For my blog post on music, I have decided to discuss the “Russian Birthday Song.” As we discussed in a fairly recent joint class, the Russian version of “Happy Birthday” is very different. I found a series of translations online and have included the links at the bottom. The lyrics describe the surrounding environment as profoundly negative (rainy, clumsy pedestrians etc). Despite the apparent happiness of the birthday boy/girl, there are more negative and strange aspects of the lyrics worth noting. It is described as “unfortunate” that birthdays only come once a year. The positive experience at the end of the song is that a sorcerer in a blue helicopter will show you a movie for free and give you eskimo pies.
When compared to the American version of happy birthday, it appears to me that our classic “Happy Birthday” is in no way an “American” song. The Russian birthday song is an extremely Russian one, drawing on cultural associations and specific occurrences that should induce happiness in its listeners. It also notes the negativity of the living conditions in Russia (at least in the context of the weather). Our American version, however, is simply a wish sent to another person repeated a few times. We do not wish for Uncle Sam to float down from the sky and give you baby-back ribs (or something absurdly American). Even in the context of birthday songs, Russia manages to embrace its cultural identity and other itself from all foreign generalities.