Episode VIII of Ukrainian Field Notes goes deep into Russian occupied territory for an interview with Kadaitcha in Nova Kakhovka.
We also hear from Arthur Mine with a new release on Muscut (the gloriously “retro-futurist” Urania), alongside Andrey Kostyukov, who just produced the programmatic album For fish who think they are swimming in the void while internally displaced, and the refreshingly ironic ТУЧА dissecting toxic relationships.
Plus, Yurii Bazaka from kontrabass promo gives us an insight into fundraising activities for musicians on the warfront; Sasha Kladbische addresses misconceptions held by Western journalists, and Kiss Allah launches a new label.
To prove that Ukrainians are capable of humour even in adversity, we take a look at the work of the Dnipro based animator Mykyta Lyskov and we survey Ukrainian war memes with Dima Maleev.
To round things off, we listen to both the latest Air Raid Siren podcast from Nina Eba, with testimonies and music from the Podil neighbourhood in Kyiv, and the most recent radio show from rinse.fr by @systemma1 with Sekta & NFNR. In addition, an all Ukrainian selection of ambient, dub and experimental music from Pymin (one of our very first interviewees) on Gasoline Radio.
And confident that by the end of the year we will have featured 100+ fundraising compilations, we add another 10 to our list, which still leaves us with a backlog, while the latest news update from Anton Somewhere brings the episode to a close.
JUNE 8 2022 – NOVA KAKHOVKA
Yurii: Starless, my solo project, was conceived a long time ago but has eventually materialised with the release of the first album Initiation in 2013 [rereleased on Despot on June 22, 2022]. My primary group Biblioteka Prospero at the time was focused not only on music but also on the lyrics on which we placed a high emphasis. However, over time I have accumulated enough material that was unlikely to fit this project, and besides I wanted to realize my wider music interests like industrial, noise and prog rock. The Quasi Pop label, which released the first Starless album, described it as “somewhere dark, mystical and surreal blend of contemporary avant-garde, ECM-like jazzy soundscapes, kraut-rock, industrial noise, free jazz, primitive electro beats and doomy shoegaze guitars” and liberally compared it to “early Cabaret Voltaire meets Penderecki meets Aidan Baker meets Coltrane meets Cluster.”
My current works manifest more specifically noise-industrial harsh textures and at the same time neat, thorough electro acoustics. I am fascinated by manipulations with samplers, collected field recordings and prepared samples of various origin.
Andrii: Kojoohar is my personal project and a name I mostly used to perform live and to release occasional tracks, usually preferring to collaborate with other artists. The sound and genre palette evolved over years along with my tastes and skills, but always tended to some darker industrial side. My musical path started back in the mid 2000s with intuitive attempts to write unpretentious darkwave and ambient tunes on my laptop with no purpose whatsoever. More conscious and physical work broke out some ten years later when I discovered the world of hardware synths. To me it became an endless source of inspiration and joy of exploration and discovery. I love turning the knobs and patching my synths, manipulating the sound, constructing complex patterns. At the same time I love working in DAW, arranging sampled material, drawing nerdy automations, searching for the perfect combination like solving a jigsaw puzzle. This is a meditative process overall which in a way helps me turn some of my destructive traits into more constructive fields. I guess that’s what defines this music in the first place.
Kadaitcha emerged from an experiment but despite the seemingly abstract form it quickly gained quite a specific character and sound. We two have worked together well on a number of projects before, so it was just a matter of time – once we decided to try and create something different and disengaged from our previous experience. These were the times when Andrii had just dived into the synth wormhole which also contributed to initial experimentation, but we never limited ourselves specifically to hardware or electronic instruments – in this regard Kadaitcha infinitely benefits from Yurii’s experience as a multi-instrumentalist. It’s probably the very difference of our approaches, backgrounds and global preferences that sustains optimal variability and irregularity of this music. Yet another major influence comes from the place we live in, a small town in the middle of a timeless steppe flooded with viscous swelter, which permeates everything we do with tarry stains of southern phlegm. Kadaitcha has absorbed this spirit to the maximum.
How would you describe the noise and post-industrial scene in Ukraine?
It seems like there is no solid post-industrial scene in Ukraine. There are great artists, enthusiastic communities and independent local scenes, but altogether they seem too dissociated to constitute a single Ukrainian scene. It’s probably not a downside though, since it favors the diversity and uniqueness, preserves certain indigenousness of music, which is priceless, but probably in a longer term prospect because, on the other hand, it often makes decent music less noticeable for the general audience.
Reasonable amount of Ukrainian post-industrial music is represented on local labels like Quasi Pop records and Sentimental Productions, Kvitnu, Khatacomb, our recently created label Despot, and a few others. Among the relatively regular niche events are Hamselyt festival in Ternopil, Art Meeting in Kyiv, ATOM festival in Zhytomyr, Buddha Noise here in Nova Kakhovka (which was put on pause during the pandemic and now has obscure prospects in light of the war), but wholesome sporadic events are also taking place from time to time here and there. The most prominent lodge of post-industrial culture in Ukraine at the moment is the magazine and label Khatacomb. Though it has an even wider focus and in a way represents “Ukrainian esoteric underground” also dealing with dark folk and related genres.
I understand you are both still in Nova Kakhovka, which is under Russian occupation. What is the actual situation on the ground?
The situation here is quite oppressing, yet bearable if considered temporary. Our town hasn’t been shelled but is flooded with russian troops and police. The whole region is cut off from the rest of Ukraine, which means no supplies and no safe way to get in or out. There is a severe shortage of certain goods, mainly medicines. The prices immediately jumped higher while people are inevitably running out of money since many have lost their jobs, the banks are closed and it’s almost impossible to withdraw cash from the bank cards. Local activists, journalists and former military men are detained, interrogated and tortured, being forced to testify or collaborate. Some of them are still missing. Many people have left the town at their own risk despite the total absence of any agreed “green corridors”, the streets got noticeably emptier, except for uninvited mobs. Nova Kakhovka is located right next to the hydro power plant and water channel to the Crimea, it was one of the primary goals and was occupied on the very first day of the war, so it is unlikely that the occupiers will leave it by their own accord.
By the time we were about to send this interview back we got all mobile and internet connections cut down. Besides the obvious inability to communicate and get any news, we can no longer use our bank cards here at the moment. A few days later several local internet service providers have restored the internet connection, though the traffic now goes through russian networks where our privacy and security are severely compromised.
