The incredible story of 9Bach and the boy who lived with dogs

9Bach's latest single 'Ifan' tells the true story of Ivan Mishukov, a young child who left his poverty stricken home and fended for himself on the streets of Moscow in the nineties. Feeling the watchful eyes of the wild dogs on him, he soon learned that if he fed them they would keep him warm in return. Trust was gained, and after several months the dogs made Ivan, 4 years old, the pack leader. Below, Lisa Jên Brown from 9Bach tells the story of writing the song: her inspiration, and how they got Ivan involved in the making of the video for the song.

I heard a play on Radio 4, called ‘Ivan and The Dogs’ by Hattie Naylor, I was transfixed and I immediately went out and bought a book called ‘Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A history of Feral Children’ by Michael Newton, as it had a chapter on Ivan. I simply needed more… more of the story, more of the truth, more of this beautiful kinship between child and dog.

Ivan walked out of his poverty stricken home at the age of 4 and never went back. Instead he lived on the streets of Moscow, scared and alone. But then he found these eyes, beautiful eyes that were always there, in the distance, watching. They were the eyes of a She dog, the head of the pack.

Stray dogs and apartment rubbish bins on Prospect Mira, the street where Ivan Mishukov lived before running away from home to live with a pack of wild dogs. Reutov, Russia, 1998. © Jeremy Nicholl.

Ivan soon realised that by feeding the dogs scraps of food from the bins they began to trust him, and protect him, and keep him warm. Ivan became one of the dogs, in fact, he was made pack leader.

Being an animal lover myself, especially dogs, I began to home in on that part of this very true story, the bit where Ivan had never felt love like this before. He felt safe, warm and happy…

Ivan was captured, like an animal, a few years later by the authorities who baited the dogs and distracted them with meat, whilst they trapped Ivan without the protection of his dogs.

And so when I heard of this horrible day when Ivan was separated from the dogs for the last time, and how he cried and screamed and had nightmares for months, and still does dream of the dogs, I began to question: who are we, us humans? Who are we to say that Ivan should be “rescued” from the very thing that’s making him happy?

Dogs don’t lie. Humans do

‘Ifan’ (also a Welsh name spelt with an ‘f’) our song, is about that very moment of separation, of that moment I imagine the barking and howling and screaming of a child being snatched, the authorities’ car screeching as it moves through the streets, dogs sprinting as fast as they could after the car, barking and determined and so distressed to see their leader, the boy, kidnapped by MEN.

Who will look after him, protect him under the stars? I imagine the grief is killing him, I imagine the bright eyes of the She dog glaring, constantly looking for the boy, only never ever to see him, to see each other again.

Never once did I imagine the real IVAN to ever come across this 9Bach song. Yes, I’d been telling his story and agonised over what became of this child; I had no idea if he was still alive and well, in fact, it was none of my business really. But, I often thought of him and pondered over what happened next.

11 year old Ivan Mishukov as a student at the Naval Kadetskii Korpus, the school of the elite Kronstadt Naval Academy. Kronstadt, Russia. © Jeremy Nicholl.

Ivan Mishukov spent some time at Reutov children’s centre in Moscow.
Ivan Mishukov was fortunate to be taken in by a loving family.
Ivan Mishukov is now a well adjusted member of society.
Ivan Mishukov lives in Moscow.
Ivan Mishukov listened to and loved the 9Bach song ‘Ifan’.
Ivan Mishukov happily appears in the 9Bach video of ‘Ifan’, where he kindly takes us around his old stomping ground showing the pipes that he used to keep warm and the ground floor of the block of flats he ran away from as a child.

Six-year-old Ivan Mishukov at the children's sanitorium, Zhukovsky, Russia, 1998. © Jeremy Nicholl / eyevine

The connections made, and the way in which Ivan even got his ears around the Welsh language song that blasts his story is typically Welsh!

The saying goes that you are only two people away from knowing anyone in Wales, or in this case two people away from knowing anyone in the world, providing there is a Welsh connection… somewhere!

My friend Guto knows a man from Caernarfon who lives in Sweden, that has friends in Moscow.
My friend Guto asked the man if those friends would be able to help with this project.
My friend Guto got the details of Andrey, from Moscow, and got in touch through email and Facebook to ask if he’d film some footage of Moscow in the snow (for our video).
Andrey was so kind to go out in the snow with his wife and child and film lots of footage… and then contacted Ivan on the off chance (through Russia’s version of Facebook!)
Ivan responded.
Ivan loved the song and was moved by it.
Ivan welcomed the man from Moscow in to his world and they both set off to film the video together.
Ivan is lovely.
Ivan is generous and kind.
Ivan loves this song in a strange language about the moment he was separated by his most loving family of Dogs.

I am moved by… the world and its beautiful people.
I am smitten with Ivan’s enthusiasm to be involved.
I feel lucky to come across humans with a kind heart and an urge to make things happen – to create together.

This story is an example of harmony, of connection and of kindred spirits. It is a small representation of a World that can love…

It is ANIAN.

Watch the video for 'Ifan' featuring Ivan Mishukov

Featured Release

  • Anian

    9Bach

    Released 29 April 2016

    ‘Anian’ is 9Bach's third album. Like 2014's ‘Tincian’ it begins in North Wales, but broadens out through Greek and Near Eastern influences into an emotional tour de force. Angry, sad, but most of all passionate at the state of the world, the album taps into a truly universal language.

By Lisa Jên Brown

Lisa Jên Brown is the lead singer and songwriter of 9Bach. She is also an actress and playwright.

Published on Fri, 16 November 18

Further reading

Live: The Breath at Trinity Centre, Bristol

The Breath performed a captivating full-band set to a wildly receptive Bristol crowd.

Building Public Health Narratives through the music of Les Amazones d’Afrique

Exploring public health narratives and ideas for a new Les Amazones d'Afrique song.

Real World Sessions: Totó la Momposina, 20 August 1991

A look back on The Wood Room session with producer Phil Ramone and mix engineer Richard Blair.

A look back on Geoffrey Oryema’s 1993 video for ‘The River’

Marking the 25th anniversary of Beat The Border, the official video for 'The River' is now online.