Russia is, of course, well known for its incredible classical music, having produced some of the world’s best pianists, violinists, and opera singers, but sadly, classical music is no longer a part of everyday life in this Eurasian country.
If you're planning to visit Russia, you'll be exposed to much more mainstream music, so it can be useful to know what to expect when out in Russia's restaurants, bars, and exclusive nightclubs; concerts of all varieties are offered across the country, but you'll most often hear Russian versions of pop, rock, and electronica on your musical adventure in Russia.
Pop Music in Russia
Russian pop tends to be sickly sweet and very traditional, reminiscent of 90s boy-band music with harmonized, calculated choruses and upbeat verses; there is usually a catchy melody and an even catchier chorus, a beautiful performer, and a lost-love storyline.
Alongside Russian pop, you will hear regular Western “Top 40” music, especially in clubs but also in cafes, shops, or on the radio. Russian top 40 charts usually contain both Russian pop music and (typically) American chart-topping hits.
Yolka, Alla Pugacheva, A-Studio, and Kombinaciya were among the top Russian pop stars of 2017, so don't be surprised if you hear "Around You (Elka-Okolo Tebya)" by Yolka, "Only With You (Только с тобой)" by A-Studio, or "American Boy (Комбинация)" by Kombinaciya when you're out for a night on the town.
Rock Music in Russia
Rock and roll are not dead in Russia, and that means not only that they still listen to the Rolling Stones and The Offspring but also that there are some amazing Russian rock musicians listened to by a significant subset of the population. If you can catch one of these concerts, you won’t be sorry as they tend to take place in small bars in a very intimate atmosphere with a fantastic crowd of people.
Some artists you can check out are Аквариум (Aquarium), Чиж и Ко (Chizh & co), Машина Времени (Mashina Vremeni [time machine]), Алиса (Alyssa), and Пикник (Picnic)—it might not hurt to brush up on your Russian alphabet knowledge so you can recognize their names on posters when you’re in Russia.
While their styles vary, these performers all fall under the broad umbrella of “Russian Rock and Roll" and have a general audience made up of the last surviving hippies in the country. These fans are usually friendly, relaxed, and open-minded so make sure to check out a concert if you can.
By the way, other than at concerts, you won’t hear this music very often in Russian establishments; on the radio, it also tends to be delegated to only a few specific radio stations.
Techno and Electronica in Russia
These two genres of electronically-engineered music, in general, are still extremely popular in Russia, and you will find them played in many clubs, some bars, and even at some cafes and many private parties.
There is definitely a different crowd in a place that plays techno as opposed to one playing Russian rock—but then again, that can be expected in any country. You can catch lots of techno & electronica concerts in Russia as well, and many famous performers travel there on a fairly regular basis.
There are even some electronic-only music festivals in the summer for the extreme fans, offering three-to-five day lineups of all of the world's top DJs and music artists producing techno and electronica. Americans may recognize Nina Kraviz or discover new local favorites like Bobina, Arty, Eduard Artemyev, and Zedd.