Back in April, you released a two track album of your solo projects on your own label Despot. Have you been able to work on new material as Kadaitcha since February 24th?
Our work has always been unhurried, now it seems to have slowed down even more. But we are trying to get back on track, and this split release in particular has helped us to come out of initial torpor and bring ourselves back into the process. It was important for us both conceptually and psychologically to create individual works. They became very intimate and worked perfectly well in terms of self-expression and personal overcoming of this imposed “writer’s block”. Despite certain technical difficulties we are now trying to continue the work on some old and new Kadaitcha material at home, whenever we have the possibility and proper spirit. The struggle continues.
In his Biblioteka Prospero days, Yurii Samsom enlisted fellow Nova Karkhova artist Leonid Limanenko, an accomplished hyperrealist painter specialised in seascapes (or wave surfs), to play drums. Yurii has now persuaded Limanenko to release a solo album comprised of material composed over the past 15 years. The resulting release Strange Gift is an inspired concoction of industrial cubism and anarchic sounds.
«In this album i used experimental guitar sound with minimum classical riffs, resorting more to picking strings with plastic bank cards, chains, springs to achieve additional aural textures as well as other principle of sound distortion, destruction. For the most part i consider the album to be a soundscape, a construction, rather than a full-fledged musical work. Much attention was given to the dramaturgy/design of compositions. An album-reflection on the nature of things, human essence, wars» [Leo Limanenko]
As with all featured artists, please consider supporting Yurii and Andrii through both their Kadaitcha and Despot bandcamp pages. We have double checked with them that payments do reach their accounts even under Russian occupation.
JUNE 10 2022 – KYIV
What is your current studio setup and your favourite piece of gear?
I use a lot my Nord lead 2x, which has a unique, physical, almost acoustic sound, Vermona PerfourmerI and Moog Subsequent. Nord Drum is my go to percussion synth. I also use various vst’s, granular fx and delays in general.
In addition, I have my piano, which I sometimes record with. At other times I use a digital piano for more transparency and air.
Your latest work Urania contains two tracks previously released on your Dispersed Mind EP of 2021. How did you get to construct the new album and what do you normally start with when creating a new work?
I see Urania as a compilation more than an album. To be honest I’m not about making “albums” in a big classic way. In this particular case the idea of using a few tracks from previous releases belongs to the Muscut label, I just don’t mind and think they sit well together, and it’s fine, I feel comfortable not being obsessed by any global conception of an album. But there is a method in Urania which I followed – I program a sequence, and then I improvise around it, most of the material was recorded live with just a little rehearsal before it. Soundwise, I wanted this album to have a clear cd-quality feel to it, like 90s Japanese electronic music.
In terms of the working process and how I usually start – it is different all the time. In electronic music you have this ability to build your special instrument for every particular track if you wish. Just reconnect synths, use some new fx, generate a custom tone and there you are. Sometimes I start from harmony, sometimes atmosphere. I am not very into genres, like “experimental” you know, because come on, we’ve heard it all before. But on the other hand, every time you try something that is new for you, you’re basically dealing with an experiment, and that is where electronic music shines, you can discover it forever.
Without prior knowledge of your work, how would you persuade a new listener that Homespun Nocturnes and Urania are both albums by the same artist and do you see the latter as a logical progression to the former?
Really good question. I don’t see my work as a progression, it is more like highlighting different spots of one big canvas which is music for me. I can’t force myself to work within the narrow confines of a particular genre. I just love piano, synths and many other instruments that I have around. You can make music with pots and jars as well, and if you don’t even have that, you always have your body, your voice, just anything that produces sound.
Have you experienced eureka moments in your artistic development?
Yes. But then time goes by, and you’re just – it’s ok, it’s normal. It is always like this with eureka. When I recorded a piano album, I put textile on the strings to make it sound more gentle and thought – eureka, genius! A few months later when I started to dig into modern piano music, I realised that plenty of artists already work like this.
How would you describe the experimental music scene in Kyiv and would you say there is a distinctive Kyiv sound?
Distinctive Kyiv sound, hm. I’d give us some time to develop, maybe it is too early to talk about a distinctive Kyiv sound as a phenomenon that unites all of the artists. Though there are many talented and motivated people united by their love of music.
Are you still in Kyiv and what is the current situation on the ground?
I travel around Ukraine a lot as many others these days. I was in Kiev as well when the war started, and several times later. Now it is ok in Kiev, beautiful nature, chestnut trees blooming, birds singing but it is not what we all had before. What can I say, it is a stupid situation, everything just slowed down and we are now operating in a safe mode – few parties, few concerts, no job opportunities for many people. When all this craziness stops, I hope we’ll come to the right conclusions and start doing new arts and music.
What do you remember about February the 24th and how would you say the war has changed both your life and you as a person?
February 24 was a surprise and at the same time expected, paradoxically. We woke up under bombing and the sounds of sirens. People are always fighting wars and then thinking how to avoid them in future which is kind of an absurdity. Good things – war makes us more comfortable with two t-shirts and a toothbrush anywhere in the world. You realise that your possessions don’t mean anything, you’re just thankful to be alive. And that’s all. First you’re scared, then you’re concentrated trying to survive, and then you’re like, “What the heck! Was life so boring that we needed war and all these deaths?”
Do you think about the future?
Yes. I try to imagine a better future for humanity. What should it look like? Humanity united as never before fighting Reptiloids from a distant galaxy? But even in such a situation half of humans would join the Reptiloids and the other half would ally themselves with 6-eye worms from Titan, and then we’d still destroy each other? I don’t know. My personal future is nothing special, now we have to think in a global way – what should a better future look like for us all.
What book / film / artwork / podcast / TV series / landmark / best captures Ukraine for you?
Instead of choosing only Ukrainian works, I’ll pick some titles that, while not always describing the situation directly, at least somehow correlate to what is happening.
Studio Ghibli – Pom Poko; Leonid Kuchma – Ukraine is not a Russia; Viktor Pelevin – Methuselah’s Lamp, or the last Battle of the Chekists and Masons; and Louis Ferdinand Céline – Journey to the End of the Night.
