Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mesmerizing Afro-Pop Beats

It isn't every day you come across a five-man band in Moscow with a lead singer from the former Zaire. Seraphim (not pictured above) first came to the ex-Soviet Union in 1990 to study Russian in Ukraine. He stuck with it for five years before catching the train to St. Petersburg, where he met Yegor, Yefrem and Kirill, a three-piece rock band who had been playing at parties and underground clubs in the city since 1987. He gave them a couple of cassettes of Afro-Caribbean music, they talked shop over a few beers and with Vova on second guitar, Markscheider Kunst was born.

Yegor, the drummer with spiky hair and a permanent grin, explained their curious name. "Markscheider is German for one of those men in orange jumpsuits with tripods, who check angles of elevation in construction sites," he said. "So I suppose you could call us surveyors of art." Indeed, their music runs the gamut from reggae through ska to jive with a smattering of Latin American salsa thrown in for good measure. "A lot of our songs are something called soukous," said Seraphim, who wears jeans and a roomy tan waistcoat with tartan lining. "It's traditional music from Central Africa, very similar to rhumba."

These days you can hear them three or four times a week in Moscow's smaller, grungier clubs like Vermel, Trety Put and Krizis Zhanra.

The band came down from St Petersburg in February and became so popular they now have their own basement apartment in the center of Moscow, where they live with their manager, Ilya, and Kirill's girlfriend, Yulia. There's no furniture except a table, two packing cases and a brown teapot, so there is plenty of room for Yegor's drum kit.

"We practice here every day," said Kirill, pulling deep on a joint. "The neighbors don't seem to mind."

They drew an impressive crowd at Propaganda on Tuesday night. With his angelic voice and slight, chocolate frame, Seraphim cuts an unusual figure. The girls love him.

Olga, a history student at Moscow State University, says she has been to almost every one of the band's concerts since they arrived six months ago.

"It's so unusual," she said, adjusting her lime-green vest straps. "Seraphim completely mesmerizes his audience when he sings."

Their last song had the entire club on their feet and dancing for all they were worth. As the final chord stuck, Seraphim wiped the sweat off his face and half a dozen skinny blondes came up to kiss him. He looked embarrassed.

"I guess they like that song," he said.

Markscheider Kunst are playing at Krizis Zhanra on Saturday, July 12, at The Island Reggae Club on Sunday, July 13 and at Parizhskaya Zhizn on Thursday, July 18. Club addresses can be found in the MT Out address box.