Ukrainian Field Notes XIX

artwork – Mariya Primachenko

Episode XIX of UFN, opens with Grammy award winner Nadia Shpachenko sourcing artwork from her native Kharkiv and Roman Slavka highlighting fundraising initiatives in Dnipro. Meanwhile, Amphibian Man surfs with the sea devil, Ragapop take time off touring to answer our questions, Leftie calculates the life events / response ratio, Venture Silk speaks to us from The Netherlands, Ptakh considers Future Memories, Truffikss reaches Kyiv from Mariupol via a children’s home in Russia, Skungal goes digging to the bones in Barcelona, Mires plays placid tones, Tsatiory shares his experience from Mikolaiv, Ira Hoisa promotes cultural exchange in Vilnius, and essentialmiks tends to his potted plants in Odesa.

We also feature new releases by @lostlojic, Alien Body, Lugovskiy, Endless Melancholy and 58918012, together with a fundraising compilation by Concentric Records and a new rendition of Valentin Silvestrov‘s Silent Songs by Hélène Grimaud & Konstantin Krimmel on preorder from Deutsche Grammophon. To end on an upbeat note we’ve featured a fresh video by Vlad Fisun and Mykola Makeyev (aka C/TRO).

Plus, the new season of Nina Eba‘s Air Raid Siren dedicated to Ukrainian labels, with Mystictrax doing the honors.

But to open proceedings, here’s the fifth episode of our Ukrainian Field Notes podcast that aired on Resonance FM on 18-01-2023 featuring Kseniia Yanus and Yaryna Denisiuk from Neformat Family.

Tracklist:
Mauser – “Тривога”
Distortion (UA) – “Bullet Seeds”
Kurs Valüt – “Rozklad Ruhu”
Peredmova – “Слонова Кістка”
Limanenko – “Strange Gift”
Hanna Svirska – “Inner”
Kat – “Цвях”

And here’s our sprawling Spotify playlist, composed of 40 tracks by our featured artists and / or recommended by them. It clocks in at 3 hours, with a wide selection of genres, from modern classical, to electronic, and from ambient, to pop & indie, via metal. Happy listening and happy reading, and please consider supporting the artists and Ukraine.

 

 

JANUARY 1 2023 – LOS ANGELES, USA

photo Tom Zasadzinski

Nadia Shpachenko

My name is Nadia Shpachenko. I am a Ukrainian-American pianist specializing in championing music by living composers. I was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, a city that is being bombed and shelled daily by russian military since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine.

My early musical experiences were in Kharkiv, where I first discovered my love for classical music and jazz. My mother was my first piano teacher and my first major performance was at the age of 12, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Kharkiv Philharmonic Orchestra in the then newly-built National Opera and Ballet Theatre Hall that is now shattered. I have lived in the United States for almost 30 years. I received my undergraduate degree at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA and my Master’s and Doctoral Degrees at the University of Southern California.

My major piano teachers since my mother have been Victor Derevianko, Victor Rosenbaum, and John Perry. I am Professor of Music at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and I have been combining my teaching and performing activities for the past 25 years. I have released four solo albums on the Reference Recordings label, all featuring world premiere recordings of works written for my thematic projects.

My next solo album, which will be about soccer, will come out on Reference Recordings in summer 2023. I have also recorded world premieres of solo and chamber works for five other albums, by various living composers. Working with composers, bringing new pieces to life, and promoting new works in hope that they will make it into standard repertoire that future generations will play, is one of my biggest passions in life!

You first worked with the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan on your Grammy award winning album The Poetry of Places seven years ago. How did you go about working with him for the making of Invasion and how did you go about compiling the album? Also, and sorry if this is a silly question, but is that “Kalinka” one can hear in the opening bars of “Invasion”?

Not a silly question at all! Yes, it is “Kalinka”. The composer used this famous Russian folk song to refer to the russian troops arriving at the border, before invading Ukraine. You can hear chaos evolving in the piano part during this music, foreboding what is about to happen, but not before introducing another tune that is reminiscent of cheerful and proud marching pieces I used to hear during victory celebration parades during Soviet times.

The composer Lewis Spratlan and I have been collaborating closely since he wrote Bangladesh for my architecture-inspired album The Poetry of Places in 2015. Spratlan is a very prolific composer, and he wrote a lot of piano music for me during the pandemic. We were planning to collaborate on an album sometime in the future, but when this horrific full-scale war started, we decided to make an album together to benefit the people of Ukraine. When the russian forces attacked Ukraine on my birthday, on Feb. 24, 2022, Spratlan started writing his major piece “Invasion,” a sextet for piano, alto saxophone, horn, trombone, mandolin & percussion.

This title piece opens the album and with it are featured numerous paintings/artworks created in response to the war by Ukrainian artists currently living in Ukraine. I also commissioned Ukrainian artists to make paintings and artworks in response to all the pieces on this album. It is quite chilling how much of this music resonates with the current tragedy and experience of these talented and brave artists. At the same time, the music on this album encompasses the full range of human emotions and experiences. It is deep, imaginative, and diverse. Some of it, I was told, provided a needed solace and temporary distraction from the atrocities, bringing to the people who listened to them in Ukraine memories of happier times and beautiful places that thrived before this war.

“Hryhoriy Skovoroda” by Lyova Naumov, 10 yo, ©ANM

Visual art is an important part of the release which includes artwork from Lesia Babliak, Yurii Nagulko, Olena Papka, Kateryna Prusenko and children from the Kharkiv based gallery Aza Nizi Maza (nice throwback to Fellini there). As Yurii Nagulko states in the booklet, “Music gives birth to painting… Paintings give birth to music…” Why was it important for you to combine art with music and how did you select the artists?

I wanted to widely showcase the work of multiple artists currently creating in Ukraine. Art is timeless and is a powerful medium for capturing the events that are happening and the personalities and imagination of the artists creating it. I wanted to connect the content of this project to Ukraine in as many ways as possible and to support people there, both financially and in terms of promoting their work. When the war started, I found articles and social media pages that showcased art being made in response to this war. I decided to collaborate with as many artists as possible and spent a few months actively reviewing work by Ukrainian artists to select the ones I would collaborate with for this project. I reached out to them, and rewarding collaborations followed. I am still in touch with these artists, whose work is powerful and inspiring, and whose daily experiences in Ukraine give me firsthand insight to what continues to happen there.

There’s a strong sense of place in your work. In this particular release, features of the New England natural landscape trigger memories of Ukraine for you and of locations, like the Opera Theatre, that have since been heavily damaged or destroyed. Has this particular release helped you to feel connected with your homeland while having to witness the unfolding events from afar?

“PIANO SUITE NO. 1” ©YURII NAGULKO

Yes. Since the full-scale war started, I have been thinking about Ukraine and trying to find ways to help nonstop. I can’t think of anything else somehow. I dream about being there almost every night. Places in various parts of Ukraine that I spent my childhood in and visited while going back to perform, are on my mind vividly. Every time I see them in the news or through people’s social media posts, destroyed or damaged, I feel this sharp pain. It is hard to describe this experience.

Ukraine is a very beautiful country. Its countryside and cities are stunning, and it has the most fertile and magical soil in the world. If you have ever visited Ukraine and tasted the local vegetables and fruits, you know exactly what I mean. While learning the rags and conveying their response to the role and importance of nature in our lives, I was constantly reminded of these places. Beautiful and memorable locations in Ukraine and in the US are connected, just like our people are connected.

By the way, there’s a nice YouTube video about Aza Nizi Maza, did you know the gallery beforehand?

Spring, the air smells like victory. “Wind” by Vanya, 12 yo, ©ANM

This powerful video came out recently, after my album came out. It was so moving to see the places and events I described in my notes and saw pictures of come to life. I did not know about the Aza Nizi Maza studio beforehand, but when I discovered their work during my art research, I immediately knew that I had to collaborate with them and support their work. The children who study in this studio and whose work I showcase in my project are genius, in my opinion. The quality of their artworks is astounding, and their stories and experiences of creating art in response to the war, of living and creating in the subway while sheltering from the bombs, are immensely important for people everywhere to discover and learn from.

The 24th of February, the day Russia invaded, is also your birthday. You are from Kharkiv, a city under constant shelling from Russian troops. I understand your father moved to a safer part of the country after spending a week in a bomb shelter. Has he been able to return home since and how is he coping with the winter and the blackouts?

Actually, my father spent over a month in a bomb shelter in Kharkiv after the war started. He got sick during that time and had trouble finding medications that were necessary for him to survive. He was lucky to be able to find a place to rent in a safer part of Ukraine and he is still there now. He would love to return home but was not able to yet. Almost every time I talk to him (which is every day) he is without light. Luckily, electricity and heat are available at least for part of every day where he is, so he is able to stay warm. This kind of existence is very difficult, and this, or much worth, is what almost every Ukrainian experiences now. It is the new reality there.

photo Tom Zasadzinski

You’ve been learning Ukrainian as you grew up speaking Russian. As many in Ukraine have told me they’ve now switched to the Ukrainian language with some renouncing the Russian language altogether. Could you tell us why is it important for you to reconnect with the Ukrainian language that you first learned at school?

I am feeling defiant, as russia made the Ukrainian language and culture political, denying their existence. Language was also one of the pretences for this war. I never spoke Ukrainian before, as Kharkiv was a completely russian-speaking city when I lived there. I only studied it in elementary school. I was always impressed with the beautiful Ukrainian spoken in Kyiv when I visited it in my childhood. When this war started, and after communicating with so many people in Ukraine who only speak Ukrainian now (many of whom had been native Russian speakers before), I wanted to learn Ukrainian as well. So I started studying it intensely about four months ago.

I have been learning Ukrainian every day and have just begun to speak it. I now understand about 80-90 percent of it when watching the news or reading in Ukrainian, while before this war I didn’t even remember how to say, “yes” in Ukrainian. I am hoping to be fluent in Ukrainian soon, and to be able to communicate with people living there exclusively in Ukrainian.

photo Tom Zasadzinski

When asked by Natalia Korniienko in Chytomo, “How long will it take the world to stop seeing Ukraine – historically, politically, culturally and mentally – through the lens of russia?”, the Ukrainian writer and artist Anatoly Dnistrovy answers that, “The problem here is that Ukraine has never presented itself on foreign markets. And russia, on the other hand, put great efforts into it: they’ve been tirelessly retailing their messages all over the world and feeding their narratives to the European society for centuries.”