JUNE 10 2022 – KYIV
I was born and bred in Kyiv. Musically, I would describe myself as a sound producer recently working at the intersection of experimental, IDM, and abstract music. I began to be interested in music at quite a young age – 11 years old. I went to music school for classical guitar lessons, then began to play in bands. I mostly played shoegaze and space rock, I always loved delays and reverb)).
I was always interested in understanding and investigating the different musical spectrums of sound, so after my fascination with guitar music I started producing ambient and a bit later I ventured into more dance music, and from there I lost myself in the world of electronic music. The atmosphere and the functionality of the sound are the wheels of attraction of my musical engine.
What is your studio setup and favourite piece of gear and what is your approach to a live set?
My studio setup is quite small, but it meets my needs: Electron Cycles (drum machine), Arturia MicroFreak (synthesizer), electric guitar, effects processor, Daw Ableton, and a couple of midi keyboards.
I usually play live with Electron Cycles, Arturia MicroFreak, and Daw Ableton.
I also really like field recordings and glitchy sounds in the upper and middle frequencies, and reflective reverb to create a bubbly, watery sound.
You’ve just released the album For fishes that think they are swimming in the void which you describe as “Self-expression during the russian-Ukrainian war” and “Written for people that feel lost in their thoughts, being far from their homes.” The album is wonderfully intricate with playful undertones. How did you go about composing it and how difficult have you found it to produce music since February 24?
I wrote this album when I was in Western Ukraine, away from my home studio. I went there with my girlfriend (Maria Korneeva, a.k.a. AXT), our dog Lysa and a friend on the first day of the war. It was very difficult to imagine myself making music for the first month, as it was very stressful and scary because we did not know what tomorrow would bring, or even the next hour. After the situation with the war became more or less clear, I felt a need for daily escapism, and sublimation, as well as a need to clarify my feelings and thoughts about what was happening in my life and in that of many Ukrainians. It was a very somber mood mixed with melancholy and tentative hope. I decided to put all of this experience into the album ‘For fishes that think they are swimming in the void’.
Can music have a therapeutic effect in times of war?
I am deeply convinced of this, as I experience the therapeutic effects of music almost every day, it’s very important to me now. When you read terrible news on a daily basis about things that are happening in your country and you are living through a war, music can offset fears, grief, and gloomy thoughts like never before.
Are you still in Kyiv and what is the current situation on the ground?
It’s been a month and a half since I’ve been back in Kyiv, and I can tell you that the city has come back to life, a lot of people have gone back to their homes, and there are music and other cultural events. Everything has changed a little bit in these 100 days, people have become more courageous, they appreciate each other more and help each other more. By the way, I can also add that the air has become much cleaner, as the number of cars has drastically reduced. But there’s still the chance of being hit by a piece of shrapnel, so only the bravest are now in Kyiv)).
You regularly play both in Odesa and Kyiv. How would you describe the electronic music scene in Ukraine and would you say cities like Odesa and Kyiv have their own specific sound?
Definitely, Odesa and Kyiv have their own distinctive sound. In the southern pearl, they love dub, trance, and in general psychedelic sound, whereas the sound in the capital is characterised by the predominance of electro, techno, and experimental music, thanks to the abundance and variety of musicians present. That said, generally speaking, I’ve now been finding more and more interesting sound producers and artists outside Kyiv and Odesa, in central and western cities of our country.
You’ve contributed to Sestro released by система | system, one of the more interesting fundraising compilations. How do you feel about the number of releases that have come out since the invasion?
The desire to escape from reality plus a deep and defiant desire to be heard – that’s the cocktail you can see in most Ukrainian releases now. I am very happy, to be honest, with the Sestro compilation as well, there are a lot of my musical colleagues I like. I would also like to mention other releases such as Standard Deviation x @Mystictrax’s – Together for Ukraine, and Indefinite State by the ejekt label. The music is a perfect tool for Western audiences who want to help both musicians and volunteers.
20ft Radio, Kultura Zvuku, Rhythm Büro etc. are amongst the most interesting promoters of Ukrainian electronic and experimental music nurturing local talent. The pandemic also made Kyiv the club capital of Europe, so to speak. Do you feel Ukrainian artists are now finally getting the exposure they deserve on the international scene?
Yes, the chances are definitely increasing. A lot of people have already managed to play sets on HÖR. I also often see familiar Ukrainian names among European line-ups.
You are open to collaborations and have played with AXT. Who are the artists you would most like to work with?
It would be interesting to try to work with Vladimir Gnatenko, and Elija. And it would be also great to release an album with AXT, because we have already produced a lot of cool music sketches, that the world could listen))
After over 100 days since the Russian invasion, how has your life changed since February 24, and how would you say the war has changed you?
I can say that the war has made me a little wiser, rethinking my values. I began to appreciate my usual routine and each single day more. Of course, I often feel sad and melancholic because it’s really hard to determine my future, but in such moments I try to concentrate more on my friends and the people closest to me, and take comfort in the support we give each other.
Are you able to think of the future?
Although the future is a bit hazy, I still try to keep a positive vision for the foreseeable months, and years.
What book / film / TV series / blog / podcast / artwork / traditional dish best capture Ukraine for you?
Documentary: Who are we? Psychoanalysis of Ukrainians.
JUNE 13 2022 – KYIV
Hi! My name is Mariia, I’m a Ukrainian producer and singer. My music project is called TUCHA where I play EBM and dark electro.
Now, almost all of my setup is at my parents’ house in another city. I sent it there before the invasion, because I knew that in any case, it would be difficult to evacuate with synthesizers.
Now I’m in Kyiv and I have just a laptop, monitor speakers, headphones and a midi controller. But it is fine because I’m very adaptive and I can create without any of my regular setup.
In spite of its defiant sound, your album ТокСік is a rather dark affair dealing with complex feelings. The album cover art injects into it a healthy dose of irony, how did you go about composing it?
I love irony and take some serious shit more fun. So yeah, I took the concept of masochism and sang about it more joyfully, even on the verge of hysteria. To sing about sad stuff in a happy mood is more interesting. Also I really enjoy puns so I use it for my art cover of an EP. Toxic in Ukrainian is Токсік and second part of word Токсік – СІК means juice. So I’m drinking juice with toxic 🙂
You’ve been writing your lyrics in Ukrainian, was that always a conscious decision for you and how do you feel about the use of the Russian language after the invasion?
