‘Free everyone’: listen to the Yakut rap backing Siberia’s arrested superstar shaman

‘Free everyone’: listen to the Yakut rap backing Siberia's arrested superstar shaman
Image: Yakut rapper W1LD via Vkontakte

17 December 2019

A rapper from Russia’s far north has dropped a new hip-hop anthem in support of a crusading shaman detained by Russian authorities.

Alexandr Gabyshev rose to worldwide fame thanks to his 5,000 mile-long protest-walk from Northern Russia to Moscow to drive out the “demon” Vladimir Putin, whose power, he said, needs to be “counterbalanced by the power of the people”. He was stopped by undercover police forces roughly a third through his walk, close to the Mongolian border, and is now facing criminal charges for “extremism” after a brief stint in a psychiatric hospital.

Thirty-three-year-old rapper W1LD published the song called “Alexandr Gabyshev Warrior Shaman” on his Youtube channel last week, releasing a version in one of the region’s major indiginous languages, Yakut, as well as in Russian.

Starting off with a harsh environmental warning — “the earth is polluted, nature is crying” — the song abounds in social critique, with observations such as “common people here are insects” or “Russian-born? You’re to blame”.

Gabyshev is hailed as “Warrior Shaman Sasha”, who will soon “discover the truth / so that children don’t sit in slavery” and “future young people will stand on their feet / to free everyone from poverty.”

W1LD, whose real name is Piotr, is a locally-known Yakut rapper. Falling into hip hop via breakdance and graffiti, he has made a name for himself over the past five years thanks to his band Yujnaya Dolyana (or South Valley in English), as well as collaborations with other local hip-hop artists.

The term “shaman” originates from the indigenous Tungu people of Siberia. Based on animism — the belief that animals and objects are inhabited by spirits — shamanism is an ancient religion involving the search for altered states of consciousness and a connection between the worlds of humans and spirits. After being repressed by the atheist Soviet regime, shamanism has since had a resurgence in Russia and is practised alongside Christianity or Buddhism by millions in the country’s north.

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