A Fugue For the Whales

In their latest music video, the Siberian band, Otyken, heads east to that part of Russia that almost touches Alaska and sings a sad song about the whales..

4/9/20242 min read

Otyken performs "storm" on a frozen Siberian river
Otyken performs "storm" on a frozen Siberian river

The Russian indigenous band, Otyken, poses for a still picture, while performing for the video song, Storm. The musical number, Chukotka, seen below, features a similar setting on the ice and in the snow.

A Fugue For the Whales?

Chukotka is a very sad song. It's about the whales and the indigenous populations that depends on a whale harvest to support their arctic existence. But, according to the sad lament, the whales are dying and the Native peoples that live in Chukotka are very hungry. Not much hope in this particular piece of music, just a presentation of the gruesome reality in the Arctic.

Definitely worth a listen and some serious contemplation. As the massive floods to the east in the Ural Mountains sadly demonstrate, Russia and its neighboring countries have a lot to reckon with in terms of living with Mother Nature. Meanwhile, as Russia wages a war of invasion in Ukraine, this Siberian band has found a niche, dwelling on the environmental catastrophes that are presently consuming, not only Russia, but also other places on our planet.

What Is Chukotka?

A Sun Dog in Chukotka
A Sun Dog in Chukotka

Actually, the question should read, where is Chukotka? And the answer is, Chukotka is the easternmost outpost of the Russian Federation. The place borders the Bering Sea and is home to the Chukchi people, an indigenous population that lives along the coast and survives by utilizing the resources of the sea. There is also a branch of the Chukchi that lives inland and is dependent on the large reindeer herds that roam the tundra. Most anthropologists connect the Chukchi with the Ainu of Japan and the American Indian tribal groups of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

For better or worse, the Chukchi don't dwell alone in their arctic habitat. That is because since 1700, Russian pioneers have moved in and settled in the Chukotka Tundra. Along with the arrival of the new residents, there have come townships, military bases, weather stations, mines and an extensive Gulag system to house Russian prisoners. At present, the two exist side by side. The system of prisons, sometimes called Gulags, has been quite extensive and brutal to the men, who have been sentenced to internment in this harsh land. Against this backdrop, Otyken, a Metal-Folk band from Siberia has created this sad song about a long-standing lifestyle, which is now under heavy duress.

Sun Dogs, like this one photographed in Chukotka, are an atmospheric phenomena, associated with the far North.

From Radio Free Europe, A Brief Look at Life in Far Eastern Russia