I always write Ukrainian lyrics because it’s my mother tongue. I had never thought about russian language, even though it was better for a career. Never. I hate even thinking about this. Sometimes I write English lyrics, but not specifically, the muse whispers. Should you sing in Ukrainian now? Yes, you should. We have to return to our independent scene in the 90s where almost all artists sung in Ukrainian. But in the 00s because of money and more opportunities (while using russian language in their songs) many of these artists started to drift to russia and it was a mistake. So now we just need to remember our roots.
How would you describe the electronic scene in Kyiv and Ukraine in general?
Our scene is very different and it’s cool. But for me I’ve always felt myself quite off the main scene. I’m not pop or rap and not techno, not in those more common trends in young music. I’m in the middle. But this war will produce more atypical artists because we now have a unique experience that nobody in the world has. So I’m really excited about our sound in the future.
What do you remember about February the 24th?
I was out of my fucking mind! Before the 24th, we had a conversation with my friend that it’s never gonna happen, this full invasion. And the next day russians started bombing all Ukraine! Can you believe it? This was horrible. And each day is horrible because our people are dying without any reason. I’ll always remember the little girl in the pink coat who was stopping cars near the road to leave Kyiv.
Are you still in Kyiv and if so what is the current situation on the ground?
Our situation is stable and unstable. New reality. People adapt, you get used to sirens, sometimes you don’t even notice them. But Kyiv is still alive! And it’s beautiful. But sometimes I become angry because of “extra living”.
It’s hard to explain because you don’t know the norm of living during the war, but I think we should never forget about those saintly people who are defending our country, and try to find useful missions if not on the war field, then in regular life. For example, my friend and I started to hold events about Ukrainian history, language and culture. Especially about the impact of russification on Ukraine. We need to rethink this experience and move on and build our country without any russian context.
How has your life changed since the invasion and how have you been changed by the war?
In terms of life, war affects all your habits, routines, all the base that is your life. In terms of music, some releases will no longer be released, some have already been released (which were not planned), because these are songs that react to the war. I became more aware of my role in society, what I had to do to prevent another war in the future. We will win! But this is not the last war, until russia disappears from the map of the world in the form in which it is now – a liar, manipulative, imperial. Ukraine is a separate country with its own constitution, language and culture. How is it possible for a neighbouring state to just come and commit genocide? This is unthinkable.
The late queer British film-maker Derek Jarman used to say that dancing is a political act. As far as I understand club nights have yet to resume in Kyiv. How do you manage to let off steam and express defiance?
Musically no way, because I’m not ready. Some songs I can play and some I can’t, it’s not the right time. Next weekend I’ll check how it feels to play live during war time [Tucha played at the Khvylia label showcase at Arsenal XXII in Kyiv on Sat 18th June 2022]. Apparently, the energy now comes from these projects, which I wrote about above, educational projects. Well, of course, hating russians also allows you to relax a bit 🙂
You released a new track in May, how difficult have you found it to listen to and produce music in recent months?
For the first 2 months I couldn’t listen to or write music at all. Now I’m back to normal, but more time is spent on other projects. I feel that I have already internalised some ideas, some narratives, but for now I let them flow in my mind autonomously. Later I will reflect on them and release them.
Can you think of the future?
Yes and very much! How we have to fuck russia in all ways. Also the whole world should think about the future, because this is not just a Ukrainian war! It is a war for freedom and democracy. If you didn’t understand then you just don’t want to understand it.
What book / film / podcast / TV series / blog / best describes Ukraine for you?
Ukraїner – It’s vlogs and media about our heritage and also about modern Ukraine. Also films: Atlantis, Donbass, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom. And if you wanna know actual news about Ukraine.
And finally, who should I interview next?
JUNE 17 2022 – KYIV
Yurii Bazaka – kontrabass promo
My name is Yurii, and I’m 30. I’m the founder of the Ukrainian cultural agency kontrabass promo. The agency works with young independent Ukrainian music.
I’ve liked Ukrainian music since childhood, digging Ukrainian music at school. Then my passion for music was converted into an attempt to be a concert promoter for young Ukrainian artists. Thus kontrabass promo came into being. We have been active for about four years now. We currently have 11 artists in our booking roster and are concentrating on booking our artists abroad. For example, on 1 July, we are going on a European tour with the Ukrainian EBM/synth-pop band Kurs Valüt. Btw, they have signed to the German label No Emb Blanc.
During the first lockdowns, we came up as initiators and co-founders of the biggest Ukrainian online festival Intercity Live. Musicians from all continents worldwide, along with independent Ukrainian artists, took part in this festival. 4 festivals during Apr-Sep 2020 got about 200k viewers.
Also, I’m a professor at the biggest technical university in Ukraine – Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, where I teach programming. Last year I got my Ph.D. degree.
Currently, I put all my efforts into work as a co-founder of the charity foundation Musicians Defend Ukraine. Our foundation raises funds for Ukrainian musicians who are protecting our country against russian invasion.
How would you describe the indie and alternative music scene in Ukraine and how diverse is it throughout the country?
The indie/alternative music scene is pretty diverse, and it’s totally opposite from the mainstream scene in terms of the music and listeners. The indie scene doesn’t have money, and it works only thanks to the self-investment of artists and managers. Some are trying to find some grants. Commercial processes are practically non-existent.
Could you talk about Musicians Defend Ukraine and the role that music can play during the war?
Musicians Defend Ukraine is the foundation we founded with our friends psy-rock band Love’n’Joy and Shpytal Records sound studio. It was founded one month after the russian invasion started. The foundation supports musicians who are protecting our country at the front. For the last two months, we managed to fund about 45,000 euros, helped a bunch of musicians, and bought a lot of useful stuff: from tactical clothes and first aid kits to cars and thermal monoculars. Currently, Ukrainian people are more willing to donate than people from Europe, but we feel that Ukrainians are almost out of money already. Music during the war plays a key role in morale and fighting spirit. There already are a few legendary songs that have been created during the last four months of the russian full-scale invasion. The whole country sings these songs. Music unites.
Could you give me a couple of titles just out of curiosity?
Well, probably the most popular one is this one, Ой, у лузі червона калина (Oy U Luzi Chervona Kalyna). It’s an old Ukrainian song which Pink Floyd also covered recently. There are other songs as well, that might be difficult for foreigner to understand. This, VOVA їBash їх Blyad’ by МЮСЛІ UA ft MC PAPA, is the biggest meme. And this, Шо ви браття by Jockii Druce, a simple rap with simple text, has become extremely popular.
