Babushkas Sing For The Good Of Their Village

The singing Babushkas of Buranova have made a name for themselves, first as an Internet sensation and then at the Eurovision competition this year. They saved money from their performances to help their ramshackle village. Guest host David Greene has an update on these hard-working grandmothers.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's travel to a different part of Russia now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BABUSHKAS OF BURANOVA: (Singing in Russian)

GREENE: These are the Babushkas of Buranova.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BURANOVA: (Singing in Russian)

GREENE: Buranova is a tiny village 600 miles east of Moscow. I went there last year to meet a dozen or so women who were making quite a name for themselves. They treated me to this song as I walked into one of their homes. Babushka is Russian for grandmother and these women are mostly in their 70s and 80s. Their story is sadly familiar in Russia. Many of these elderly women lost their husbands years ago to alcoholism or hard work. Searching for companionship, the babushkas of Buranova turned to one another and to music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BURANOVA: (Singing in Russian)

GREENE: But their music took an odd turn. A few years ago, a producer from Moscow heard about the singing group and hatched a plan. If they would be willing to sing catchy Western songs in their native Udmurt language, they might gain quite a following. The women agreed, performing Queen, The Eagles. Here, the Beatles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BURANOVA: (Singing in Russian)

GREENE: They became an Internet sensation, and this year, they represented Russia at the Eurovision world music competition in Azerbaijan. The little ladies, smiling at one another on stage, didn't end up winning, but really, they stole the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BURANOVA: (Singing) Come on and dance, come on and boom, boom...

GREENE: When I met the women, they were enjoying their fame, but talked mostly about wanting to help their ramshackle village. Above all, they wanted to rebuild a church that was destroyed during Stalinist times. Any small money they got from their performances, they told me, was set aside for the church. Which is why I smiled a few days ago, catching a story in the New York Times from Buranova. Work on the church has finally begun. What's more, the local government is laying a new water pipeline in the village. They're rebuilding roads and putting in high-speed Internet. One resident said God had forgotten this place until the babushkas sang...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BURANOVA: (Singing in Russian)

GREENE: You're listening to NPR News.

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