Famous singer Ruslana speaks to the protesters from the improvised stage at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square on Nov. 26. Many popular bands and singers came to support EuroMaidan rallies in Kyiv and performed for free because they support closer integration between Ukraine and the European Union.
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin
Serhiy Fomenko, better known as Foma, the lead singer of the popular Ukrainian band Mandry, jumps off the stage after performing, too excited to even speak. The noise of thousands of protesters on the crowded square almost drowns out his voice.
“I am being blown away by all this! I am just so happy to be here,” he said, out of breath, his voice trembling with excitement.
Mandry had just played on Kyiv’s European Square on Nov. 25 in front of a crowd protesting against the government’s Nov. 21 decision to suspend the country’s European integration drive. It was the fifth day of protests in Kyiv.
Musicians are key components of these events, a distraction from the bone-chilling weather and a welcome break from listening to politicians drone on, no matter how skilled their oratory.
In their ninth day as of Nov. 29, the EuroMaidan rallies have featured more than a dozen popular bands and singers. Plach Yeremii, Gaidamaky, Mandry, Motor’rola, Kozak System, Atmasfera, Maria Burmaka and Ot Vinta are among who have played at Maidan Nezalezhnosti and European Square – for free, they say.
Taras Chubai, lead singer of Plach Yeremii, said that only the band’s road expenses were covered. On Nov. 25, Chubai wooed the crowd with his famous song “Vona” (“She”) and a popular rebellion song “Lenta za lentoyu,” (“Pass the Ammo Belt”).
“We were told that this was not the last time we are asked to perform,” Chubai said, expressing his support for Ukraine’s closer integration with the EU. “This is our chance to finally move away from Soviet living standards.”
Fomenko from Mandry is also happy to perform for personal reasons. “I was at Maidan on the first night (of protests) and on the second night, I went to Vilnius on the third day, and here I am again,” Fomenko said.
“Every band that comes here shows the openness of their hearts and we would be glad to hear whoever comes,” said Volodymyr Bondar a Kyiv student, as he moved to the music of Motor’rolla on Nov. 26. “Besides, music is the way to the heart and our hearts here are united by the same goal.”
Popular singer and 2004 Eurovision winner Ruslana did not perform on Maidan, but has been a constant presence. She has become the de facto EuroMaidan host, speaking from the stage and encouraging people to stay at the rally.
“Whatever you’re doing now, put it away and come here, because now there is nothing more important than to support Ukraine’s movement toward European society,” she said at Maidan Nezalezhnosti on Nov. 28.
An opposing rally held at Mykhailivska Square on Nov. 24 by the ruling pro-presidential Party of Regions, called to support the government’s decision to suspend EU integration, also had musical entertainment. When asked about his performance at the rally, singer Mykola Gnatiuk told the Kyiv Post that he performed free of charge.
“They called me and said that this is about Ukraine being in Europe and I felt like I should be there with my people,” he explained, sounding a bit confused. People at the rally held anti-EU and homophobic banners.
While there is ideological unity on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the musical program still lacks some big names. Finance specialist Oksana Voylovych is waiting for prominent Ukrainian bands to take up the cause and perform. “I love Plach Yeremii but I would really love to see Okean Elzy and Vopli Vidoplyasova. There has been nothing from them yet,” she said.
Viktoria Homenko, public relations manager for OkeanElzy, said she does not know about the band’s plans to perform at EuroMaidan rallies, although she said that its lead singer, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, “is out there in the crowd every day.”
Vakarchuk was indeed spotted on Maidan Nezalezhnosti on the night of Nov. 27. On Dec. 1, Okean Elzy goes on tour abroad for at least a week.
Vopli Vidoplyasova, another anticipated band, is not in Kyiv. “I can say for sure that we won’t be performing there. We are on tour now, just arrived in Lviv,” PavloSkornyakov, the spokesman of the band said.
Other bands are finding inspiration from the pro-European rallies. Popular band Antytila released a song titled “Independent” dedicated to the rallies.
“This is how we want to support the European initiative of Ukrainian people,” said Taras Topolya, the band’s lead singer. Now the band is working out details for the band’s possible show at Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
Kyiv Post staff writer Daryna Shevchenko can be reached at email@example.com.