Broadly speaking, in the West people are more prone to donate to humanitarian causes, with organisations like the Red Cross and Unicef being the preferred recipients of fundraising music compilations. What are the main challenges you are faced with when raising funds for musicians in the army?
The main challenge is people from Western and Eastern Europe have different treatment of the war. People from Eastern Europe are ready to donate to personal protection equipment, thermal monoculars, and drones, whereas people from Western Europe mostly donate only for humanitarian needs. On the one hand, it’s weird because if you donate to drones now, you won’t need to donate to hundreds of thousands of refugees later. But on the other hand, it’s understandable that people only truly comprehend the true evil of war when they personally experience it.
Btw, the Red Cross seemed to be quite a useless organisation. When the full-scale invasion started, we sent the request to their office in Ukraine. We urgently needed to deliver medicine to occupied Nova Kahovka. But the Red Cross answered, “You overestimate the possibilities of our organization.” As a result, we delivered that medicine on our own.
How would you say the international music community has responded to the Russian invasion?
Probably, Ukrainian artists and cultural managers have never been receiving so much attention from foreign media. A bunch of my friends have already been interviewed by top world media. Probably, due to this enhanced attention, I’m interviewed right now 🙂
However, it feels like the international community has started to grow tired of the war in Ukraine. Topics about Ukraine gradually disappear. And it carries a serious danger for our future safety.
I first came across Kontrabass Promo thanks to the ZMOVA project, 4 conceptual concert videos shot in Kyiv, designed to draw attention to the city’s historical sites. Are you planning more in the series and on a general level, what is currently being done to preserve the cultural heritage of Ukraine?
This year we planned to create two more seasons of ZMOVA, but because of the russian invasion, we had to shift the schedule. We might do a war season, and we already have some ideas regarding that. However, we probably have to rename the project because of the Z letter, which currently is the symbol of russian nazism.
The Zmova concert video with Yevhen Volodchenko, aka Курган, is centred on language and talks about “Surzhyk” a mixture of the Uпkrainian and Russian languages widely spoken in villages in certain regions of Ukraine.
The issue of language is a sensitive one, with the protection of the Russian language often cited as a reason for annexation and hostilities back in 2014 after the abolition of the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law granting Russian the status of regional language.
And yet, according to statistics quoted by The Atlantic Council back in 2018, while 68 percent of Ukrainians consider Ukrainian their mother tongue, only 50 percent speak it at home, and only 39 percent use it at work.
Have you noticed a shift since the beginning of the war in this respect, and how would you say the language issue has been addressed within the music community?
In 2009 when I moved to Kyiv from Western Ukraine, the majority of people in my environment were russian-speaking. In 2014 after the Revolution of Dignity, everything changed, and the majority of people switched to Ukrainian. When the russian full-scale invasion started, almost all my russian-speaking friends, whose mother tongue is russian, switched to Ukrainian. Hence, this war made a crucial contribution to the final stage of building the new Ukrainian nation and identity.
Many of the musicians I have spoken to have told me they found it difficult to listen to and produce music since the 24th of February. Can you envisage a time when it will be possible to hold live concerts again?
It was impossible to listen to the music the first few weeks after the invasion. Now, it’s better, and I even started following new releases. Furthermore, a lot of charity concerts and festivals take place in Ukraine now. Our foundation, Musicians Defend Ukraine, regularly receives profits from numerous events in Ukraine and abroad. The co-founders of our foundation, the Love’n’Joy band, have been touring Europe for the last month and send all the profit to the foundation.
How has the war personally affected you and your loved ones and are you able to think about the future?
First three months, I had been living in a small town in the Western part of Ukraine, but now I moved back to Kyiv, and life has stabilised. A planning time frame is still pretty narrow and restricted. However, we all have one common goal — to defeat russia. This is the thing we work on.
Finally, could you recommend a film / book / work of art / podcast / blog / tv series / app that best captures Ukraine for you?
СПАЛАХ (SPALAKH) – TV series about contemporary ukrainian culture (eng subs)
Ukrainian war memes. A useful thing to understand the current context.
Also, we are a super digitized country compared to Germany, for instance. Our bank apps can send the money to another person in a minute and all our documents (passport, covid certificate, id, driver license) we have in one mobile application. As a technical guy I’m proud of that!
JUNE 17 2022 – KYIV
My name is Sasha, and I have always been into music. When I was small, my dad played guitar and we sang at home. 90th have been a tough time in Ukraine, there was no possibility to choose music for education. So I’ve worked for many years in advertising. But I have never stopped writing poetry and music, not even having any musical education. Аnd step by step I came to the scene. I still have to do other work to earn a living, and it also allows me to record tracks in professional studios. Unfortunately, when you play underground music in Ukraine, it rarely brings a lot of income.
Aside from your solo work as Sklandno, you also play in Zwyntar, a dark graveyard country music band from Kyiv, and Folkulaka. What can you tell us about the experimental music scene in Kyiv and how diverse is it?
As soon as we started to get rid of the constant influence of the russian music scene, Ukraine gave life to a lot of interesting bands that play music, probably, in all existing genres. Unfortunately, not all musicians have the opportunity to promote their work or to go on tour. As always, everything rests on money: music is not profitable, so for most performers of the experimental scene it remains a hobby. But still there is a big inspiration in the air, and hundreds of art people do something right now here: performances, graffiti, poetry and music, of course. I feel like I live in the epicentre of some cultural Renaissance.
Has the work of people like Svitlana Nianio and Foa Hoka, for instance, had an influence on your own work?
No, I haven’t heard about them. I’ll go and listen to them now, thanx!
I understand you returned to Kyiv from India the day before the Russian invasion of February 24th. What can you remember from that day?
At about six in the morning, I was asleep when my sister called me. “Are you sleeping? Get up, the war has begun.” She said it very calmly, and I thought she was joking. I opened the window and heard explosions. For several hours, me, my husband and two other friends stood in line to enlist for territorial defense. But the queue was too long, and we were told that the weapon was over. So we immediately switched to volunteering.
You have been in Kyiv throughout the war and have been fundraising notably for Hospitaller. What is the current situation on the ground and how is the fundraising effort going?
