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Zemfira Ramazanova (Russian: Земфира Талгатовна Рамазанова, Bashkir: Земфира Тәлғәт ҡыҙы Рамаҙанова); born the 26th of August 1976 in Ufa, Bashkortostan is a Russian rock artist of Bashkir descent. She has been performing since 1998 and has been immensely popular in Russia and other former Soviet republics. An ethnic Bashkir, she was born in a typical middle-class family with a mother that is a doctor and a father who is a history teacher. At the age of 4, Zemfira became interested in music, entering a music school the following year where she studied piano performance and voice as well as writing her first song when she was only seven years of age. Her older brother Ramil introduced her to rock music, which became her real passion – she listened to Black Sabbath, Nazareth and Queen, learning to play the guitar.
Since 1999, Bashkir singer Zemfira Ramazanova influenced the course of Russian rock music by breaking boundaries and the rules of oppression. She began her career by recording her first songs: “Pochemu?”, “Sneg”, “Sinoptik” on a computer and has since become extremely popular in Russia and the other former Soviet republics. Sometimes moody, self-assured, enigmatic and flamboyant, Zemfira has found herself an object of constant attention by the Russian media and paparazzi. She added to the furor by limiting her contact with the media after an initial avalanche of invasive and libelous publicity. Multiple Russian tabloids speculated about the singer’s sexual orientation due to her song lyrics and for the last several years have romantically linked her with actress, director and screenwriter Renata Litvinova. The singer refuses to discuss her private life and so the rumors and innuendo continue.
In the 7th grade, Zemfira split her time between music and basketball, becoming the captain of the Russian Girls’ Junior Basketball Team by 1990. She began to lose interest in classical music, preferring instead to hang out with friends in the streets of Ufa and covering songs by Russian rock groups such as Kino, Nautilus Pompilius and Aquarium - who reached the peak of their popularity in the early 1990s.
At the urging of her mother, Zemfira continued with piano studies and graduated music school with honors. In her last year of high school, basketball competed with school work, and the singer abandoned the sport in favour of music. She took the entrance exams for the Ufa College of Fine Arts (Russian: Уфимское училище искусств) on a whim, and was admitted into the second year program, studying vocal performance. During college, she performed jazz and rock-n-roll standards in various local bars and restaurants accompanied by her friend, saxophone player Vlad Kolchin. She graduated with honors, and in 1996 took a job as a sound engineer at the Ufa subsidiary of the radio station "Europe Plus" (Russian: Европа +).
For the next couple of years Zemfira spent her days making advertisement recordings at the station and her nights on a computer, where she recorded the songs that would later become the singles Why (Russian: Почему), Snow (Russian: Снег), and Weatherman (Russian: Синоптик). In early 1998, Zemfira invited Rinat Akhmadiyev, Sergei Sozinov, Sergei Mirolyubov, and Vadim Solovyov to join Zemfira. Their first professional gig took place on June 19, 1999 as part of a festival celebrating the anniversary of a local radio station “Silver Rain Ufa.” Shortly after Zemfira sent out promo tapes to multiple Moscow producers, one being Ilya Lagutenko from Mumiy Troll. He was smitten with the material, and invited the band for some sessions in Moscow.
Recording and production work on the debut album took place until May 10, 1999, when the debut was finally released. The promotion of Zemfira prior to the release included heavy rotation of singles AIDS (Russian: СПИД), Arrivederci (Russian: Aриведерчи), and Rockets (Russian: Ракеты) as well as the video clips for those songs. The band immediately went on tour, starting a tradition of celebrating their beginnings with a summer concert in Ufa while recording their second album Forgive Me My Love (Russian: Прости Меня Моя Любовь). The group enjoyed immense popularity from the start, in part because of heavy rotation on radio and television, and in part because a female rocker is a fairly rare and unusual concept for the Russian music scene - which to this day is dominated mostly by scantily-clad female pop singers.
After the release of PMML (Russian abbreviation for Forgive Me My Love) in March 2000, what can only be described as “Zemfiromania” swept the country. Searching (Russian: Искала) and Ripe (Russian: Созрела) became instant hits, and the group was invited to headline the festival MAXIDROM. Constant touring wore down on the band, and after the release of 14 Weeks of Silence the band took a break.
