Ukraine Eurovision entry Kalush Orchestra aspire to ‘lift spirits’ – as the culture in their country crumbles | Ents & Arts News

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Editor May 6, 2022
Updated 2022/05/06 at 3:33 PM

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Not many Eurovision acts can say that instead of rehearsing for the biggest performance of their life, they have grabbed an AK-47 to fight off Russian aggressors on the streets.

But that’s exactly what Ukraine’s act, Kalush Orchestra, have done ahead of their appearance at the contest.

The band, which is made up of six members, is currently split between fighting in Kyiv and representing Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest, which is being held in Italy this year.

The glitzy arena in Turin is a far cry from the war-ravaged streets of Ukraine, but it’s there that Kalush Orchestra will try and take victory in Europe.

They will fuse folk and hip hop to perform Stefania, an anthem dedicated to the singer’s mother, when they begin their Eurovision campaign next week.

And to add pressure – Kalush Orchestra are favourites to win.

Sitting in a hotel room in the city, Oleg Psyuk, the group’s lead singer, told Sky News (through a translator) that he appreciates the support from the rest of the world, while Ukraine defends itself against an invasion.

We feel a lot of support from many countries,” he explained.

I would like to thank every country and every person in every country who supports Ukraine right now.”

Sporting a Liam Gallagher-esque pink bucket hat, he added that the competition is now more relevant than ever in the face of the conflict in Ukraine.

Right now, there is a war in our country, [Eurovision’s] even more relevant because people are looking for something that is purely Ukrainian, something that contains the ethnic code.

“It’s so important to keep Ukrainian culture popular… and Eurovision is a very good platform for that.

Kalush Orchestra, representing Ukraine at Eurovision 2022. Pic: Maxim Fesenko
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Oleg Psyuk says his band’s role is to speak for the Ukrainian people. Pic: Maxim Fesenko

But Psyuk also sees his role as a diplomat, saying Kalush Orchestra is a mouthpiece for Ukraine.

“We are now talking on behalf of our country and being heard on behalf of our country,” he said.

“And music is a very good way to reach this goal and the attention is quite big at the moment.

“We feel it as a big responsibility because this is the way that we can be of use to our country, and that’s why it’s so important for us to be here right now.”

‘We want to show what the Russian army actually does’

As Kalush Orchestra prepare to perform in Turin, cultural venues across Ukraine are being reduced to rubble by Russian forces.

One project by the Ukrainian Institute is documenting the demolition of such buildings, saying it is important to show the “cultural extermination” in Ukraine at the hands of Russia.

Nadia Koval from the government-linked organisation told Sky News: “We want to show what the Russian army actually does, how it destroys culture.

“We also have a text that accompanies the objects and explains, ‘What is it? Why was it important? Why is it important to preserve it?’

“To have this heritage conserved for the Ukrainian culture… because every culture is extremely important and without Ukrainian culture, the world culture will not be as rich as it could be.”

The Postcards from Ukraine project shows buildings such as the theatre in Mariupol or historical venues in Kharkiv, before and after, highlighting the destruction of Ukrainian culture.

Postcard in Ukraine showing the before and after of a mosque in Mariupol following an attack. Pic: Ukrainian Institute
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The Postcard from Ukraine project shows a mosque in Mariupol before and after an attack. Pic: Ukrainian Institute
A historical building in Kharkiv following an attack. Pic: Ukrainian Institute
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Destruction in Kharkiv. Pic: Ukrainian Institute

Read more:
Kalush on fighting for freedom and creating an anthem for Ukraine
Russia axed from Eurovision as they would ‘bring competition into disrepute’

‘Victory is important’

Kalush Orchestra are pretty nailed on to win the contest next week – but must first get through their semi-final on Tuesday.

Psyuk said winning would be good for his country, telling Sky News: “I think that the victory is important.

“It would be important for every Ukrainian and it would be a merit for every Ukrainian at the moment, because any kind of victory in any aspect is very important for Ukrainians – especially in this time.

“It would lift the spirit of our people.”

Eurovision week begins on Tuesday, with the first semi-final. The second round of semi-finals takes place next Thursday, with the grand final next Saturday.

The BBC hosts the UK coverage, due to its role in the European Broadcast Union – the show’s organiser.

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