Today in Kyiv things are relatively quiet. Relatively, because the air alarm works several times a day, and a couple of times a week the air defences shoot down russian missiles. Sometimes missiles hit infrastructure, killing people.
Utilities and shops are open. Most people live with the understanding that there will be another attack on Kyiv soon. We do not believe that russia will simply retreat. Russia sees that the West is not giving a severe rebuff, and this frees terrorussian hands. We live in daily fear of a new attack.
And every day we continue to raise money and spend most of what we earn to help the frontline. Drones, machines, medicines, helmets, bulletproof vests. My life has been made up of these words for three months now. I know that many people give literally the last to help the front. They sacrifice their meds or food quality so that our soldiers have a car or CAT turnstiles.
How would you say the war has changed you and could you describe a typical day for you if there’s any such thing?
The war changed everything, although my husband and I were relatively ready. He is now in the army. I stay at home, work every day, including weekends. I dedicate 1-2 days a week entirely to volunteer work. Sometimes I go to the hospital to help wounded soldiers. I have a music rehearsal two-three times a week. And when I have the emotional resource, I make live performances to raise money to help at the frontline.
To be honest, it’s not always easy. There are days when I feel devastated and can’t do anything. Many people close to me are at war, sometimes someone dies, and after the funeral the emotional state is not the best.
But I can’t afford to rest for long, so I get up and go on. Most people in Kyiv live like this all the time.
First the pandemic and now the war have severely curtailed any opportunities to play live. Is this something you miss and do you foresee a time when it will be possible to hold live concerts again?
There are no problems with live performances. There are several clubs in Kyiv that have been converted from bomb shelters. Therefore it is possible to sing, despite air alarms. The problem is only with foreign performances. This year the band and I wanted to tour Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. Now all this is impossible.
The issue of language is a sensitive one, have you noticed a shift since the beginning of the war in this respect, and how would you say the language issue has been addressed within the music community?
To understand the language issue, you need to live life in Ukraine and know its history well. For almost 400 years, russia in its various forms (Muscovy, the russian Empire, the Soviet Union) has tried to ban the Ukrainian language. Special decrees and circulars were issued, prohibiting the publication of literature or studying Ukrainian. In the Soviet Union, you could study the Ukrainian language, but only optionally at school. In universities, all subjects were exclusively russian. In 1990-2000 about 90% of all television was flooded with russian pop music and movies.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of people in Ukraine spoke russian. Until 2014 (when terrorussia occupied Crimea), almost all my poetry and art was in russian. No one has ever oppressed russian-speaking writers, poets or singers in Ukraine. After 2014, for most musicians to continue singing in russian has become a bad manner. This is not a question of prohibition, people just realized that the russian “empire” considers all russian-speakers as its property. We did not want to be part of its cultural space. And although the basic language of most people here was russian, we were happy to switch to Ukrainian.
However, in the south-eastern regions, many people watched russian propaganda on TV. They believed that russian language was banned in other parts of Ukraine. Often these were poor people who could not travel around the country and find out the real state of affairs. They were convinced that other Ukrainians were going to repress them over the language issue. Of course, this was a delusion, beneficial only to russia. But it caused a tragedy, because some of these people started a military conflict and declared their regions a “People’s republic”. They were highly supported by russian troops and weapons.They believed that russia was defending their interests and right “to speak their native russian”, but russia only needed shale gas deposits located just below these regions. Such a fake “language issue” has led to a war that is in fact a war for the resources and territories that Putin wants to take away from us.
What question would you like Western journalists to stop asking Ukrainians and what would you like to be asked instead?
I dream that Western journalists will stop repeating the narratives of russian propaganda and ask us whether we are Nazis or not, whether we oppressed the people of Donbass, whether the Azov Battalion consists of skinheads, and so on. I want Western journalists to ask us the same questions they would ask the people of Berlin, Prague or Barcelona. Because sometimes it seems that they treat us as an exotic uncivilised country. I drive a yacht and I have been on sea voyages in many European countries. So I can say: we are no different from Europe, we have the same dreams, problems and cultural needs. Sometimes I am really offended by the superior attitude towards Ukraine. I understand that we have corruption, that many areas of life need reforms and improvement. But at the mindset level we are Europeans. I’d like to be asked by Western journalists the type of questions that they would ask Western musicians.
What book / film / artwork / podcast / TV series / traditional dish / landmark / meme best capture Ukraine for you?
Film – Brama
Artwork – Vladyslav Yerko
Dish – Dranyki (potato pancakes)
Landmark – Stonegrave (now captured and mined by russian occupants)
JUNE 18 2022 – DNIPRO
I started as a classical artist, studied painting. In 2002, I saw Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away and then realised that the next stage of my development could be animation. Also at that time I was very impressed with the video for the song Paranoid Android by Radiohead.
You’ve worked with composer Anton Baibakov and have animated a track by DZ’OB, amongst others. How important is sound in your work and at what point of the production process do you bring in a sound person to work with you?
I think Anton and I found each other, I really like the ideas that he offers. Of course, I explain in detail to him what I want to hear, but he still does not listen to me and does it his own way. For me, the composer and sound engineer are full-fledged co-authors, I expect inspiration from them.
Are you still in Dnipro and if so, what is the situation on the ground at present? Also, what role does the city of Dnipro have in your own work?
I was born in Dnipro. Then I lived in Kyiv for five years, but then returned to my hometown. Dnipro is a huge city, with one million inhabitants. Before the war, it was actively developed. I planned to open an animation department at the university. The city budget financed various art projects, everything went very well, there were big plans for the future. A modern large airport was due to open soon.
But the bastard Putin had a different opinion and on February 24 I woke up because of the explosions. Since then, I have been staying in the city and doing the animation project Putler Kaput! This is an animated jam that consists of little cartoons showing how putin dies. You can find some examples on my Instagram page.
How do you view the response to Putler Kaput! and is humour an effective tool in the propaganda war?
I started working on this project from the first day of the war. Because I felt an incredible need to express my anger. And it turned out that I wasn’t the only one, I started getting films from different countries. It helped me to occupy my mind and not to panic.
Yes, indeed, humour really helps to cope with stress, in Ukraine there is a whole new direction for rethinking reality through memes.
How would you say the war has changed you and could you describe a typical day for you if there’s any such thing?