Do you see a shift in the public’s perception and understating of Ukraine in the States over the course of the past ten months?

Yes, I do. It’s a very positive development. Many people I know have learned quite a bit about Ukraine and her culture since this full-scale war started. Ukrainian art, music, literature etc. are finally being brought into the spotlight after being overshadowed and repressed by russia for centuries. There are concerts and exhibits all over the US that feature Ukrainian music and art. This is very important. Many people I know or have met over the years did not even know where Ukraine was located. When I told people I was from Ukraine they usually asked me if this was in russia. This is changing now.

Timothy Snyder’s course “The Making of Modern Ukraine,” which he taught at Yale this semester, is available for everyone to audit on YouTube. I think it is very compelling class. It is helpful for people in the US, even for diaspora Ukrainians, to learn more about Ukraine’s history, and this course is a good resource for that.

INVASION “Like in a movie” ©Lesia Babliak

In the same interview Anatoly Dnistrovy also states that, “…our fight and resilience against this wild and huge Russian beast has impressed the world. But we have to understand that the audience will cool off soon.” How does one keep the “audience engaged”, so to speak?

This is a very important question. It is one of the reasons I created the Invasion album – to keep Ukraine, its culture, and plight on people’s minds. The events there are so depressing that it is natural for people who are not directly affected by this war to go on with their lives and to not spend so much time learning about and staying current on the situation. Unfortunately, it is not a choice that people in Ukraine or who are connected to Ukraine have. That’s why I try to do my part in sharing the news and the stories of people on the ground with my circle of friends and acquaintances and on social media.

“My dog Sheva and his friend” ©Lesia Babliak

Many musicians have told me that since February 24 they have been able to appreciate and discover more artists from Ukraine. Have you made similar discoveries and are there any recent releases from Ukraine that have struck a chord with you?

Since this war began, I have discovered many contemporary classical composers and performers in Ukraine whose work I wasn’t familiar with before. I have watched videos of Ukrainian musicians performing in front of ruins of their cities, as well as of individuals and ensembles, including many orchestras, performing in the dark and cold halls (lit by candlelight or flashlights from the audience) to keep live music going. Art exhibits are also continuing in Ukraine with rigor, many displaying art made by the artists featured on this album. I have also listened to new recordings by Ukrainian artists, some of which I discovered through your series.

In March I am putting together a concert by me and my students where each of us will play a piece by a Ukrainian composer. This event and the preparation for it are helping me discover more artists in Ukraine as well. Here are just a few of the many performances and releases that have struck a chord with me:

Victoria Poleva – Bucha. Lacrimosa.
Evgeni Orkin – Odesa Rhapsody.
Oleksandr Schetynskyi: Lacrimosa.
Zoltan Almashi – Cello Suite.
Heinali – Kyiv Eternal.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

“Two Sonatas, Gentle” ©Kati Prusenko

Borscht! And the lullaby “Ой ходить сон коло вікон” (The dream passes by the windows). I recently performed the variations on this lullaby by my friend and colleague Dave Kopplin. Dave made this arrangement for me 10 years ago. In it I sing the lullaby in Ukrainian and play toy piano and toy percussion. There is a storm in this piece and the mother is consoling her child through it. Chilling images and feelings are evoked for me when performing this piece, as it particularly relates to so many families’ experiences in Ukraine now.


Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

I would contact Stas Nevmerzhytskyi. He is a musicologist, founder of the publication The Claquers (the articles in it are both in Ukrainian and English) and editor in chief for Радіо Ісландія. Stas lives in Kyiv and is very active on the Ukrainian classical music scene. He can probably recommend many worthy works by Ukrainian composers and performers to listen to.

 

JANUARY 3 2023 – DNIPRO

Roman Slavka

My name is Roman, I’m 38yo. I was born and live in Dnipro city, which is now close to the frontline.

Music has been my hobby since I was 14-16yo. It’s hard to make a living in Ukraine by doing ambient and experimental music, hence, the majority of my friends doing similar music, have day jobs. 
I became interested in music when I was 14, and some of my friends suggested I listen to early WARP, Brian Eno and Coil. I really liked that kind of music and decided to try my hand at something similar. At first, I was doing music with a friend in a project called “The Thirteenth Month of Consciousness”, but after a break, which I spent producing my “non-music”, I decided to just work on my own.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, your set-up or your playlist in any way?

It was tough to make music during the first 2-3 months of the full-scale invasion. We were all trying to move our families to safety. My family moved to Germany in March of 2022. Some of my friends joined the army and went to the frontline over the first few days of the full-scale invasion. At the beginning of the war, our government gave almost nothing to our military and they needed a lot of things: military clothing, protection, cars, reconnaissance drones, and more. That is why the ones who stayed in Dnipro started to do fundraising events for our friends on the frontline. I was invited to play music at several charity events. Everyone in our community totally understood that it wasn’t the right time for positive vibes, so I played I.D.M in minor keys and experimental ambient at those events.

You contributed to Liberty, one of the best fundraising compilations out on Flaming Pines and compiled by Igor Yalivec. We featured over 100 compilations on A Closer Listen, with many of the Western releases donating proceeds to big international charities like Unicef and the Red Cross rather than the army or smaller local organisations. What is your feeling about this?

It’s really hard to convince foreigners to donate to the army or small local organisations, the majority of foreigners do not want to support the war, do not want to donate for weapons and that’s why they send money to Red Cross or similar organisations. We have a lot of questions for the Red Cross, how they work, and where they spend those donations.

Anyway, all of us are really grateful to all foreigners who donated and those who support our families in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, and all other countries. We are grateful to those who house our families, and share their clothes, food, and even toys with our kids.

If your readers would like to donate to local organisations, here are some links:
1. Module squad — donations to our friends on the frontline. We do not collect money for weapons, but we do need cars, drones, thermal wear, and many other things that will help the army.

2. Med Help Dnipro — donations for local hospitals, which need a lot of resources to treat both injured soldiers and civilians.

What impact has the full scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

On the one hand, I am really suffering because I cannot see my children and my wife, on the other, I have become less unhappy because of household problems, lack of money, and similar stuff. I am very grateful to our armed forces that I am still able to live in my home, wake up every morning, hear the birds singing, and the sounds of life around me, work, and spend time creating music.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point?

I am still in Dnipro. Like all men from 18-60, I cannot leave Ukraine, but living here gives me the opportunity to support my country’s economy and this is vital now.

How are you coping with the cold and the electricity blackouts?

Unfortunately for russia, we have the warmest winter since 1953, but there are still many months ahead when it can be cold, as we can have snow even in April. Now we turn on the electricity at night and I have the opportunity to heat my home.

The power outages and the lack of Internet communication had the greatest impact on my professional life, because now all processes are tied to communication via the Internet, and it is very difficult to work in such conditions. But we are learning to be self-sufficient, we bought a generator and Starlink for the office, which allows us to work 4-5 hours a day when there is no electricity. The most difficult time was during the first few days after the full-scale shelling of the energy infrastructure, when we were not yet autonomous and simply did not know what to do.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?

We have 3 main problems in the mindset of the Western World.

1. The West thinks that we can find peace through negotiations.
But this is not true, russia does not want peace, it is a terrorist state and wants to destroy the Ukrainian nation. That’s why they raped and killed a lot of civilians, women, men, and even small kids in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Kherson regions. It’s absolutely genocide.
And if the western world thinks that giving up some of our territories might appease russia, well, then that is bullshit, because russia will destroy Ukraine and then will go to Poland, the Baltic countries, Germany, and so on. One just needs to watch any russian TV show to find out their plans.

2. The West thinks that this is putin’s war. But this is not true either. All russians are guilty. All russians are imperialists, even oppositionists like Navalny, Sobchak, Dud, and others. And that’s not putin or Shaigu raping and killing kids in Ukraine, that’s not putin or Shaigu launching rockets against residential buildings on a daily basis. All these things are done by ordinary russians.

3. Unfortunately we often hear in Western Media that all problems that they have right now with their economy are because of Ukraine, but no, guys, all the problems that you have right now are because of russia, and if Ukraine loses, the russians will come to you with their tanks.

Have you suffered from burnout and has the war had an impact on your mental health? And how do you unwind? 

I suffered a lot at the beginning of the war. It was really hard to concentrate, I used to check online maps of the invasion every hour. After a few months, I came to be calmer, I realised that I should work while I can. I think that all Ukrainians will have mental health problems in future, we are concentrating on the current moment now, and trying to do everything for our victory, but only after our victory will we have time to think about everything that’s happened and allow time and space for our emotions.

You’ve done mixes for Gasoline Radio, which alongside labels such as Corridor Audio, Mystictrax and система | system has been instrumental in nurturing and promoting new names in the Ukrainian electronic music scene. Have you made any new discoveries and how do you see the scene developing?

It’s really great that despite the war our experimental scene is still developing. All these releases, online radio stations, and offline events show how creative we Ukrainians are. It’s even more important as this is not just limited to Kyiv. Before the war, Kyiv took pride of place in terms of culture, with a lot of foreign artists playing there, but now we have a lot of events with Ukrainian artists in Dnipro, Lviv or Iváno-Frankívśk.

The biggest problem that I currently see is that we don’t have enough young people doing experimental music. I started making music when I was 14-16yo, and spent most of my time on it from the age of 18 to 21-22. The majority of musicians I know of now are of a similar age as me (28 to 40yo), I do not really see young musicians, with a few exceptions. The music scene now is more populated by the returning old guard. But, maybe I missed something.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

I would pick Various Artists — Construction vol​.​2.

The Construction Festival has been the biggest festival of experimental music and media in Dnipro City since 2014. Obviously in 2022 it was impossible to make such a big event in Dnipro City, but in this release, you can find all the great Ukrainian artists who took part in this festival in different years.

