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NI musician detained at Russian airport and sent home as bandmates blame ‘red tape’

Folk artist Brian Finnegan regular visitor to country

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Duet: Brian Finnegan performing with Russian friend Boris Grebenshchikov in a Moscow underpass six years ago. Credit: Epsilon/Getty Images

Duet: Brian Finnegan performing with Russian friend Boris Grebenshchikov in a Moscow underpass six years ago. Credit: Epsilon/Getty Images

Getty Images

Duet: Brian Finnegan performing with Russian friend Boris Grebenshchikov in a Moscow underpass six years ago. Credit: Epsilon/Getty Images

Well-known Armagh musician Brian Finnegan has been denied entry into Russia, with bandmates blaming it on red tape.

Having performed with Russian rock group Aquarium for 15 years, the flute and whistle player was supposed to appear at a gig in Moscow’s 1930 club on Monday.

Instead, he was detained at the airport for a day and put on a plane home.

A past pupil of the Armagh Pipers Club, he is also frontman of Flook, which won the BBC Folk Award for band of the year in 2006.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Aquarium said they expected he had already arrived home.

A band member said: “Apparently, he was denied entry to Russia because he was transiting through Riga to Latvia and Russia did not re-establish regular air travel to and from Latvia yet, although planes have been arriving from Riga to Moscow and St Petersburg every other day since spring 2021 — one of too many strange regulations during the current pandemic.”

According to the BBC’s Russian language news website, the band’s management said he was detained for purely bureaucratic reasons and there was no ban on him visiting Russia.

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Aquarium frontman Boris Grebenshchikov spoke out over the incident during the gig.

As reported by the Perild news website, he said: “Yesterday at the border they took his passport, he was detained, he spent a day at the airport, and today he was put on a plane and sent back at his own expense.

“No explanation was given, we do not know the reasons. Therefore, we dedicate this concert to him, although we do not even know where he is now.

“But we know that any of us and of you may end up in such a situation in the near future.”

On Mr Finnegan’s personal website, his biography says that his “unique approach to exploring the rough outer edges of composition and arrangement” comes from the tradition he grew up in, as well as touring and living in India and eastern Europe.

He formed Flook 25 years ago and the group has recorded four acclaimed studio albums.

In 2006 a chance encounter in New York led him to meet Grebenshchikov, who is a well-known performer in his homeland.

Forging a new musical partnership, it led to a decade of touring Russia and the Far East.

Earlier this year Mr Finnegan released his latest solo album, Hunger On The Skin.

He said it was inspired by “the extraordinary events (of the pandemic) that began in March 2020 when the world hunkered down and the slow burn recalibration of life began; people swept off the streets, out of each other’s lives, each other’s arms.”

The album was nominated in the RTE Radio 1 Folk Awards.


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