Behind the Classic ‘Tetris’ Video Game Theme

We’ve all been there, played the game, trying to fit the next falling piece into the right place to get points and, hopefully, to earn a “Tetris” and get some of the already assembled blocks to disappear so we can keep playing.

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While doing so, of course, we’ve all also heard the Tetris theme song. In case you need a refresher, it’s below. But what is the story of the theme song? Where did it come from and why does it sound like it’s from some foreign distant land?

Let’s dive in and find out.

The Game, The Song

Though simple in its design, gamers will likely be playing Tetris well into the next century and beyond.

The classic 1989 version, which came with the first Gameboy handheld gaming system, features charming music that recalls, perhaps strangely, traditional Russian folk songs. Specifically, it resembles, in all of its digital “chip-tune” wonder, the 19th-century tune “Korobeiniki.”

That song honors the course where the game was actually first invented. Written by Hirokazu Tanaka, the theme remains catchy, even dozens of levels into playing the simple yet classic game.

The Russian Original

The song “Korobeiniki” is also known, in English, as “The Peddlers.” It is based on a poem of the same name, first printed in Sovremennik magazine in 1861. The song tells the story of a meeting between a salesman (or, peddler) and a girl. The two barter over goods (in exchange for a kiss, and more), which in the song is a metaphor for their impending romance.

In Gameboy’s Tetris, the song is called “A-Type” and it was arranged by Japanese composer Hirokazu Tanaka in 1989 for the game. As a tune, it increases in tempo as the associated dance also speeds up and increases in bravado.

In the song, the girl rejects all the offers except one: a turquoise ring. The next morning, the peddler pledges to marry her when he returns from the market. But the poem ends with the peddler getting robbed and killed by a forest ranger after trying to return home with the profits he made.

Check out the game song below.


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