The war ruined my plans. I am under constant stress, air raid alerts sound several times a day in the city, which means that the Russians have launched rockets again. But I began to appreciate life more, I realised how fleeting it is and I can die at any moment, which means that today I should live in such a way that I can enjoy more.
How has the film industry been affected by the war and are you still able to work as an animator?
Funding for art has completely stopped in Ukraine. All money goes to help refugees and military needs. But on the other hand, there were many proposals from partners abroad, they are very helpful, for which we are incredibly grateful.
Are you able to think about the future?
It is very difficult, every day my mood changes from apathy to an explosion of optimism. The only thing I know for sure is that I will not leave here, this is my home, and let the russians go to hell.
What book / film / animation / artwork / podcast / TV series / traditional dish / landmark best capture Ukraine for you?
The animated short There was a tram № 9 (2002) [Йшов трамвай дев’ятий (9) номер] by Stepan Koval. This film impressed me a lot and made me believe that modern interesting animation can be made in Ukraine.
JUNE 21 2022 – KYIV
Hello, I’m an art director of 2 bars, promoter with 8 year experience in events and festivals, DJ and music lover.
I made a lot of different disco, oriental disco, house, electro parties.
Could you describe the ambient, experimental and electronic scene in Ukraine and how would you say it compares to that of its neighbouring countries?
We’ve got a lot of ambient music here but if we’re talking about experimental music, it’s a whole different situation. I think due to the expansion of techno music in Ukraine, we have a lot of young heads that are now doing only this type of music and they’re afraid to experiment. Kick, snare and let’s go. Even guys with big modular racks and synths are still doing the same 140 kick snare stuff. No fantasy. But now I’ve started to notice more names and more interesting projects and we’re trying to work with them and help them in the way we can. We still have a long way to go but I believe we will lift our experimental and underground pop scene to new heights together.
You’ve just lunched a new label called Khvylia (The Wave). Your debut release, the fundraising compilation Operation Perevtilennya [Operation Reincarnation], presents a number of recognisable names such as Emil Asadov, and Maryana Klochko. Have you already received many demos from new artists and what are your general plans for the label? Do you already have a number of releases already scheduled for the coming months and will you be venturing into different genres?
Yeah, we received quite a lot of offers, not only from artists but from different professionals, designers, PR specialists. We were quite in a hurry when we were releasing our first compilation, so our strategy at that moment wasn’t built perfectly. I had a vision, had a revelation and realised that I needed to focus on this compilation right now and then build a strategy. For now, we’re having it and we see a few branches of development. They will include constant releases every month, doing PR strategies for artists and promoting them, doing shows and gigs and also we’re preparing a school for young and brave musicians. But that will be another story 🙂 . We will definitely dive into new genres, we state ourselves as a multigenre label, so you will find really different genres in Khvylia discography.
In the liner notes to Operation Perevtilennya you state that the “Track order and structure were specially built for listeners to get a full emotional landscape and experience of what war is mentally” going from anxiety to peace.
Would you say this process is in any way comparable to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance? And what would you say the impact of war has been on you?
Definitely comparable! The only difference is that all these five stages of grief are always mixing in your mind during the war. One day you wake up and feel anger, one day you wake up and feel acceptance. Weird to say, but now I feel way better than before the war. I’ve actually gone through that Perevtilennya (ukr. rebirth) and made my way from anxiety to peace. Now I clearly see what I need to do and how I can be helpful for society.
Kyiv Volunteer and Repair Together are actually part of my community of friends. Sloi Bar, where I’m art director, is a part of the Kyiv Volunteer community. We cook food for the army and volunteers. Repair Together is also a community that repairs buildings in villages near Chernihiv. I was lucky to become a part of them as well and really want to help them. Volunteering effort is going well, the only thing, everybody in Kyiv has become a little bit more relaxed about the war, but we’re always trying to remind everyone that it’s near.
You held a label showcase on Saturday the 18th of June at Arsenal XXII. Are live events now allowed in Kyiv and are audiences ready to embrace gigs once again?
Yes, they’ve been allowed in terms of “Restoring Economics Policy” since late April. Yeah, the audience is quite hungry for good gigs. But a strange feeling about typical raves still remains. Whenever I see and hear some techno raves happening, I feel kinda weird. That’s why we’re trying to work more with live music and experimental music. Sometimes we do IDM shows, but that’s always about keeping the right balance.
What book / artwork / film / TV series / podcast / best describes Ukraine for you?
Book: «Нова ґенерація» і мистецький модернізм в Україні (The New Generation and Artistic Modernism in Ukraine). That’s a nice book that I really recommend to everyone. Unfortunately it’s in Ukrainian, but it’s all about avant-garde and modern art in Ukraine 100 years ago. The 20s were surprisingly similar to what we have now. War, revolution, new vision and new generation that wants to change everything.
Artwork: Heorhiy Narbut is a legendary person, father of Ukrainian design.
Film (video clip): Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky. My favourite video clip of all time. Solid work, solid quality, solid feelings. One of the few videos which gives me goosebumps and heartbreak [the videoclip directed by Daniel Wolfe was filmed in Kyiv over the course of two days].
Podcast: that would be mine haha.
Masha Tucha as really strong artist with ideology. [see above interview]
Viktor Polje as authentic character with authentic music. [Ukrainian Field Notes VI]
Vera Logdanidi as woman responsible for many initiatives and Rhythm Buro.
Alexey Makarenko as editor-in-chief of Katacult magazine (now RIP) about culture and music in Ukraine.
New episode of the AIR RAID SIREN podcast is a kind of music journey by the streets of Podil – a district of Kyiv that is a cultural heart for many local artists. And even now art is being created there. In this podcast, the sound producers and musicians of the capital will share with you their musical feelings and personal reflections on this fucking war that russia bring to our lands.
Every Ukrainian right now, even a musician, is a soldier, because sound is a powerful weapon. But some of them hold on their arms real weapons and instead of making music, they are defending our freedom, creating a new history. And they constantly need equipment, armor, medicines, which is the focus of the @musicians_defend_ukraine organization. I ask you to financially support this fund so that our music defenders can win sooner, come back alive and write new music: email@example.com
СИСТЕМА FOR UKRAINE with SEKTA & NFNR
As a pluridisciplinary project from Odessa, @systemma1 develops a live podcast platform, dedicated to electronic, forward-thinking music. Supporting experimentation in the spectrum of electronics, marginal and no-go-zone sound experiences is their main statement.
