Russia's silenced rappers find an unlikely ally in Vladimir Putin
Russian rap artists may have found an unlikely ally in the form of Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president said over the weekend that attempts to shut down the art form were counterproductive and an alternative approach was needed.
"If it's impossible to stop something, you have to take charge of it," he said during a live broadcast of a meeting of his advisory council on culture and the arts. "How to do this, how to take charge and guide in the necessary direction - that's the most important issue."
Mr Putin said the question would be taken up by members of his administration.
It marks a surprising softening towards an art form at odds with Mr Putin's professed aim of restoring traditional values. The Kremlin has frequently clashed with musicians and artists it believes are intent on political campaigning, such as the Pussy Riot collective.
In recent weeks, concert cancellations by venue owners and local authorities have been reported across the country.
The government's rap battle generated global headlines last month with the detention of Husky - real name Dmitry Kuznetsov - whose songs mocking the authorities and highlighting police brutality have built a big following on YouTube.
When electricity was cut off at a concert venue in the southern city of Krasnodar, he used a car roof as a stage and performed in the street.
He was arrested for hooliganism and sentenced to 12 days in prison but was released after four.
A new wave of rappers has become a voice for young Russians' frustration with their political and economic prospects, but attempts to silence them have fed those concerns and revived memories of Soviet-era repression.
Prosecutors in Moscow have also launched investigations into the lyrics of two other rappers, Gnoyny and Khan Zamai, suggesting their songs were anti-Semitic or had neo-Nazi themes, which both deny.
Other accusations include the use of profanity in songs.
The turmoil led Igor Matvienko, a music producer and member of Mr Putin's arts advisory culture, to suggest introducing a parental advisory guidance system for concerts.
That prompted Mr Putin's intervention, saying: "You said that rap (rests on) three pillars: sex, drugs and protests. Of all of these, drugs are the most worrying. They are the route to a nation's degradation." (© Daily Telegraph, London)