As the track of a year, I would suggest Max Andruh -“Memory Tree” — this is a track by my friend Max Andruh from Dnipro City, and for me, it’s an awesome example of how I.D.M. music should be.

Who would you send to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision song contest in 2023?

I realise that a lot of the music that I listen to is not relevant to Eurovision, but If it were up to me I would suggest the track by Ukrainian indie-rock band  Zagreb — “Meeting” – it’s a great song with important lyrics on the impossibility to be with our families and friends because of war.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

I might not have answers to all of the above but as for books, I would suggest anything written by Serhiy Zhadan.

As for films, I would recommend Stop-Zemlia by Kateryna Gornostai, it’s not about war (and it is really hard to watch films about war right now), it’s just a great romantic story about a typical teenager, but with an awesome script, photography, and music. If all Ukrainian films were on the same level as this one I would be really happy.

Album or song, I would probably choose something from Dakh Daughters, probably their track “Rozy / Donbass“.

Traditional dish of the year: bogrács.

As for blog / podcast / media I will suggest Ukrainer for sure.

Building — Mariupol theatre as an example of the russian genocide.

Meme — oh, here we have so many examples, in spite of everything that is happening, Ukraine is a country of memes, humour is probably the only thing that keeps us all from losing our minds.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

I would suggest Max Andruh. I think you have a great list of questions )

 

JANUARY 3 2023 – MYRONIVKA

Amphibian Man

Hello, my name is Ivan Semeschenko from Kyiv. I have been playing music since 2010. During this time I played in many genres from screamo to thrashcore. Now I have a surf project Amphibian Man, where I write and record all the music, but perform as a band. And the thrash metal band Zombie Attack where I play the guitar.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, your set-up or your playlist in any way?

Probably during this time I became more relaxed about music. Wrote many new songs for both Amphibian Man and Zombie Attack.

You’ve recently released a new album, Flaming Man, on Neformat, probably your finest to date. Has it been a difficult album to produce under current circumstances?

The album was recorded before the full scale invasion. I record music at home, so all I need to record is my PC, monitors, headphones and my guitars. After the invasion began, I moved to my parents in the province and there I recorded the next Amphibian Man album called Path [to be released in the spring of 2023].

Does your moniker come from the film Amphibian Man?



The name come from Alexander Belyaev’s novel [The film was adapted from Belayaev’s book].

What impact has the full scale invasion had on you both personally and professionally?

I began to appreciate life more and treat it easier at the same time. A lot of unnecessary things are gone.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point?

After the beginning of the invasion, my wife and I moved to our hometown of Myronivka. It is 100 km from Kyiv. In the autumn we returned to Kyiv, but now we have again moved to spend the winter there.

How are you coping with the winter and the electricity outages?

Now the situation here is much better than in Kyiv. Here we have a power station, a generator and a solid fuel boiler. So things are going well.

Zombie Attack

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?

To be honest, I can’t say anything about this. I am now completely immersed in music, work and family. I don’t follow the news.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

Кат – Поклик; ВІДСІЧ – Пліч​-​О​-​Пліч; Warningfog – Naturphilosophie.

Who would you send to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision song contest in 2023?

DakhaBrakha.

Have you actually ever found yourself “Surfing with sea devil on the board”?

Sometimes.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

Probably the flag – golden wheat and blue sky.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

I think the bands from the best releases.

 

JANUARY 6 2023 – TOURING

Ragapop

We are three friends: Ruslana Khazipova, Ganna Nikitina and Anton Ocheretyanyy. Ruslana and Ganna have been playing in the band Dakh Daughters since 2012 and Anton was a huge fan of the band, attending dozens of Dakh Daughters’ shows without knowing the girls personally. We finally got to know each other after a show in Holland 2015 so that at some point Anton was going on tour with us, hanging out, and talking about art and music, but he did not have any musical experience except for being a huge music lover and Velvet Underground fan.

At some point our jokes and conversations grew into an idea of creating a band on the edge of performing arts and music. 

We already knew there was gonna be a band, having just a name for it and not a single song yet, but the project happened to be much more complicated sonically as we first got into a big old fashioned studio and started to experiment in a search of our own sound.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation / mission, and your setup in any way, and has it influenced your playlists?



The beginning of the war played out quite differently on each of us. Anton stopped listening and making music for months, being active as a volunteer and  producer for a news TV channel. Anna tried to convert her feelings into songs and it worked out well too. 

After a week from the invasion, the girls left the country with kids and moved to France, where they started to tour both as Dakh Daughters and theatre actresses, telling the world about what was really happening in their homeland.

Your album Siasya has lyrics adapted from the work of Ivan Franko. Would you say the full-scale invasion has made Ukrainians more aware of their artistic heritage?

It sure did. The focus was certainly moving towards this direction anyway for the last 8 years at least, but what happened accelerated how people reacted and valued their national heritage. 

The poets and artists of the so-called Executed Renaissance (the 1930s generation of Ukrainian artists that was persecuted and executed by Soviet’s red terror) are now better known than ever. It is clear to everyone that what’s been happening now originates from the core of the Red Empire of Evil. Also instrumental is the fact that there’s been absolutely no work done on rethinking russia’s past. On the contrary, an unimaginable amount of resources are being invested in exacerbating the worst qualities of its people: xenophobia and hatred of freedom, the freedom of other nations as well as their own.

In an interview for Chytomo, Natalia Korniienko asks the Ukrainian writer and artist Anatoly Dnistrovy, “How long will it take the world to stop seeing Ukraine – historically, politically, culturally and mentally – through the lens of russia?” What would your answer to this be?



The most important part has already happened – Ukraine is no longer in any way, shape or form, part of russia. And it cannot take long for the world to see this. Actually it’s already clearly seeing this.

It makes us cry every time to think of all the fighters, the dreamers, the murdered journalists and the artists that helped shape Ukrainian national identity, but did not live to see our country’s self-determination. Their ideas and dreams won in spite of them being in a minority and under great pressure. They clearly won and that’s the beauty of it, the beauty of ideas and beliefs.



In the same interview, Anatoly Dnistrovy also states that, “…our fight and resilience against this wild and huge Russian beast has impressed the world. But we have to understand that the audience will cool off soon.” How does one keep the “audience engaged,” so to speak?



There’s always only one way to keep the audience engaged, and that comes from the quality and the honesty of the work one does. We put all our efforts into moving forward in everything we do, without following trends, and that keeps people interested.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?



The problematic part is that in order to understand modern russia, one needs to learn at least a few hundred years of its history, which, of course, no one is obliged to do. Sometimes it seems unbelievable and unrealistic for Western people when they hear about this mixture of kleptocracy, brutality and fascism concentrated in one big nation without any obvious logic or reason for it.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

Latexfauna – Senbernar. Great album – simple, dreamy, naively sexy and of a great quality. That’s how we see our Land too. It might not be well suited for an international audience, but it makes it even more important to us.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?



We love this quote from Les’ Podiereviansky, a great Ukrainian writer with an absolutely great and brutal sense of humour, “Instead of doing bullshit, one should live an interesting life: read books, be a spy, train a beloved monkey and go to opera with beautiful chicks, have some real fun.”

 

 

JANUARY 10 2023 – KYIV

photo by Aleksei Gotz

Leftie

Hi, my name is Oleksii, I’m a music producer from Ukraine. My discovery of electronic music began with Enigma and the hits of the early 90s, after having been carefully nurtured with the works of The Beatles by my dad. From there I discovered hip-hop, drum & bass, and explored the roots of those genres. The latest addition to my musical love list has been ambient music.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I struggled with relationships and forming social connections, which led me to being slightly isolated from my family and peers. Eventually, I turned to art as a means to express myself and work through my emotions and feelings. Of course, that wasn’t the initial motive — back in 1999 it was just a cool thing to do and one which was quite accessible to me. I only realised that this choice became a life saver for me much later on. Over the years it gained more meaning and depth and became a diary of sorts in which I make music about what I see, feel, experience and want to transmit to the outside world.

Your fist full time job was in IT back in 2000 when you were 17. Has that background been beneficial to your musical practice?

I made my first tune a couple of years before being forced to become a provider for my family and I’ve been working with computers for more than a decade before that. The impact this had on me is very difficult to quantify, because it is so enormous. It certainly imparted a certain method of thinking, analysis and rational approach to things. It also massively benefited my English, which is now crucial to everything I do, consume or transmit. Computer games helped me with my self-esteem and provided a great opportunity to escape the environment I was in. I still play to this day and am grateful that gaming taught me to rely heavily on my imagination.

Also, I like to remind myself that most of the technologies I worked with back then are now completely obsolete, so I need to pay attention to what’s going on with the tech in my field and not stagnate.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to sound design, creative strategies and creativity?

Not really. It is a constant evolutionary process, so something always changes, war or not. In terms of sound design, it is fascinating that for a spell I completely abandoned pitch bending — because of the sirens. Also, because of them I’ve discovered that there are sounds that I would never record, sample or use. I just don’t want to hear them again, but still do.

Creatively I was completely blocked at the start of the war, but eventually I came back to music, because it is not what I do, but who I am. My creative dreams and desires are completely intact and have not changed.

photo by Alyona Savosina

In an interview for Zythomyr.Travel you say, “I strongly agree with the saying that life is 10% events and 90% how you react to them.” Did the full-scale invasion alter that equation for you? And how would you say the war affected you both on a personal and professional level over the past year?

A rocket explosion in your neighbourhood lasts for a second. You reflect upon it for much longer than that. So, if anything, the war has reinforced this saying for me — it really is quick flashes and long aftermaths. Personally and professionally, I’ve been able to reflect on my meaning to society, because the war makes you question these things. Art becomes kind of insignificant in the face of adversity and existential crisis. Does it matter if I make a new track? Or if I put out a new release? Why even bother starting something new in these apocalyptic times? People are dying.

