltic neighbours Latvia and Estonia, not to mention Poland or Finland. While the rest of the world enjoyed post-war relief and eventually witnessed the rise of alternative music, Lithuanians were still handling guns instead of guitars.
Until the 90s, with few exceptions, music here was dominated by so-called “harmonized folk songs” and... free jazz, led by the world-renowned Ganelin-Tarasov-Chekasin Trio. When glasnost, perestroika and independence came, at last you were allowed to play what you wanted. Those were overwhelming times when we franticaily caught up on pop music history in just a few years, and this time guns were exchanged for guitars and keyboards. A singing revolution accepted everything from primitive pop synthesizers to sophisticated alternative guitars — and then an economic crisis came. Everything collapsed and the alternative-minded moved deeper underground. Meanwhile, a more-or-less professional modern music management system was built, the world-wide-web was introduced, and starting from the 00s a pop music business began to function. Soon enough this was followed by a whole generation of alternative artists too, and a natural balance was created.
Since alternative music is so fluid and intangible, there are many possible parts to it: recognition-wise, from novices like the post-electronics of Palmės Žiedas or the jazzy rock of Kanalizacija or JUZT to award-winning artists like sad-dance operators Solo Ansamblis or Lithuanian-Americana songwriter Kabloonak; education-wise, from BMX riders playing punky krautrock Egomašina to the classically trained Ambulance on Fire or Monikaze; gender-wise, from the muscle rock of Timid Kooky to the witty surf-punk female trio shishi or the riotous grrrls of Crucial Features; location-wise, from many artists in the capital Vilnius to the dreamy Ingaja sound from port-town Klaipėda; and, of course, genre-wise, such as the lo-fi synthpop of Bleach Cult, the soundscapes of Gintautas Rožė, the darkwave of Pindrops, the experimental rock of Sraigės Efektas or the electro post-hip hop of Vilniaus Energija.
Take some time and choose your own alternative.
Domininkas Kunčinas, Ore.It
Jury: Inga Ramoškaitė, Emilija Visockaitė, Dovydas Bluvšteinas, Domininkas Kunčinas, Viktoras Diawara
Mastering: Artūras Pugačiauskas
Graphic design: Jurgis Griškevičius
Text editing: Howard Jarvis
Executive producer: Radvilė Buivydienė
Supported by Lithuanian Council for Culture and Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.