The Soundtrack of a Russian Woodsman

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Andrei Katkov on the Tunsha River, Winter 2009. Photograph © Jonathan C. Slaght

My colleagues in the Russian Far East are serious outdoorsmen; individuals who scavenge meat from dead animals, remain unwashed for days or weeks, stand stock-still to endure bluff charges from bears and tigers, and react resolutely when such attacks turn out to be more than feigned.

I sometime wonder, if life were film, what music would trail these men. A fitting soundtrack might be raw and acoustic; a lo-fi recording of light-fingered guitarists and rhythmic stomping that lofts sawdust from floorboards underfoot. Or perhaps something heavier: a grinding wave of rusty industrial noise to highlight the rough edges of this place.

In reality, there is an arresting dichotomy between my gruff Russian companions and the music they select to augment their travel experiences. On long rides churning through mud and skirting cliffs against backdrops of magnificent mountains and twisting rivers, they actively choose to listen to what I would expect to hear at a middle-school dance party instead.

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