Awkward Olympics music: Tatar cover of Queen's "We Are The Champions"

champth.jpg A Tatar performance group covers the Queen anthem "We Are The Champions." Apparently this has something to do with the 2010 Winter Olympics, which opened last night. Hey, beats Celine Dion. Video Link. (Thanks, Anatoliy Ulyanov)


  1. I like Celine Dion’s version; it’s so obvious in here version she thinks she’s singing about mushrooms.

  2. Freddy Mercury was Asian, you know. His birth name was Farrokh Bulsara; his parents were Parsis and practiced Zoroastrianism. He was born on Zanzibar and educated near Mumbai.

    I think he would have been amazed and delighted by the concept of this video, and a little appalled by the (IMO) lifeless performance.

  3. Sadly, I think cartoons have ruined the sound of the mouth harp for me. Literally as I was listening to that I was clicking through windows trying to figure out if I had a game running or if there was a flash popup causing that “springy” sound. Other than that I though it was top notch neato!

    1. Is it because they aren’t American, Xeni?

      Yep. Totally.

      Poor sheltered, insular Xeni.

  4. These are mighty Tatars, for crying out loud, little Xeni. Members of the Golden Horde. One does not criticize the warriors of the Khan lightly.

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was lovely. You know, ‘Xeni’ is awfully close to ‘Xeno’, the prefix of ‘xenophobia’…

    1. “You know, ‘Xeni’ is awfully close to ‘Xeno’, the prefix of ‘xenophobia'”

      Latin: You’re doing it wrong.

        1. You’re right: I thought ‘phobos’ was also used in latin, but it’s not the same meaning.

          Regardless, I’d peg Xeni as quite a xenophile ;)

  6. The awkward part isn’t that they’re from Tatarstan, it’s that they’re a cheesy Soviet-style Official Nationality Musical Ensemble, in Folk Costume, no less. I would love to see a Verka Serduchka (Ukraine, not Tatarstan) cover of … pretty much anything.

  7. You know, ‘Xeni’ is awfully close to ‘Xeno’, the prefix of ‘xenophobia'”

    Xeni is xeniphobic? Self-hatred is a terribly sad thing.

  8. Oh, puh-leeeeeze, people! The performance is lame and without energy. When they disperse at the end they look like they just want to get out of the costumes and go home as fast as possible.

    It’s a pretty awkward juxtaposition, FM’s Asianness (Asianity?) notwithstanding. I mean, a balalaika? Jesusmaria,* as my grandmother would say.
    *That’s pronounced YEZHushMAHdiyaH. Czech, or Bohemian as Gran always insisted it be called.

  9. Once more, with throat singers:
    The Altai version.

    There’s a huge array of these videos on YouTube, all various Central Asian folks (also, Moldova and Karelians and a few other nationalities) doing pieces of this song. Amazing. There must have been some kind of contest- I had no idea this many of these soviet-style folks ensembles still did this.

    Don’t like balalaika in your Folk Ensemble? Here’s some passionate Yakuts with a particularly sfi-fi-looking ice cave stage:

    Once more with Karelians:

    and again with the headgear of Mordovians:

    now with end-blown flute and particularly emotive Bashkirs:

  10. The Tatar boys have the best hats. The tall Tuvan guy in the middle has the best robes. The Yakut really nail the song.

    Western culture is anemic. We need to up our costume game and trade in some of those guitars for contrabass balalaikas.

    1. Sheesh- Tatars? Did you LOOK at the hats on the Mordovian ladies? (sorry, not Moldovans either, my bad). The Tatars have nothing on that!

  11. When they disperse it looks like they are freezing cold, which could also explain the wooden performance. The ladies don’t even get hats!

  12. Channel “Russia 24″ embodied in the life of an unusual idea: hit rock band Queen quail languages of the various regions of Russia to support our athletes going to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver to fight for the medals. Is there something of the ancient rites of divination – of the peoples of the country, eager and worthy of Olympic victories, merges together to help our athletes. Song recorded the best folk groups in Mordovia, Altai, Tatarstan, Yakutia, Karelia and Bashkortostan.

  13. i have to say, after watching 10 or so of these videos, it is very surreal to see such an iconic rock anthem performed in various folk themed interpretations, especially from cultures not on my immediate radar. russia must have a rich and diverse ethnic background.

    1. yeah, thanks to Russian colonialism and empire-building under the tsars and later under Soviet rule, and it’s conquest of vast tracts of non-Russian territory, there are a HUGE number of ethnicities and language groups under it’s borders today. I can’t remember the numbers but actively spoken languages number in the hundreds I seem to recall.

      The history of Russia’s expansion into Siberia and elsewhere in Asia was very similar to the US conquest of Native Americans, although I think disease played a different role than in the Americas, because some of the diseases that wiped out Native Americans had originated in Central Asia, and there weren’t quite the same novel bugs that decimated Indians here in the US.

      In the Soviet era, there were varying policies for how to deal with cultural heterogeneity. At times traditional cultural expression was forbidden, people were forcibly relocated, several genocidal “artificial famine” situations were created (this is all early Stalin-era stuff), there were huge campaigns to stamp out the practices of shamanism and to forcibly settle nomadic peoples.

      Much of it is similar to what happened in the US during the various Indian Wars and during the Native American ‘indian boarding school era’, only it occurred a few decades later and with greater brutality under the Soviets.

      At other times, usually due to some need for political support, there was more of a ‘thawing’ towards native religious and cultural expression, which allowed some ethnicities’ cultural practices to survive to the present day.

      And then, on top of truly traditional cultural practices, there also existed a plethora of state-funded folk music and dance groups that performed highly orchestrated and sometimes Westernized forms of ‘folk music’ (hence, Tatars with balalaikas and violins).

  14. I’m confused. As a proud Canadian, I’ve been ignoring the Olympics. Why are these various ethnic groups singing “We Are The Champions”? Why a song from a campy British band? I mean, shouldn’t it have been “Takin’ Care of Business”? Or “Tom Sawyer”?

  15. I have to admit I love the balalaika with a passion usually reserved on this blog for ukulele.

    These are cheesy but I can’t help but like them (or rather the multiple Queen versions).

  16. I’ll agree this performance is awkward if it turns out no royalties were paid and no R*AA’s appeased with money and first-borns. That would be a bit of a tough nut for the committee.

    Otherwise… go exotic national dress cover shows!

  17. This genuinely filled me with an inexplicable sense of joy. I did’t expect that. Actually, I’m currently living in Russia (siberia to be specific). If those people were in canada to film that, they weren’t necessarily cold, being that samara is colder than vancouver. If they were in Russia, they probably were

  18. I know there are words in the English lexicon that would describe how I feel about this, but I don’t know how to fit them together. Some include: anxiety, joy, humility, mildly approriate. Either way, I agree, way better than what Celine could deliver.

  19. My favorite part of the video is the triumphant far-away look the bassist gets at the end after the last chord, he holds it- and then they all go walking off like, “enough horsing around, there’s shit to do.”

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