In September 2004 Zemfira began studies towards a degree in Philosophy at Moscow State University, but after the first semester she took a sabbatical and didn't resume her studies. On October 16 on the MTV Russia Awards show the singer performed We Are the Champions together with the rock group Queen. The fourth studio album, Vendetta, which consists of 15 tracks, was released on March 1, 2005. The recording was a result of Zemfira's collaboration with several musiciaons: Igor Vdovin, Korney, Vlad Kreymer, Yuri Tsaler and Oleg Pungin. Primarily the album was going to be named "Oil", but the title was changed few days before the official release and "Vendetta" got many positive reviews.
On February 14 a collection of Zemfira music videos DVD was released. It contains all singer's clips, except AIDS and Traffic.
In May and June 2007 Zemfira embarked on a short concert tour titled Déjà Vu, with performances held in smaller venues like clubs and small theatres. The tour culminated with a Moscow performance at the Green Theatre which was filmed by Renata Litvinova. The tour program focused on stylish remakes of the singer's top hits, often reworked is styles such as jazz, ska, bossa nova, and blues. A new album, Thank You (Russian: Спасибо), was released at the beginning of October. It is described by Zemfira herself as 'very positive', in contrast to what she terms the 'restlessness' of Vendetta.
The concert movie Green Theatre in Zemfira, which mixes Zemfira's monologues with selected songs shot during her live performance at the open air show in Moscow, was released in several Russian digital movie theatres on February 21, 2008. Later it was also released on DVD and Blu-ray. The final concert in support of Thank You was staged on April 1, 2008 at the Olimpiysky Stadium in Moscow with some journalists considering it as the best performance of her career. Later in June Zemfira was awarded an independent Steppenwolf prize established by a musical critic Artemy Troitsky. She won in two categories: The Best Performance for the Olimpiysky show and The Best Album for Thank You. The movie-concert Green Theatre in Zemfira by Litvinova was named the best musical movie of the year.
On March 21, 2009 a long-awaited album of b-sides Z-Sides leaked into the net. In June 2010 Zemfira wrote on her official website that "vacation is over" and announced a mini-tour in support of a deluxe-edition of her first three albums (Zemfira, PMML and 14 Weeks of Silence). On August 1 she performed a set of 4 songs on the closing concert of a pop-music contest New Wave. It was her first performance since January 2009. The arrangements of this set were used in the mini-tour in September that included 5 cities: Saint-Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Minsk, Kiev and Moscow. Critics admitted that her old songs became more rhythmic and resembled demo-versions due to the new minimalistic style of arrangements. In October Zemfira took part in two tribute concerts "20 Years without KINO" in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg that were dedicated to the memory of Victor Tsoi. Her gig of four covers on Tsoi's songs was seen by some journalists as the most noticeable performance in the program.
On New Year's Eve 2011, the video version of two Moscow concerts staged in Crocus City Hall and Strelka in September 2010 was broadcast on Dozhd' (Rain) TV channel. The video was directed by Renata Litvinova. Then the singer informed her fans that the release of her sixth album had moved to the fall 2011. The first single No Chance was presented on Nashe Radio on April 15. During the next 3 months she gave three performances: on May 28 Zemfira took part in the international rock festival Maxidrom along with The Prodigy, Adam Lambert, Korn, Brainstorm and other artists. She then became a Russian headliner of a Muz-TV Awards ceremony show at Olimpiysky Stadium on June 3. On July 23 Zemfira performed at the Afisha Picnic outdoor Festival in Moscow as the Russian headliner of the main stage. During that gig she presented a new song presumably called Money.
Sometimes moody, self-assured, enigmatic and flamboyant, Zemfira has found herself an object of constant obsession by the Russian media and paparazzi. She added to the furor by limiting her contact with the media after an initial avalanche of invasive and libelous publicity. Multiple Russian tabloids had speculated about the singer’s sexual orientation, drawing largely on references found in her song lyrics, and for the last couple of years romantically linking her with actress, director and screenwriter Renata Litvinova. The singer herself has never discussed her private life. In a 2011 press conference, Zemfira answered "No" to a question, whether she believes in a God, and "Yes" on whether she's in love.
You can’t imagine what people live like in Bashkiria: they are a disaster. And I am the bright representative of it - Zemfira