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Musicians Looking Forward to Soviet Gigs

Times Staff Writer

While 30 Soviet high-school students eagerly plan visit here beginning March 15, San Diego High School senior Chris Backman is more interested in their return to Moscow on April 6.

Backman will be going back with them on his second trip to Russia, a prime example of the spinoffs that are beginning to take place under student-to-student contacts between American and Soviet teen-agers.

Backman has been invited on a five-week tour of Soviet college and factory clubs with his five-member rock-jazz band “Colours” by Nadia Burova, director of the Center for Creative Initiatives for Peace in Moscow. Burova played a key role in setting up the continuing student exchanges between San Diego high schools and two campuses in Moscow.

Mostly Original Compositions

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Backman came to Burova’s attention while the 17-year-old guitar player was in the Soviet Union last summer as part of the initial school exchanges. Backman had brought as souvenirs tapes of his band’s music--the members play almost all original compositions--and one of the cassettes found its way to Burova’s son. The band was named the nation’s third-best amateur band in a contest in San Francisco last year.

Burova’s son “had his mother listen, and I guess she liked the lyrics because they express different views,” Backman said.

Backman and a Soviet student also wrote an instrumental piece together, which they played at the closing ceremony. “I didn’t speak any Russian, and she didn’t speak any English, but through the music, we came together,” Backman said.

“Chris was so excited after the summer exchange that he wanted to come back and we wanted him to come back,” Burova said during an interview while in San Diego earlier this week.

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“And we were able to arrange a tour of student and factory clubs, and we already are advertising the coming of his band.”

The band’s trip is billed as the U.S.-to-U.S.S.R. Peace Tour.

Need for Funds

Burova’s center will pick up expenses for the band while in the Soviet Union, and the members will stay with families much of the time. Backman and his colleagues are raising the funds for their air fare. The band has a concert scheduled April 1 at UC San Diego and Backman also hopes for some local corporate sponsors. But, in the worst case, the band will take out a loan to cover the difference between the funds it raises and the total cost, he said.

“We’re definitely going,” Backman said. “We’ve been practicing a lot and have learned a couple of songs that they will be familiar with over there.”

The United Nations Assn. of San Diego has offered non-monetary support. Backman’s principal and counselors have approved the trip, and he is now working with his teachers on independent projects to complete while in the Soviet Union.

Backman’s band won top honors locally in 1987 and 1988 in the KGB-FM Rock Wars competition among 36 San Diego groups. It was named best West Coast amateur band in 1988 by radio station judges who listened to cassette recordings sent them by more than 10,000 bands nationwide. Colours was one of the final four asked to play live for the top prize nationally.

The band’s other members are Christopher’s brother, drummer Eric Backman, 19, a student at Grossmont College; singer David Romero, 20, a student at San Diego State University; Robert Helm, 20, a saxophonist, and Michael Rouleau, 19, who plays bass.

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