With time and by adapting, and thanks to clients coming back for my services, it occurred to me that the role of an artist in such times is simply to enable healing. I have the ability to capture the grief around me and focus it in a work of art that will be of greater use, because someone might relate to it and find comfort through listening. It won’t make the grief disappear, but it might alleviate someone’s suffering. Supporting fellow artists and students at present is massively fulfilling as well.

photo by Alyona Savosina

In your Bandcamp page, Leftie’s Sonic Diary, you display your inclination for conceptual works. I’m thinking of your EP Portraits, for instance, where you invited “three ladies to pick a 7th chord of their choice” to produce an arrangement based upon it, with the end result resembling a musical portrait.

With the Slow Motion EP instead, you’ve worked exclusively with outboard gear, incorporating multiple stylistic flavors on top of one groove and feelings of floating above the megapolis. Does working to some sort of constraint help your creative drive?

Most of the things I do are conceptual and are extremely personal, because of my artistic position and history. I’m always trying to convey something and look for better ways to establish a connection. One of the releases I’ve put on hold for the time being will actually be a booklet with a novel and links to tracks as the chapters of the novel, because the whole work is more than just musical form. I want listeners to think, to imagine, to feel and try to provide them with the means to do so.

Speaking of limitations — natural or artificial — they stimulate us to come up with better solutions. I’ve grown a lot in terms of designing instruments and sounds after I challenged myself a couple of times. How to design two dozens of sounds out of an 8 second noisy field recording loop? That’s a head scratcher, but great fun to solve and very useful for your own development.

I often give my students tasks with this concept in mind: program a synth using a drum machine, make and record a drum kit exclusively from the items in your kitchen, etc. I’m certain it helps in more ways than one: you learn the importance of adventure and discovery in the creative process by doing something you wouldn’t normally do. That rabbit hole can go really, really deep.

photo by Alyona Savosina

You mentioned students of yours, where do you teach?



I teach at my home studio, at people’s places if they need assistance with their setup, or online for less advanced concepts that can be taught through Zoom in a controlled manner. I practice only 1-to-1 tutoring, since I believe that group teachings, while much more cost effective, are neglecting the very core of being a fascinating artist — individuality and uniqueness. So I put my efforts and empathy into nurturing that while building a solid theoretical foundation underneath.

What can you tell us about the track “Mariupol” from your EP Observations and have you been tempted to revisit it after the destruction of the city by Russian forces?

This track kind of wrote itself on the day of the first rocket attack on the city in January 2015. Much worse was to come, but this was unprecedented at the time and the news was shocking. I did it in one go, it was my first public ambient track and I have no intention of changing anything in it, because it fully captured and conveyed what I felt that day. That was the very first time I really connected with ambient music in my production, so it is a seminal work for me.

photo by Alyona Savosina

How do you see the ambient and electronic music scene developing under current circumstances?

I think the main factor would be demographics. Electronic music lovers are growing older and changing their habits regarding their energy levels and sonic aesthetics. The scene is expanding and already wonderfully represented internationally, so I expect an uptick, both in those who produce it and those who consume it, as the average age rises. 

As for the context the scene is currently in, it is difficult to make predictions, because the war is still pretty much ongoing and far from being over. The  collective cultural output will always be dependent on the wounds we suffer and we are not done in that respect just yet.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?

No. This is quite a nuanced and complex subject you can write a book about, so I’ll limit myself to non-interference and letting pluralism of opinion in public discourse do its job. Also, if not for western support, I might not be alive to give this very interview, so any criticism would feel a bit hypocritical.

photo by Alyona Savosina

Has the full-scale invasion had an impact on the language you speak and the culture you consume?

I switched to Ukrainian in writing and I’m now transitioning to spoken Ukrainian full-time. No other cultural changes, because I’m mainly focused on western culture and media. It has been difficult to consider the impact that soviet and russian culture had on me, but it is too late to disown that, or any of my tracks that use the russian language.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point? And how are you coping with the cold and the outages?

I stayed in Kyiv the whole time. My mother refused to evacuate and I refused to leave her. There was some real danger, but we’ve been spared the real horrors of war so far. The situation with our utilities is more or less stable, unless there’s a new destructive attack, so one can navigate that. Personally, I’ve switched to doing night shifts, for instance, because I’m less likely to encounter a blackout at night. Central heating is in good shape, touch wood — I think the longest we were left in the cold was three days straight, which is not a big deal.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

There is no one single thing that would do this justice, not even remotely. There are so many remarkable seminal works to mention that picking just one of them would do a great disservice to the rest.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

I’ve scrolled through all of the articles in the series and our scene is greatly represented already at this point, even with a couple of my students on the list. I would advise talking to Na Nich \ Sunchase or Vera Logdanidi from the Rhythm Büro formation if you haven’t already. Also worth mentioning are Anna Khvyl and Bohdan — the latter is also my partner on the Asyncronous project and we had a few vinyl releases across Europe over the past couple of years.

 

JANUARY 11 2023 – LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS

Venture Silk

My name is Ruslan Shyshniak. I’ve been involved in music since my school days. Being a self taught person I learned deejaying, scratch, played in brass band and metal band, learned music production (actually always learning). Every new life period brings new experience which I use and express with my music.

What is your setup and what would you say is the defining trait of your sound?

Although I was making music on computer I am testing Dawless setup where I use MPC Live 2 as the main sequencer to record Behringer RD-8 and Korg ER-1 as well as to make samples from vinyl records.

I would characterise my sound as syncopated 808 beats combined with funky basslines, emotive ambient pads over pulsing arpeggiated synths.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation and has it influenced your playlist?

The war in Ukraine didn’t change my approach to music but it definitely reduced motivation to create music. But at the same time I have discovered a lot of new Ukrainian artists which I’ve never heard of before.

Venture Silk – Human Resistence

At the beginning of December you released the EP, Human Resistance, which “represents a vision of a gritty and dark sci-fi depicting post-apocalyptic hopeless and uncaring future where people fight against global system.” Do you personally believe there is still hope for equal rights and justice?

Yes, I do believe people deserve equal rights and should have a genuine respect from any government. Human Resistance is a reflection of unfair treatment of people, discrimination and destruction of freedom wrapped in a sci-fi cover. But in reality this is exactly what is happening in Ukraine now. Justice will prevail, Ukraine will become an independent and free country where people can live a normal life.

You contributed the track “Brave Ukraine” to Code, the latest fundraiser by the Mystictrax label. How do you feel about the number of fundraising compilations out there and how effective would you say they’ve been in raising awareness?

Indeed, I noticed quite a large number of fundraising compilations. I think it’s a good way to inform the music world about the war in Ukraine, and a good opportunity for people to donate.

How has the war affected you both on a personal and a professional way?

From the very beginning of the war, it was very difficult for me to believe what was happening. But it is what it is. The war is still ongoing and nothing has affected me so badly in my life, I must say. I felt devastated, disappointed, guilty, angry… There were a lot of questions without answers. As I have a job which is not related to music, it was really difficult for me to complete my daily tasks, because I simply couldn’t concentrate on my work. Neither work, Covid or any other problem as ever worried me much as the war in Ukraine.

You are now based in the Netherlands. Is there a Ukrainian community there you are in touch with and how have you been adjusting?

As far as I know, Leiden, the place where I live, accepted around 300 Ukrainians so I guess now it can be called a Ukrainian community. In 2022 I met Ukrainians who were forced to move here. We also hosted one refugee who lived with us for several months. I used to volunteer in a local humanitarian center which collected humanitarian aid for Chernihiv. Besides there are a lot of volunteers and fundraising organisations in the Netherlands, for example, Stichting Zeilen van Vrijheid, which delivers ambulances and medical aid to Ukraine. I try to help whenever there is a need for it.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?

I think that, in spite of the West having all the necessary information, it doesn’t seem to really understand what is going on in Ukraine. In my opinion, Europe, and the West in general, are very lenient when taking decisions and applying sanctions against ruzzia, whereas they need to finally realise and admit that ruzzia is a terrorist state embarked on genocide.

Have you suffered from burnout and how do you unwind?

I never liked the term “burnout” but I guess this time it has reached me at some point. I definitely felt some kind of mental pressure or emotional imbalance when I couldn’t work and felt broken. What helps me to improve my mental health is to spend time with my family, do some sport or simply go for a walk and enjoy nature, play football with friends on Friday evenings or go out for a drink.

Are there any triggering tracks or albums that are now forever associated with the war for you? Conversely are there any tracks or albums that you have found healing over the past nine months?

Sum – Heohrafiia Osobystosti reflects my mood quite well.

I don’t have any particular healing track, but I would highlight Ukrainian music from the 90s, like Тартак, Скрябін, ТНМК… 

Listening to their music, I understand that it’s impossible to kill the Ukrainian spirit.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?

Sountrack for documentary Весільний Спадок.
Morphom – “Діти“.
Sum – Heohrafiia Osobystosti.
Shadow Unit – Pray.
Saturated Color – Phenomena.
Code compilation by Mystictrax.

Who would you send to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision song contest in 2023?

Wellboy.

Time For Change

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

Artwork by Waone Interesni kazki, check his mural “Time for change“.
Traditional dish – borsch.
Film – Весільний спадок.
Blog – thevillageua.
Building – Kyiv central railway station.
Song – Vopli Vidopliassova – “Vesna“.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

Timur Basha.
Lostlojic.
Shadow Unit.
Morphom.

Ask about Ukraine, music production, how they maintain life balance between day job and making music.

 

JANUARY 11 2023 – KYIV

photo by Vitaliy Mariash

Ptakh

Music is what I’ve been studying since I remember myself. Ok, I remember myself a bit longer. But, anyway, since I was 5, I think. For many years I was studying to become a pianist and later also an organist. But while studying at the music academy I realised that playing pieces composed by other composers is a very exciting thing to do, but not what I’m personally fully happy with.

That is when I started doing my first steps in composing music on my own. First, there were short pieces for piano. Later I found GarageBand on my brother’s laptop. That’s when it all started, I think, about 10 years ago. Of course, there were also a few bands I’ve been a part of as a keyboardist. But doing things on my own is what I really like. These days I realise this clearly.

What is your current setup and what would you say is the defining trait of your sound?


