6

While listening to Splean's last album Ключ к шифру (The Key to the Cipher) again, I've wondered about a particular line from the song "Джа играет джаз" ("Ja is Playing Jazz"):

Сегодня Джа играет джаз,
А завтра – Родину продаст.

Today Ja is playing jazz,
and tomorrow he'll sell his motherland.
Translation mine.

It very much seemed like there's some background I was missing, since people don't usually go accusing people of betraying their country in song lyrics for no good reason.

Turned out I was right - this website, where I also took the lyrics from, claims that "Сегодня он играет джаз, а завтра Родину продаст" ("Today he is playing jazz, and tomorrow he'll sell his motherland.") is a line from a Soviet magazine Крокодил (Crocodile), which became popular and widely known for some time.

Okay, but who is Ja? This website lists "джа" is a slang word for jazz - how is this related to "him" from the magazine? And how does that relate to the rest of the lyrics:

Сегодня Джа играет джаз,
А завтра – Родину продаст.
Хотя, кому она нужна?
Об этом знает только Джа.

Сегодня Джа играет джаз
И это наш последний шанс,
Чтобы увидеть старика.
Пока не скажет Джа – пока,

My brief summary: Ja is playing jazz; he's an old man; he's going to sell (betray) his country (but who needs it anyway?); and it's their last chance to see "the old man" before he says "goodbye" (presumably dies or runs away).

Is this a reference to some political event I'm surely oblivious to, or just a random reference added in for no reason at all?

8

Jah is a god of Rastafari.

He is often mentioned is late- / post-soviet era songs. For example "Джа на нашей стороне" by Гражданская Оборона or "Единственный дом (Джа даст нам всё)" by Boris Grebenshikov.

As some users have doubts about this Jah being Jah Rastafari, here are some examples from other Russian rock songs (all these band are classics of Russian rock).

  1. Гражданская оборона - Мы в глубокой жопе (literal translation: "We are in deep ass").

Excerpt:

Благая травка, великий Джа

Полет с девятого этажа

Веселый праздник растафарай

Другое место - терновый рай

Rough translation:

Sacred weed, great Jah

A jump from the ninth floor

Happy celebration of Rastafari

Other place is thorny paradise

  1. Аквариум - Растаманы из глубинки ("Rastas from the boondocks").

Excerpt:

Мы знаем, что есть только два пути:

Джа Растафара или война

Rough translation:

We know there are only two ways

Jah Rastafari or the war

  1. Ночные снайперы - Куба ("Cuba").

Excerpt:

Мы кубинскими звёздами царапали спину и грудь

И завидовали тем, кто здоровался за руку с Джа

Rough translation:

We scratсhed our backs and chests with cuban stars

And envied those who shaked hands with Jah.

  • The name "Jah" is older than Rastafarianism (if I correctly understand how new Rastafarianism is). However, I'll trust to your understanding of Russian and post-Soviet era Russian music that the reference is Rastafarian. – Shokhet Jun 22 '17 at 13:18
  • @Shokhet Yes, it is indeed older, but I'm sure that's a reference to the Rastafarianism. I can also mention the band Jah Division (page is in Russian) of the same period. – DrTyrsa Jun 22 '17 at 13:52
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    Could you expand on this answer a bit? E.g. at least provide a translation/transliteration of the Grebenshikov songs you cite, and maybe something to convince the reader (if the translated titles aren't enough) that those do refer to Jah Rastafari rather than some other Jah. – Rand al'Thor Jun 22 '17 at 13:54
  • @Randal'Thor No, I can't provide any reliable sources for my claim, I haven't found any studies on this subject. On the other hand as a Russian living in Russia and listening to this kind of music I am positive about the meaning. If you don't think it's enough feel free to vote down my answer. – DrTyrsa Jun 22 '17 at 14:04
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    @Gallifreyan I'd say it's just a word play. One can speculate that Jah's switching from old school music to something new and experimental, and it can look like a betrayal of his roots. It's just my guess, there can be plenty of other interpretations. If you are interseted in Russian culture we have a nice meme about that. – DrTyrsa Jun 23 '17 at 8:31

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