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Music

Pussy Riot Bring Their Music and Activism To Montreal

The Russian feminist punk rock collective came to Montreal for a concert while presenting an ongoing art exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art.

Pussy Riot during their Montreal show on November 1st

Pussy Riot during their Montreal show on November 1st

Sarah ODriscoll

Pussy Riot are spreading their protests and activism beyond Russia. Away from Vladimir Putin’s censorship, they’re bringing their voices to Canada – a place where their message of resistance is resonating.

On Nov. 1, as a chilling cold filled the streets of Montreal, Pussy Riot kicked off the North American leg of their Riot Days tour with a sold out show at the Rialto Theatre. The tension in the room was palpable. Violinist Alina Petrova started first with an intriguing experimental solo. She was joined a few minutes later by Maria "Masha" Alyokhina, Diana Burkot, and Olga Borisova, who made a triumphant entrance on stage. The connection between Pussy Riot and their audience was instantaneous.


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“'But what about the revolution,”' reads the giant screen behind them.

“'Riot Days is not just another concert; it's a story we tell,”' says Masha later in an interview with Billboard Canada.

At the Rialto, Pussy Riot’s defiantly punk anthems were rooted in electronic sounds performed by musicians Alina Petrova and Diana Burkot. Masha and Olga Borisova took the microphones to recite their poems of resistance.

While she doesn't consider herself a musician, Masha takes on the responsibility of opening the audience's eyes through art and her status as an icon of activism. "With Pussy Riot, we use music to convey our message,” she says. “It's very clear.”

She was famously arrested and incarcerated with her Pussy Riot comrades Nadejda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samoutsevitch following their “Punk Prayer” on February 21, 2012, in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer'

The narrative of Riot Days begins on the theatre stage with the evocation of this anti-Putin “'prayer,”' which also earned them worldwide notoriety.

“'Each song on stage is based on my book, Days of Insurrection, from the first action of Pussy Riot I participated in to the last days I spent in prison after a two-year sentence,”' explains Masha.

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“'It's important for me to openly revisit all these events because that's how the repression began to escalate in Russia,”' says the artist. She's a major force behind Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia, the art exhibition presented for the first time in North America at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) until March 2024.

The exhibition chronicles the many actions of Pussy Riot and their accompanying chaos in chronological order, through video archives, photos and texts. As the collective's voice becomes louder, the authorities become more violent.

“'Our country has transitioned from an authoritarian state to a terrorist state with the large-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022,'” Masha argues.

According to Masha, few people understand what it would mean for the world if Ukraine lost the war. Faced with a threat they believe to be imminent, Pussy Riot has promised to raise international awareness relentlessly. '”If people stop fighting for their rights, democracies will collapse,” warns Masha, who has a lot to say.

”We are starting to see the results now, everywhere in the world. Even here, I see that people are conditioned by propaganda,”' says Masha, referring to anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ policies that abound in the West.

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For her, it is essential that everyone knows what she says is the fate of Putin's opponents in Russia: “'Years of imprisonment, poisonings, murders... All of that is in the exhibition.” Also in Riot Days.

Masha also fears the upcoming U.S. presidential election in 2024 and the potential re-election of Donald Trump, who Putin has recently praised. As for Canada, where Pussy Riot performed in Montreal on Wednesday and in Toronto on Thursday as part of Riot Days, Masha wants to remain positive.

“'One of my friends is a human rights activist, and she is working to evacuate LGBTQ+ people from Chechnya, and according to her, Canada is the first country that welcomes Chechens from the gay community who are being tortured and killed in their homeland,”' she points out.

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Since this scandal erupted in 2017, the government of Justin Trudeau has indeed made efforts to evacuate these political refugees from the small Russian Republic in the Caucasus. It is worth noting that Russia has been enacting anti-LGBTQ+ laws for the past decade, and in July 2023, transgender people were restricted from medical transition, marriage and child adoption.

In the current geopolitical context, Masha does not want the issue of Ukrainian suffering to be forgotten. After Riot Days and Velvet Terrorism, her dearest wish is for people to keep her collective's message in mind. “We must continue to fight, constantly,” she urges.

Despite spending several years in detention centres, under house arrest or in labour camps, in the gulags, and being on Russia's wanted list, Masha and Pussy Riot have brought the fight to Canada and the United States.

“I made the choice to leave my country to be able to help Ukraine because it's impossible to do so from Russia right now,” she says.

You can catch Velvet Terrorism at MAC Montreal until March 10, 2024 until March 10, 2024.

This article was originally published in French. Read the French version here.

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Shaq’s Classic Song ‘You Can’t Stop the Reign’ Featuring Biggie Is Finally on Streaming Services
Rb Hip Hop

Shaq’s Classic Song ‘You Can’t Stop the Reign’ Featuring Biggie Is Finally on Streaming Services

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The year is 1996 and Shaquille O’Neal and the Notorious B.I.G. are two of the biggest figures in their respective fields. Shaq was entering the last year of his deal with the Orlando Magic before he headed west to the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the 1995-1996 season. Biggie was getting ready to release his sophomore album, Life After Death, while in the throws of a beef with 2Pac. Big name-dropped the NBA player on the song “Gimme the Loot” off his debut album, Ready to Die, and the two had a mutual respect for each other ever since.

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