The first one is my studio setup: a traditional ITB setup, consisting of a laptop, midi-keyboard, audio interface, headphones; 
the second one is my live setup: a few synths, effect pedals, samplers and sequencers – quite a common thing as well.

I can’t say I’m using any instrument/s in any kind of unusual way. However, I find my experiments with harmonies as a defining trait in my music. That’s because of my academic background, I guess.

photo Bouquet Kyiv Stage

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, and your setup in any way, and has it influenced your playlist?

Of course it did. I can’t say it has changed my approach. At least I can’t be sure about it right now. But it definitely affected my motivation. The eternal question “what am I doing this for?” transformed into “WHAT AM I DOING THIS FOR?!”, spelled with burning letters. As time went on, the shock transformed into something I grew accustomed to and, as the Ukrainian Armed Forces continued doing unreal things at war defending our homes, I found myself doing music as an everyday exercise. As a workout. Despite thinking I’d never be doing music again. 

Also the Bouquet Kyiv Stage festival invited me to play. It is focused primarily on modern academic music. However, its organisers are brave enough to combine contemporary academic music with modern electronic music. They invited me to play for a few years in a row already, and it’s always a big honour for me as well as a new experience at the same time. I couldn’t refuse this year as well. You know, it was kind of saying, “Yes, sure” and figuring out how to do it later. It was a big challenge for me, being totally disappointed in my music, as something totally useless and helpless in the face of an armed invasion. However, it worked. I’ve decided to compose a totally new programme and to perform it at the Bouquet festival. It was a stressful but exciting and effective therapy.

Back in May you released the track “Vidbudova” (Reconstruction). In the liner notes you state, “For many years in a row, I have enjoyed fantasising about global midwar (WWI and WWII) and postwar (WWII) euphoria. These thoughts seem to me consonant with my love to the first half of the twentieth century’s art and state of mind in general. Perhaps I’m wrong or exaggerating. Even more, I’m sure I do. The end of the war, which claimed about 80 million lives, cannot cause euphoria, that’s for sure. But later, after realising and experiencing all the grief, it is quite natural for something almost forgotten to appear – faith.”

How do you manage to keep positive under present circumstances?

I don’t. I mean, yes, I’m trying to, like many of us, Ukrainians, do these days. Because we just have to. We have to think in advance, to think about tomorrow. But it’s not a condition I’m always in. Like I said, it’s a workout. Thinking about the days, months, and years after the war comes to an end really helped me back then and is helping now. Perhaps it’s a trick. I’m pretty sure it is a trick my psyche uses to protect itself. But it works. So why not use it?

You also selected the volunteering organisation Dobrobat, which like Repair Together, and others, is focused on rebuilding destroyed homes. The level of engagement of Ukrainian society in volunteering has been remarkable and often more effective on a grassroots level over big institutions. Over 300 days after the full-scale invasion, how does one keep momentum going and avoid burnout?

You know, I read the news every day. I mean it’s not like one reads a newspaper every morning to track economical indexes on Wall Street while having a coffee. I check several different sources to try and understand what is going on right now and to try to predict what will happen next. I’m pretty sure that a huge amount of Ukrainians (and not just Ukrainians) are doing the same. That keeps me inside the context. And this is my conscious choice. Because I don’t want to close myself off from reality in anticipation of better times. Also, our enemy is not one to relax. Yes, there was some respite when Ukrainians expelled the russians from the Kyiv region. Then there was Zmiinyi island. Then it was Kherson. But the enemy is still here, on our land. That’s why war is not over yet. And regular shelling is quite a clear reminder of this.

“Future Memories” – artwork by Revaz Berdzenishvili

You recently released the track “Future Memories” with NtT, a project developed with the support of Music Export Ukraine in the framework of MusicAIR and funded by the European Union. This seems to tap into the same idea as “Vidbudova”, to look at the future. 

How did it come about and would you say Ukrainian artists have been effective in highlighting Ukrainian culture? And how do you see the future for your country?

One of the conditions of this program was cooperation with a foreign colleague. I have a friend from Georgia, with whom we often played music here in Kyiv. Many of our views coincide, not just on music. To tell the truth, I was probably a bit authoritarian here with my ideas about the future and so on. After all, I prepared the idea outlined in the text, and my friend, after reading it, simply said, “Yes, great idea! Let’s do it!” 

You are absolutely right to see this track as somewhat of a continuation of the idea of “Vidbudova” (Reconstruction). Yes, that’s the state I’m in right now when it comes to music. And I like it because of its space for thinking about options for artistic solutions.

Regarding other artists: what I see now is a large number of Ukrainian artists all over the world, and here in Ukraine, giving fundraising concerts for the Ukrainian Armed Forces or humanitarian organisations. 

I rarely perform my music these days. I will not say that this is a conscious choice. It’s just the way it is at present, but that’s why I can’t help but boast when the organisers of my last concert managed to collect 45,000 hryvnias [1,130 Euro] during my last performance. Yes, this isn’t much in the context of war. But you cannot imagine the extent of my happiness to know that this money can help our soldiers. It helped me realise that my music is a self-sufficient tool that can also be effective in the process of protecting our land.

You are also part of the Kyub Digital residency programme from iklectikartlab and the Institute of Sound. How did this come about and what are your expectations for it?


I found the information about this programme on Facebook. And it was what I needed – to be within a music context along with colleagues for at least some time, even if online. And I’ve got what I’ve expected and even more: besides great lectures we have about modern tools for audio and creativity, and besides working on new music during this programme, I also have a chance to be among people who are in a similar situation to mine – we didn’t leave Ukraine since the russian full-scale invasion, we continue doing music and we continue to cope with the difficulties caused by the current situation, trying to influence and change it. Perhaps, that’s even the main aspect for me now – a chance for us to share our experiences and to discuss them.

Ptakh_Jung at the Bouquet Kyiv Stage festival

Are you still collaborating with Jung as Ptakh_Jung?

Not at the moment. We put this project on hold – only temporarily, I hope.

How has the war affected you both in a personal and a professional way?



We both help and donate to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and to our friends who are there. Jung is also performing music to gather donations for our soldiers. If we talk about the current situation and our attitude to it, we both think the same: the russian federation is a terrorist state and our enemy, russians are the ones who support it, and Ukraine now needs the help of each of us, in any shape or form.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point? 


photo by by Vitaliy Mariash

Right now I’m at home with my wife and son. We’ve been here since the end of August. We left after February 24 and moved to Western Ukraine at first, like many other people did. Our way there was tough. But it was important to us, my wife and me, to keep our one-month old son safe. That’s why they moved to Slovakia, whereas I was left in Ukraine [under martial law, men between from 18–60 years are not allowed to leave Ukraine].

By the way, I would like to personally thank the people of Slovakia and the Slovak Republic for their courage and sensitivity towards Ukraine and Ukrainians! I know very well about the help provided by many other countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Great Britain etc) to Ukrainians. Some of my friends also found refuge in Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, etc. But I am biased in a good way towards Slovakia, because its people took good care of my family for almost six months. In terms of wider scale aid, Slovakia was also one of the first countries to offer its anti-aircraft missile systems, fighter jets and tanks. Being a small country compared to some other European states, this showed a great determination and courage, and most importantly, the understanding that russia and russians are not only an enemy of Ukraine, but also an enemy of democracy and modern civilisation as a whole.

It was pretty ironic that we decided to go back to Kyiv at the end of August, because a little more than a month later, the russians began their massive missile attacks on Ukrainian territory, and especially on Kyiv. These attacks still continue, but now the missiles are also supplemented by drones. They are aimed at destroying the Ukrainian civil infrastructure, to leave civilians without electricity, water and heating in winter. Unfortunately, every attack also causes civilian casualties. But we’re home. I understand this might sound completely irrational, but here in Kyiv, I feel better than in the slightly safer Western Ukraine. Being here and experiencing these explosions first hand gives me a better sense of what is in fact happening.

This reminds me of being in Kyiv during the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014. I had an office job back then, and I was constantly following the news to keep up with the latest developments in Maidan Square. And that made me really anxious. In the news everything seemed really dramatic and hopeless. At the end of my working day I would go to Maidan and I would find relief there. It’s strange, but being surrounded by a huge number of corrupt militia, military army and special forces, who could use their batons and guns against protesters at any moment, I felt calm and positive. Being among people on my same wavelength, being able to observe the situation with my own eyes – all this made my anxiety subside.

photo by Julia Weber

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?


Very good and relevant question! Thank you very much for it! Although it is also ethically difficult for me because I can be critical of the leadership of countries that are helping us so much. I can think of Germany, for instance, which before the start of mass missile and drone attacks, showed more support with words than with weapons; and Emmanuel Macron, who suggested making concessions to the russians to “save putin’s face.”

Trying to understand the reason for this behaviour, I come to the following conclusions: First of all – the russians cause fear in Europe and the USA due to their nuclear weapons. 
And secondly – and, in my opinion, this is most important factor – the European countries, Great Britain and the USA have approached that stage of development and state of consciousness, when any conflict can be resolved through diplomacy; it is always possible to find a compromise and solve the problem by communicating and showing a sufficient level of empathy. In my opinion, this is a completely natural path for any evolving person, that also ensures the need for safety and wellbeing. But this state of consciousness, no matter how luminous a sign of the man of the future it may be, for me, personally, is paralysed and falls into a catatonic stupor before a tribe of unprincipled and ignorant savages, for whom there are no rules except force.

photo by Vitaliy Mariash

russia has always bought or stolen everything for itself: its reputation, its place in the world community, in culture, in sports, and in its own history. History is a especially funny one, because the Kievan Rus state, whose descendants they consider themselves to be, has a very indirect relationship with Moscovia, from which they really come from, and which appeared as a result of the invasion of the Golden Horde at the end of the XVI century. All of modern russia, with its obedient inhabitants, is fake and empty, but was just lucky enough to have natural resources.

