Sasha Ilyukevich at the Old Dentist 28th April

Taken from an email from the Old Dentist: “Few artists currently navigating the London music scene can claim to have had their work banned by KGB diktat. This rare distinction seemingly something out of the darkest chapters of 20th century history was conferred on the songs of Belarusian émigré poet and Rock and Roller Sasha Ilyukevich not eighteen months ago.It is the kind of unreconstructed old-school oppression that characterises life in present day Belarus under the regime of Alexander Lukashenko a man widely reviled by heads of state the world over as the last Dictator in Europe.   Since taking up residence in Britain in 200_ Ilyukevich had made frequent return trips east to perform his songs in clubs theatres and living rooms across the former Soviet Union latterly with the Highly Skilled Migrants the band of British Musicians with whom he recorded the 200_ album Ha Numa for St Petersburg label Bomba Piter.After concerts in Moscow St Petersburg and Minsk the Belarusian capital the album had been receiving regular royalty-free radio play across Eastern Europe. However in the run-up to last year’s contested elections in Belarus KGB officials (still working under their Soviet moniker) detected a subversive allegory in Ilyukevich’s song Son of the Motherland. They had it taken off the radio and banned any future broadcast of the band’s music.It was a move that bespoke a colossal sense of humour failure on the part of the regime. The lyric expresses its stated intent to be as a dog (barking/biting) rather than a cow (herded/milked/duped at the ballot box) then gives way in the fade out to Ilyukevich and co’s alternating barking and mooing.At home in London Ilyukevich is quick to dismiss his unlikely dissident status as but a narrow faintly comic window onto a much darker situation. Later that year the regime would go on to brutally suppress protests at the widespread voting irregularities surrounding Lukashenko’s re-election. It is clear however that the experience has shaped Sasha’s next move as he prepares to release his latest single “Kolya”.Released with an eye popping surrealist montage of a video the song takes satirical aim at the Dictator’s attempts to set up his young son Kolya as the unelected (natch) heir to his rule of fear.It is a work inspired equally by the feelings of dread on seeing the boy Kolya groomed for succession and the sheer absurdity of the images thrown up by the propaganda machine that paves his way; toddler Kolya receives a choreographed military parade boy Kolya meets with the Pope waist high to his accompanying father Kolya inspects the Belarusian military’s top brass.At a time when North Korea is enduring a third generation hereditary succession in a dictatorship unprecedented in living memory the song addresses Kolya Lukashenko as the spectre of all such dynastic cronyism bemoans the longevity and resilience of such regimes and mocks them with their inevitable decline.