Listen to система every 4th Friday of the month, from 00h to 02h [CET] on rinse.fr
ВЕЧІРНІЙ КИЇВ W/ PYMIN #005 15/06/2022
Kyiv-based musician Pymin delves into the theme of sound and shares ambient and related genres tracks from Ukrainian producers.
VA indefinite state – ejekt // left field, ukr dub
“distortions, inversions of all this chamber made music to replace nightlong shakings between white or red horrors, fermented words; an imperfection being committed, beneath helpless intoxication, searching for a safe side of distance, libera, dreadful mourning. a spark of hope to all, bearing in mind a massive silence to be stopped by cheering from all around.
when russia invaded ukraine it altered everything. writing music in these troubled days, during these historical events has become more sublimated than it has ever been; habitual leisure has been replaced by volunteering, the territorial defense of hometown, or the front line in the army. despite everything, music remains a significant part of our lives and continues to be the voice of history, communication, time, and memory.
all revenues go to the ukrainian charities and defense forces.”
TOUCH: Together for Ukraine – Sublunar // electronic and dark techno
“Music is our shared language; music is our common ground. When all is darkness, we hope our music may bring a glimmer of light and help cure a wounded land. This selection is our response to violence, greed and hate – our way to reach out to the people who are paying the real price for this war. 28 tracks, generously contributed by fellow artists, whose work we cherish and admire.
All sales proceeds will go to Ukraine Hilfe Berlin e.V. – a network of volunteers based in Germany, helping people in need and their families, as well as supporting medical and nursing facilities in Ukraine.”
28 tracks compiled by Sublunar head honcho Sciahri, with contributions from Adriana Lopez, Andrea Belfi, Simone Giudice, Psyk, Kangding Ray and many others.
MAY PUTIN ROT IN HELL – A Noise Compilation in Solidarity With the People of Ukraine // noise
Uncompromising noise compilation put together by Malmö based Noise Against Fascism. 25 tracks with unequivocal titles such as Legion of Swine’s Putin and all other imperialist expansionist arseholes should shoot themselves in the face as soon as possible or Joachim Nordwall’s Stop Killing People You Fucking Idiots. Hard hitting with lighter moments amongst the white noise.
Proceeds go to Kamrathjälpen, “part of a network of antifascist direct democratic groups and individuals both in Ukraine (food, medical aid and so on) and in Poland (refugee help) and in Russia (protests against the war).”
Вони не пройдуть – No Pasaran! (Ukraine support compilation) – Trost // jazz
“As we saw the horrible events going on in the Ukraine, we wanted to do something as a label as well beside donating on a personal level. many (trost related) artists answered right away and were enthusiastic to participate. the material-collecting and mastering took some time, but sadly it is still an issue and no-one knows how long this despicable war will last.
all proceeds of this compilation are donated to an artist-run Ukrainian aid organisation helping victims of the war, recommended by Ken Vandermark.”
[Trost have confirmed donations go to Ukrainian writer/artist Serhij Zhadan‘s fundraising initiative in Kharkiv.]
Artists For Peace – Fairpoint Recordings // ambient, experimental
“Farpoint Recordings has created a new twenty four track digital album to raise humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine, bringing together artists associated with the Farpoint Recordings label. All proceeds from this unique digital album will go directly to UNICEF and the Irish Red Cross.
‘Peace is not a negotiated gap between two wars. Composed sound is not a gap between two other compositions. Each is a positive and dynamic action, involving commitment expressed through concept and emotion.’ (Extract from ‘Peace’ by Seán McCrum, curator & photographer, June 2022)”
Unlimited Edition, includes 32 page pdf booklet
#saveukraine (Charity for UNICEF) – aquietroom // neoclassical, ambient/experimental, alt.folk and the obvious drone
“War – war never changes. What started out as a simple computer game catchphrase has become bitter truth. Ukraine has been invaded, people have been killed, millions are on the run. The Ukrainian children are the most vulnerable and are likely to suffer the most.
Thanks to every artist involved, thanks to Lucy Mitchell for creating this awesome cover. Massive thanks to UNICEF for caring about Ukraine and lastly, Thanks to YOU for listening to this compilation!”
We Stand With Ukraine Fundraiser VA – De Missie // Techno from the community label with a “less is more” mentality
“A 17 track album with artists from The Netherlands that are all known from their collective or passion about music. The collected incomes will be sent to Outright Action International. A LGBTQIA+ fund in Ukraine, which supports the LGBTQIA+ community in Ukraine. As we feel strongly connected to this community here, but also everywhere in the world, we see this as a good fit.”
Putin My Ass / support Ukrainian Queer Community – Burial Soil // electronic, techno, queer
15 tracks curated by Berlin based bear duo CYRX (Sammy Goossens and Pascal Hetzel) fusing tough, eyes-down grooves with lively basslines and restrained melodic atmospheres. As Burial Soil explain in the liner notes, proceeds “are split between Kiyv Pride and personal friends who stayed in their hometown to help. They are really struggling to make ends meet during those hard times and asked for direct help.”
Музика Солідарності / Music of Solidarity // traditional, folk, modern classical
A collection of songs by musicians of the Ukrainian diaspora dedicated to the people of Ukraine. 100% of proceeds from this album go directly to Razom for Ukraine – supporting humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
41 tracks comprising traditional music and folk song, choirs and prayers, hip hop and classical, banjos and harps, in an inspiring mix.
For Ukraine (Volume 2) – Headphone Commute // ambient, drone
“Having raised over $10,000 USD with the first volume, we are happy to present you with this follow-up, featuring 25 amazing compositions created for this benefit compilation.
We are especially honoured to open up this volume with a stirring new piece composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ukrainian violinist Illia Bondarenko called “Piece for Illia”. Sending files back and forth, the two produced the music, a touching cry for healing, and no war. Illia has been playing and uniting musicians from a bomb shelter in Ukraine, including a powerful violin flashmob where Ukrainian violinists were joined in harmony by top violinists across the world. 94 violinists from 29 countries.
100% of all the proceeds (excluding Bandcamp’s revenue share and payment processor fees) will be donated to International Rescue Committee to support displaced children and families with vital supplies during the Crisis in Ukraine.”