Going back to the issue of war coverage in the West, I would like to add that this genocidal war caused by russia is not a war caused by putin alone. He is the embodiment of the wishes of russians. Almost 90 percent of russians consider the genocide of Ukrainians a noble cause, the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance as an enemy that must be destroyed, and the rest of the world as their personal servants. The rhetoric of many world media is precisely such that putin is the only evil and the cause of all troubles, and russians are just as much victims as Ukrainians. No, it is not like that. russia, like its people, is the embodiment of Nazism in the 21st century. And the longer it takes for the world to realise this, the more missiles they will have time to produce and the more people they will kill. russia is a terrorist state and russians are the ones who support it.

How do you unwind?

This question is really difficult to answer right now, because I’m a young father. However, in these rare moments when not busy with my son, working or reading news, I watch TV series or play Civilization 6, and I listen to Steve Reich or Claude Debussy. I also like to read about mastering and mixing audio – that helps me to fall asleep quickly.

Ptakh – Less is More (2020)

Are there any triggering tracks or albums that are now forever associated with the war for you? Conversely are there any tracks or albums that you have found healing over the past nine months? 


Hard to say now. Perhaps, there will be something after Ukraine wins this war. Like I said earlier, the music of Reich and Debussy is the only music that helps me to calm down a bit. However, it wasn’t always like that. I think it was only back in September or October that I felt the need to listen to music at all.

After the full-scale invasion, whenever I tried to listen to someone else’s music, or even to my own, I felt nothing. When it came to my own music especially, I even felt irritated while listening to it back in February or March. Later, things started to change gradually after I started doing my “musical workouts” on a daily basis.

What are your picks for best Ukrainian releases of 2022?


I was powerfully impressed by Strofh by svitovamora. The artist behind this music project is a friend of mine, and I always enjoy how unpredictable and diverse his music turns out to be. This time round, with the Strofh album, he’s ventured back into dark ambient. I’m not sure what exactly he felt while doing it but, personally, I felt as if I were in the trenches right on the frontline while listening to it. As much as I can imagine being in the trenches on the frontline, that is. A very powerful impression!

And who would you send to represent Ukraine at Eurovision?

I’m not sure the musicians from Boombox would agree with me, but they are the ones I would send to Eurovision. I’m not a fan of this contest, I must say, but I do realise its powerful political aspect. That’s why I think Boombox are the best option from Ukraine. The lead singer is Andrii Khlyvniuk – the one who performed “Chervona Kalyna” on Sofia Square in Kyiv back in March. This song was immediately remixed by Kiffness, and was subsequently covered by Pink Floyd. I’m pretty sure you know who I am talking about. He joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense at the beginning of the invasion.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?


Perhaps, the video with Andrii Khlyvniuk singing “Chervona Kalyna” represents modern Ukraine best these days.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

Oleksndr Hladun, the man behind svitovamora, Dunaewsky69 and many other of his musical incarnations – a wonderful musician and a profound and sensitive human being.

 

JANUARY 13 2023 – KYIV

TRUFFIKSS

I’m TRUFFIKSS, my real name is David. What can I tell about myself? I love coffee with lemon and talking nonsense 🙂

My experience in music includes playing the recorder, a little bit of piano and guitar. Unfortunately, I can’t continue practicing my piano skills as I simply don’t have one, and my guitar neck has recently broken off…

In Nina Eba’s Air Raid Siren podcast you talk about some of your traumatic experiences in Mariupol at the onset of the full-scale invasion. Have you been able to process them and have you had support for your mental health?

Thankfully, my boyfriend works with me and my mental state. I did go to see a therapist, and it turns out I had a borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic syndrome and depressive anxiety syndrome.

After the full-scale invasion, the only way out of Mariupol was through Russia, where you went to in the hope of reaching Ukraine. However, being underage and unaccompanied, you were placed in a Russian orphanage after crossing the border. What can you tell us about that experience, which was detailed in a recent article by Isobel Koshiw for The Guardian?

It was a children’s home and I spent eight months there. I don’t even want to tell you about this experience as it was difficult: every day the same thing, it drives you mad to see one and the same tasteless interior over and over again, those dumb people and teenagers… I even started having health issues because of the russian food, especially with my stomach and skin. So it’s definitely better in Ukraine in any case 🙂

Considering everything you’ve been through in the past year, how did you manage to release not just one but two albums, Перша Спроба and Заповіт, and how did you go about producing them?

The recording process was very difficult. I did it mostly in the drying room or other places of the children’s home. I did the vocals only when the staff took the children outside. Sometimes they also tried to force me go out, but I refused to follow their whims saying that I was busy creating art. I mixed the albums with GarageBand on an iPhone6, wrapped up in the blanket and almost always at night 🙂

I understand you are now in Kyiv. Have you had time to adjust to your new life there and could you describe a typical day for you, if there’s any such thing?

I’ve adjusted to it now, but there’s obviously no such thing as a typical day. I’m like Cozy Powell, always looking for something new. I’m trying to spend more time outside, as I’m having a hard time socialising and, unfortunately, I’m just no longer happy to see the lights on the streets any more… Of course, if I have to socialise, I’ll do it, but I mostly just stay home, writing, listening to music, and reading (it makes me so sad that not all works are translated to Ukrainian). At this very moment my life is just not so interesting, and I’m going through a long and extremely hard period of depression.

What impact has the war had on your personal relationships and the language you speak?

I speak Ukrainian, period. Of course, I don’t judge people who speak russian, but it’s “allowed” not to serve such people in shops)

Are there any particular recent releases by Ukrainian artists that have struck a chord with you?

I can’t specify the releases, but can give you a list of the artists that impressed me in 2022, and these are:
Moonevea (That first party – Моя недоїдена пристрасть);I know her, and this girl is SIMPLY INCREDIBLE, she’s not from this universe! Also, Структура щастя; FAKASUTRA; ТУЧА – россія держава терорист; Albums: полідром – придумано в черзі; Антон Слєпаков / Андрiй Соколов – WARНЯКАННЯ.

You released a couple of new tracks in the past 10 days. Are you working on a new album, and if so, what can you tell us about it?

Well, I do upload and delete a lot of it, but never mind.

Yes, the new album is in progress, and I want to say that it will take a lot of time to finish it. I will strive to achieve the sound I really want. It’s a conceptual album, it’s about our experience as a nation, the things that occur in our daily life, about my passion to keep on producing.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

It’s impossible to capture Ukraine in just one thing. If you delve into just one thing, it all becomes degraded. I think the past is not as important as what we have now, and at present, history is in the making, despite the fact that our own history has been stolen by the russians…

But I guess if I were to pick one, it would be a book by Oleksandr PaliyTo Understand Russia (eyewitness accounts: from Herodotus to Custine).

[This interview was translated from the Ukrainian by Anastasia Batyr]

 

JANUARY 13 2023 – BARCELONA

photo Nikita Zhuravlev

Skungal

Hi. My real name is Anastasiia, and I perform under the alias Skungal, which is my grandmother’s maiden name. My musical background can be traced back to my native city, Odesa, where I visited my first raves and parties. I always had a passion for music. It started with guitar and acoustic drums while I was a teenager. My teacher was a funky dressed old man, who taught my friends and I in the basement of the music school. He had 2 sets of drums, synths, solo and bass guitars and everything was covered with posters of rock bands. It was a funny and very authentic place.

Later, after a great amount of partying, I started thinking about mixing and doing my own stuff and playing some good music that I discovered myself. Luckily, I have very supportive friends and parents who literally pushed me into it. So I got myself some decks for my birthday and took classes from Terton (a Ukrainian DJ). Not long after that, I started performing at some events in town, in bars, just doing some podcasts for my Soundcloud and also for Ukrainian formations. It was like a dream come true, finally I could express myself through music.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach and motivation to music and has it had an impact on your playlist?

Due to the war, I had to refocus completely. It made me explore and learn more about different artists. I feel very happy looking at the Ukrainian community right now and seeing how foreign artists from many different countries are supporting us by releasing tracks and albums to raise funds for Ukraine. It is a real pleasure to see how people can cooperate during such hard times through their art and to see how music can bring so many people together. At times like these, you realise how strong and powerful the electronic scene can be. It’s not only about music, it’s about culture. I am really happy that now many artists are going back to their roots and re-releasing old Ukrainian music in different electronic genres, re-editing it through their own vision. I am not even talking about new releases that are really addressing topics related to war. It’s literally history in the making.

photo Nikita Zhuravlev

How did the war affect you both on a personal and professional level over the past year?

Before the war started, I’d already been in Poland for 3 weeks, visiting friends. My girlfriend and I had return tickets for the 23rd of February, but we decided instead to go and see our friend Sasha (also a Gasoline Radio resident) in Budapest. We didn’t have access to the Internet while on the road, so when we got to Sasha’s place she didn’t welcome us with, “Yay, girls, Budapest is waiting,” but with a crying face and the words, “The War has started.” The day continued with multiple calls to family and friends with thousands of questions and worries: what are we gonna do now, what’s going to happen to our loved ones, are they safe, are they alright ?

We went back to Krakow, where my friends from Sekta Selekta invited me to perform at their place, being super supportive in that way. I love the community in Kraków. Sekta Selekta were due to open their second venue, bigger and louder, but after the invasion started they decided to convert that space into a shelter for Ukrainians. And not only do they actively help refugees but also the Ukrainian army as well.

While in Kraków, I played at a number of venues, including Barka (where we threw a fundraising party for Ukraine), and Poczta Glowna and I also hosted an episode on UKRAiNATV, which is an experimental internet TV and HYBRID community. The music community over there really lifted my spirits, and inspired me to move on, at a time when it would have otherwise been difficult not to be overwhelmed by all the stress and anxiety of the first few months of war. I don’t know how I would’ve managed without their support.

photo Ilya Shmidau

What can you tell us about your show on Gasoline Radio, Digging To The Bones, and how do you see the Ukrainian music scene developing in current circumstances considering many of you have had to leave the country?

