CMU Approved

Approved: Moddi – Punk Prayer

By | Published on Thursday 5 May 2016


Norwegian musician Moddi has recorded an English language version of Pussy Riot’s ‘Punk Prayer’. It is, he reckons, the first time the song has been translated into English.

As much previously reported, a performance of ‘Punk Prayer’ inside a Moscow church in 2012 was what got three members of the Russian protest group jailed on charges of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’. One of the three, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released later that year, while the other two were freed sometime later by Vladimir Putin as part of a Christmas amnesty.

Moddi’s version of the song is taken from an album titled ‘Unsongs’, which features cover versions of twelve tracks that were banned or suppressed.

“It’s one of the smartest lyrics that I have ever read”, he says of ‘Punk Prayer’. “Pussy Riot were imprisoned for religious hatred, but their performance of ‘Punk Prayer’ never sought to criticise religion. Rather, it speaks about corruption at the very top of the Russian Orthodox church, and about its close ties to Vladimir Putin. It is telling about the power of the Russian propaganda apparatus when a chorus that goes ‘Holy Mary, drive Putin away!’ can be presented – and even convicted – as blasphemy”.

Shooting the video for his version of the song, Moddi also ran into trouble with it. “I was afraid that my interpretation would take it too far into the acceptable form of a psalm”, he says. However, attempting to film in Norway’s most northern King Oscar II Chapel, 500 metres from the Russian border, he was told that the lyrics were nevertheless “unfit for the Lord’s house”.

“It was freezing, but reassuring”, he says of his defiant performance of the song in -5° temperature on the church’s steps. You can make of that what you will, but Moddi himself says: “It proved that I still had the forbidden core of the song intact. It is still bannable. The most important thing about ‘Unsongs’ is not the songs themselves, but the stories they contain. I have chosen twelve stories that I believe deserve to be heard”.

‘Unsongs’ is due for release later this year. Here’s the video for ‘Punk Prayer’ now…

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