Digging to the Bones is a show where I chart the development of the electronic music genre from the 90s to nowadays. Each episode is about a different direction in music. I listen to many old school music producers, they inspire me a lot, and I wanna share their music with people. I want people to hear that a lot of new music is based on old tracks and every genre is growing from one to another, so it’s fun to experiment. I am happy that even in spite of the war the music scene in Ukraine is still active and even if some of us are abroad we nonetheless feel that connection. I think many of us are coming back to that Ukrainian sound and miss it as well. Gasoline radio is doing a good job bringing us together in one place. They provide a safe space to those who have experienced stagnation and have been traumatised.

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?

All I can say is that people and opinions vary a lot in all countries and not just throughout Europe. Over the past year, I’ve spoken to people from Scotland, America, England, Poland, Spain, Pakistan etc. From those conversations, I feel that people sometimes don’t understand that the war is ongoing and that some even believe the russian propaganda. When I was in Slovakia, for example, a woman from my university was not very happy to see me and said kinda offending things to like, “Don’t you realise that because of YOUR war, a war could also start in Europe?” Or, “I’ve read that Ukraine fakes videos and information against russia”. I was shocked to hear this and just answered that the war is ALREADY happening in Ukraine and that thousands of our people are already DYING.

You are now currently based in Barcelona. How did you manage to adapt to life in Catalonia and is there a Ukrainian community there? Also, how does it feel to witness the latest developments in Ukraine from afar?

photo Oleksandra Levina

I would be lying if I say that it is easy. I’ve moved 4 times already over the past year, so it’s hard to settle down. Sometimes it’s hard to think about art, but I am trying my best to learn new things, to practice and produce new music and mixes in spite of all the stress. My family and friends are still in Ukraine, and I am waking up every day scared to look at my phone in case of bad news. An uncle of mine is one of the protectors of our land, and has been sent to hot spots with no means of communication, and it’s always tough to sit here and think that you are somewhere far away and not with him, with them, with your family and friends.

Are there any particular releases by Ukrainian artists that have helped you make sense of the full-scale invasion or that have helped you process some of the feelings you have been experiencing since February 24, 2022?

I can’t single out one particular release, nor even a bunch of them, because I was buying a lot of fundraising releases in aid of Ukraine, some with really cool artwork, and Ukrainian motifs. I am just happy that we have finally started rebuilding our culture, and most of all our Ukrainian identity and language! Many artists are creating works inspired by our culture and that is beautiful.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

Oh, Ukrainian dishes… of course it’s our traditional borsch with garlic bread, I can eat 2 or even 3 plates at a time. When it comes to a song I am always singing in my head the old Ukrainian folk song “Ти ж мене пiдманула”.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

My good friend Sanita. She hosts the podcast Calm Down in Ukrainian on Gasoline radio. She’s a photographer and a music selector and lover. She has experienced a lot since the war and I think she’ll have many stories to tell.

 

JANUARY 16 2023 – KYIV

Mires

My name is Dmytro, I’m 22, and from the Dnipro region. In 2018 I moved to Kyiv. I became interested in electronic music while at secondary school. I was listening to dubstep, and tried to write something of my own, studying DAW through online tutorials. During college, I got interested in deejaying, so in the spring of 2021 I started a course at Kultura Zvuku. In the same spring I became a participant in the Puma Mirage Camp, where I gained a lot of experience. In 2022 I became a resident at Gasoline Radio.

For me, the most important thing in writing music at present, is to reflect thoughts, experiences and emotions through sound. I also like to use field-recordings, experimenting with rhythms and intentions.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach and motivation to music and has it had an impact on both your setup and your playlist?

The full-scale invasion had a big impact on me, including the way I feel about music, the process of making it and listening in general. For the first few months I practically didn’t listen to any music for several reasons. I returned to it through ambient and experimental music, immersing myself deeper into it. The Ceive EP was written at a moment when my fear was gone, and the motivation to move forward towards a better future appeared. Our national spirit proved stronger than fear. All my releases after that are also about war and my personal experience, and thoughts about it.

You have produced a number of tracks and EPs since February 24, 2022, including Serene. How do you manage to remain calm under such circumstances?



Experimental and ambient music became for me a refuge from what is happening outside, a space where I can ponder and reflect on my own feelings, and put my thoughts in order. Therefore, writing music became an outlet for me, an occupation that kept me focused on myself.

You are an “ardent fan of experimental meditative sound” and host the Placid Tones show on Gasoline. Has music helped you in any way to make sense of current events?



Since the beginning of the invasion, I began to listen to more experimental and avant-garde music. Such music makes it possible to escape from the constant flow of information and explore inner feelings. Placid Tones on Gasoline is a multi-genre series, focused on one goal – creating a comfortable environment for reflection.

How has the war affected you both on a personal and professional level over the past year and what impact has it had on your personal relationships and the language you speak?



The first few months were dominated by a depressive, oppressed mood. Later, this mood changed thanks to our national spirit and the anticipation of victory. I have a desire to share these feelings through music, so I write music almost every day.

Since February 24, I have been speaking mainly Ukrainian. I understand the importance of upholding our linguistic identity and fully support this.

What are the biggest misconceptions the West still holds about the full-scale invasion and is there anything about the way the war has been covered that you find especially problematic?



The world must understand that Ukraine has been fighting russia for a long time, with a regime that is a threat to the entire civilised world. Sometimes it seems to me that the majority don’t understand the seriousness of russia’s danger to the whole world, slowing down important processes, sacrificing human lives and our land. Imperialistic ideas must be eradicated from the modern world.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point? Also, if you’re currently in Kyiv how are you coping with the cold and the outages?



The first period after the invasion I spent it in my hometown in the Dnipro region. Then I returned to Kyiv, where I am now. The city adapted to power outages with the help of generators. I managed to get used to blackouts by having new activities. People have also adapted to cold weather.

Do you suffer from burnout and how do you unwind and maintain a sense of humour?



Yes, sometimes I get a wave of despair. But I try to control it by expressing my feelings in music and other creative activities. I also openly discuss my feelings with friends who can support me at the right time. I also love cinema, a well-chosen film can cheer me up and reboot me.

Are there any particular releases by Ukrainian artists from the past year that you’ve found especially poignant?



Of course, there are many of them: Adaa Zagorodnya – Польові Записи з Лютого, Nikolaienko – Nostalgia Por Mesozóica, Polje – Kombinezon, Andriy Kostyukov – For fishes that think they are swimming in the void, all options – considered, tofudj – Take, xtclvr – safety, dj snork – last path passing. Also these compilations: ВОЛЯ (Muscut), From Ukraine, For Ukraine (Standard Deviation), indefinite state (ejekt), SESTRO (система|system).

Do you have any new year resolutions?

In 2023 I want to write more music, collaborate with other artists, and try to play live sets.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?



Films by Dovzhenko and Muratova. Paintings by Primachenko and Malevich. The song “Chervona Ruta” by Ivasyuk.

Who should I interview next and what should I be asking them?

Heskbo.

 

JANUARY 18 2023 – KYIV

Tsatiory



My name is Dima, now my creative alias is Tsatiory. I make strange music and draw abstract pictures. I released my first album exactly 10 years ago. I was 13yo at the time. Ever since, I’ve been tossing and turning in different genres and directions. Made commercial music and participated in group projects. Changed 3 creative names. In the summer of 2022, I developed a new direction in music and took a new name, Tsatiory.

Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach and motivation to music and has it had an impact on both your setup and your playlist?

All I can say is that I have noticed some changes related to the nature of the music I make. My direction hasn’t changed drastically, but I definitely no longer deny myself the use of weirder and heavier sounds. Before, it was like I didn’t allow myself to go there, but now it has come up. The “roughness” of the real world has probably filtered through into my sound.

In the liner notes to your album Leaving the Citadel, you state that, “The album was born in a frontline town, which is incredibly important in my opinion. It’s a great story about limitations, war, important locations, friendship and support.” 

I know you were in Mykolaiv, which stopped the Russian advance to Odesa. Could you expand on your experience and how you went about producing the album under such difficult circumstances?



Sometimes I look back at this particular time in my life as a series of amazing coincidences.

I have been living in Kyiv for many years now, but I always visit my relatives in Mykolaiv over the New Year. And that’s exactly what happened last year as well. However, a series of fateful events forced me to stay on, which meant that I found myself facing the outbreak of war in Mykolaiv. 

I spent the first month of the full-scale invasion literally in a daze, putting all my strength and resources into surviving and trying to minimise the risks to my loved ones. But gradually, towards April, my psyche began to harden and adjust to what was happening.

At that point I went through a very strange episode in my life: an experience of total loneliness, which I had never had before, heightened by spatial isolation. I could only move around and walk in a very limited number of places. I mostly walked along the wide banks of the Southern Bug River, which fortunately were not mined. The combination of these circumstances and my daily search for new creative outlets brought me back to music. I accumulated a lot of experiences, which I really needed to translate into musical form. While working on a new release in Mykolaiv, I would often hear sudden loud explosions. The amazing thing is that at some point, this all became so common that my body stopped reacting. The explosions were just a backdrop to my work. But one day, while I was mixing “Fake Nostalgia”, two rockets fell across the street from me, exactly 50 meters away. Fortunately, they didn’t directly hit the apartment building opposite me, but they still created a lot of destruction. This is one of my most vivid memories of 2022. I can’t say it was scary or too loud. My psyche took it as part of my “next weird adventure”.

You are also a visual artist. Does your artistic practice influence your music and vice versa?

Sometimes I go completely into art, and sometimes I go completely into music. Last summer the two things came together for me. I discovered a new visual language, which I am slowly exploring. Basically, I don’t see making paintings and music as different activities. Fundamentally, at a very deep level, the same process is going on. Sometimes I think I paint with sounds or I play with colours.

How has the war affected you both on a personal and professional level over the past year and what impact has it had on your personal relationships and the language you speak?

I definitely experienced personal growth in every area of my life. My therapist told me that I am amongst the small number of people who are able to make the most out of maximum stress. This might sound paradoxical, but in summer, during the heaviest shelling of my city, which almost caused a humanitarian disaster, I felt like I was living through what seemed to be the “happiest” time of my life. And it wasn’t just a defence mechanism. It required hard work to achieve a certain quality of life in the midst of total chaos, but I think that experiencing the fragility of life enabled me, in the most literal sense, to live each day as if it were my last. Every time I looked at the news in the morning, I saw that yet another apartment building nearby had been destroyed, with ordinary people, just like me, caught in their sleep. And with that realisation, comes humility, and the appreciation for the value of every single moment. 

I’ve been in a safer region for a while now, but I still remember that feeling. I think it will stay with me for a long time.

Where are you now and have you been displaced by war at any point?

I’m in Kyiv right now. I left Mikolaiv back in August after I was able to ensure my family was safe, or at least relatively so. A whole new life opened up for me in the capital with exhibitions, and album releases. It has also been a time of reflection on what I have been through over the previous months.

Do you suffer from burnout and how do you unwind and maintain a sense of humour?

Over the past year, I’ve learnt to keep my emotional balance in check, and the events around me contribute to that. Things continue to be challenging, even here in Kiev, but it’s nowhere near as bad as what I’ve been through in Mikolaiv. Since autumn, the outages have sometimes been annoying. Because of this I cannot fully realise my inner potential. But I like my friends very much, and together we cope with life’s challenges very well. And we swear a lot when we hear explosions.

Do you have any new year resolutions?

Yes! I’ll definitely have some major releases coming out and I’ll do an exhibition with big abstract paintings.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

For me, an example of excellent contemporary Ukrainian art is the work of Natalia Brichuk. I am always fascinated by the way she combines traditional motifs with a modern approach.

 

JANUARY 18 2023 – VILNIUS

Ira Hoisa

I’m Ira and I’m from the beautiful city of Chernihiv, in Northern Ukraine. For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in music. My dad had a lot of tapes and a big tape recorder at home, so I was surrounded by music from my childhood. A number of people I met over the course of my life influenced my musical taste, but for the past 3 years I developed my own taste in music just by digging the sound I like on different platforms (mostly Soundcloud). That’s what made me want to deejay, as I thought it would be cool to play the music I liked in front of an audience.Has the full-scale invasion changed your approach to music, your motivation, and your playlist in any way?

There’s been one fundamental change – there are no longer any russian artists in my playlist. Other than that, the full-scale invasion hasn’t altered my musical taste. I just started to listen to Ukrainian artists more and more. Our country is full of amazing talented people.

How has the war affected you both on a personal and professional level and what are the biggest changes you’ve experienced over the past year?

I will probably repeat what many might have already said. Life has become even more precious to me. I will never forget the moment when my family and I were sheltering from heavy shelling in a dusty basement, fearing that it could be the last day of our lives. At one point, a young woman my age died in front of our eyes. No money, career, or even food can compete with the desire to live. This has always been obvious to me, but I never felt it as strongly as in that moment.

In summer I moved temporarily to Lithuania where I was warmly welcomed. After I settled in Vilnius I asked myself how I could be useful within the music field, and what I could do for Ukraine (other than donating regularly). I would say that here I have been able to fulfill my dream.

You host shows on both Gasoline radio (UA – Інформація для громадян України) and Palanga Street Radio (LT – Nice and Crispy) featuring Ukrainian artists. Has the full-scale invasion made you rediscover your musical heritage and how aware would you say both the Ukrainian and Lithuanian audiences are of Ukrainian artists?

My idea was to promote a cultural exchange between Ukraine and Lithuania, which means I play Lithuanian music on Gasoline radio and Ukrainian music on Palanga. Since Lithuania is super sympathetic to Ukrainians, I am extremely glad to carry out this mission. Every time I search for new Ukrainian music for my Palanga show I discover a lot of great stuff for myself.

Over the past year Ukrainians have been able to rediscover their cultural heritage. Up until February 24, many things, like music, were influenced by the state which is currently killing my people. However, after the full-scale invasion, people have become aware of all things Ukrainian. Everyone I know in Ukraine is now open to finding and sharing new Ukrainian sounds. The Lithuanian audience is pretty aware of fresh Ukrainian music, but maybe it’s thanks to my show (lol).

Is there anything about the way the war has been covered in the West that you find problematic and / or is there anything you wish the West would stop asking or should indeed ask?

I’ve been living in Vilnius since summer and I can say that Lithuanians are fully aware of what is going on in Ukraine. Moreover, I feel great support, both from the younger and the older generations. I can see the Ukrainian flag on every building in Vilnius, and this makes me feel I am in the right place.

I don’t want people to ask me about the war, or how I feel, but this question is inevitable because it’s topical.

Has the full-scale invasion had an impact on the language you speak?

Sure, I recovered the Ukrainian language I last used at college. I now speak Ukrainian with my family and a number of friends. Ukraine has its own beautiful language, which identifies us as Ukrainians, and makes us special. We should preserve our mother tongue, and be proud of it.

How is your family back in Chernihiv coping with the cold and the outages?

For peace of mind, I sent them a generator, just in case.

Which book / film / album / song / traditional dish / podcast / blog / artwork / building / meme best captures Ukraine for you?

Music: Volyn Field and their album Tanok. I love it, especially the tracks with traditional singing.
Kuzma Kuzmenko [lead singer of the rock band Skryabin] is a great talent I admire, and his old albums from the 90s.
Volodymyr Ivasiuk [1949-1979], the composer, is a legend.
My fav song is “Pisnia Pomizh nas” (Пісня Буде Поміж Нас)
Building: Saint George church in Sedniv, it’s wooden and old.
Food: it’s not borshch! Syrnyky is the best Ukrainian dish for me (curd pancakes).

 

PODCAST

AIR RAID SIREN invites MYSTICTRAX

This is the first episode of our special series featuring Ukrainian labels that actively move and develop our music scene. Today our guest sound producer @lostlojic presents fresh tunes from his label Mystictrax @mystictrax, that target widening the sense of Ukrainian electronic music. Tracks from Code compilation and EP trilogy of this year: AZOV, ZSU & Hospitallers.

 

NEW RELEASES

Lostlojic ~ Herograve

A highly charged album, featuring a wide variety of samples, including interviews with Andrii Kuzmenk, the lead singer of the Ukrainian rock band Skryabin who died in a car accident in 2015 while engaged in humanitarian aid, as well as patriotic songs sung by the defenders of Azovstal and a recording of the priest’s farewell speech to the 100 young men killed during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity protests.

 

Alien Body ~ Punk Monologue

The new single by Alian Core and Bodya Konakov, aka Alien Body, endeavoring to delineate chaos bewitched and break the chains of fears and blinds. Raging and rebellious.

 

Lugovskiy ~ Memories

The perfect antidote to the winter blues, “Memories”, is an infectious slice of electronica spliced with just the right dose of downtempo. The ideal remedy to drive off the spleen and regulate the circulation.

 

58918012 ~ Something From The Past

“Hello. This new album is literally made of my memories, that’s why I named it ‘Something From The Past‘. Some time ago I found my ancient demos/tracks on my parent’s PC, listened to them, and figured out that I want to refresh them and give them a new life. The release date is also kinda symbolic for me. On this date, in 2020 my very first album ‘four days’ was released. So, this is like the end of the cycle.”

 

Endless Melancholy ~ When We See The Light

When We See The Light is a small collection of tracks I recorded during the wartime. Two of them were recorded days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two more after this horrible thing already happened. War is as uninspiring as it gets. But I tried, and I found some inspiration in between the air raid alarms. I hope we all see the light one day.”

 

 Various Artists ~ CNTRC FOR UKRAINE // 36 tracks – ambient, electronic

“Almost a year into the full-scale war against Ukraine, the Russian army continues massive missile attacks on civilian infrastructure, playgrounds, and residential buildings. Drone attacks are relentless. Despite their constant attempts to demoralize the population, Ukrainians are even more united in the struggle on all fronts.

But the war is still happening. And Ukraine is heading towards an extremely difficult Winter lacking in electricity, heat and supplies.

All the artists here involved put their heart into this compilation.
All proceeds will be donated to The K41 Community Fund. A project initiated by the team of the Kyiv based cultural institution ∄ with the aim to provide financial, humanitarian and logistical support to the cultural community that has been facing life-threatening challenges since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The project aims to:
Support cultural people in need in Kyiv and Ukraine
Organizing transport within Ukraine and abroad (cars, trains, buses)
Organizing shelters
Facilitating jobs in the EU
Organizing housing
Psychological help
Financial support
Structuring vitally important information

Your donations make a real difference!
We share endless hope and strength to all the ones directly involved in the conflict, fighting for their lives and the ones of others.”

💙💛

 

Hélène Grimaud & Konstantin Krimmel ~ Silvestrov: Silent Songs

“Hélène Grimaud pays homage to Ukraine’s greatest living composer with an album of songs by Valentin Silvestrov. Joined by the young baritone Konstantin Krimmel, winner of the 2018 International Helmut Deutsch Lied Competition, Grimaud presents the gentle music and quiet nostalgia of some of the most exquisitely beautiful poetry ever written flows through this album.

The emotional ebb and flow of human existence finds pure expression in the words and music of Silent Songs. Grimaud and Krimmel open their album with two sublime settings of elegiac love lyrics by Yevgeni Baratynsky, ‘Song can heal the ailing spirit‘ and ‘There were storms and tempests’, and continue with a spellbinding treatment of Keats’s ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ in Russian translation. Other highlights include ‘Farewell, O world, farewell, O earth’ from Shevchenko’s Son (‘The Dream’), the poem that precipitated his imprisonment and exile by the Tsarist authorities.”

Album to be released on 3 March 2023 by Deutsche Grammophon. Preorders here.

 

VIEWING ROOM

‘C/TRO is the studio experiment of two Ukrainian long-term addicts of DJing, music production and style exploration. Vlad Fisun is a well-known journalist, vinyl collector, and kulturträger. Mykola Makeyev is a sound wizard of many bands, including Awesomatic and Charlie, and the band member of Alyona Alyona act. ‘Allora’ is the story of two strangers lost in the Moroccan medina, a mess of playful moods of castanets and heavy synths hysteria of the twilight. The video was actually filmed in Napoli’s and Rome’s outskirts.’

(Gianmarco Del Re)

 

 

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