It was back in mid-September that the famous American rock band Gogol Bordello, which invented and implemented its own musical style, gypsy punk, announced the release of a new studio album entitled Solidaritine.
This is the band’s eighth album, and the lyrics, the mood of the compositions and the album cover design openly manifest support for Ukraine in its resistance to Russian aggression.
The album title, Solidaritine, is also fascinating in artistic terms. It can have many interpretations. Likely, the word Solidaritine is a product of imagination, especially given the theatrical and burlesque style of Gogol Bordello. It is also quite possible that it is a metaphor, because in English “solidarity” is “solidarity”, while “solidaritine” is associated with a strong drink, with something like Benedictine liqueur.
The title of the first track also supports this interpretation of the new release: “Shot of Solidaritine”. It can be translated as a portion or a goblet («shot») of solidaritine, that is, solidarity. Metaphorically, an emotional call to raise a glass to solidarity, to joining the fight of the Ukrainian people.
The new album has, as luck would have it, a generous 13 tracks, and one of them, Forces of Victory was recorded in the Ukrainian language together with Ukraine-based poet and volunteer Serhiy Zhadan (who wrote the lyrics) and the Ukrainian pop band Kazka.
In this new album from Gogol Bordello, there is one more composition, in both English and Ukrainian, recorded together with Kazka – the number Take Only What You Can Carry, dedicated to the huge humanitarian problem, namely displaced persons, citizens of Ukraine, mostly women with children, forced to leave their homes and go abroad because of the war unleashed by Russia.
They were able to take just a few personal belongings with them, and many still could not leave home without albums containing family photos, or shirts embroidered by grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The most valuable thing being something that connected them with their native land, with family memories.
Nevertheless, the history of Gogol Bordello is special. Many fans of the group know that its founder, Yevhen Hudz, identifies himself with Ukraine, because it is his homeland. He was born in the town of Boyarka, near Kyiv, and later his family moved to the capital and settled in one of the districts of the city, Obolon. It was there that Yevhen graduated from high school, began to study music and formed his first rock band.
Yevhen Hudz has been living in the U.S. since 1992, where he founded the band back in 1999. Even after moving across the ocean, his contacts with Ukraine did not break, as his friends, classmates, musicians with whom he previously collaborated remained here. Yevhen used to come to Kyiv regularly, the band often performed in the capital and other cities around Ukraine. The artwork for the band’s previous album, Seekers and Finders (2017), was created by his friend, a famous Ukrainian artist by the name of Kyrylo Protsenko.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the band categorically refused to perform in Russia, canceling planned concerts there.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Yevhen Hudz has been actively involved in supporting the homeland. First on the information front, because even though many in the West seemed to understand that something unfair and terrible was happening, the enemy’s propaganda continued to work, for years it had been pushing the narrative of the “national expression of will in Crimea to join Russia” or about the “choice” of some “people of Donbas”.
At the same time, Yevhen and his bandmates have been actively raising funds for humanitarian and other needs in Ukraine, enlisting other pop music stars and members of the U.S. business community in this process.
In his interviews Yevhen Hudz has repeatedly underlined that Ukraine needs not only humanitarian aid, but also modern weapons to protect its independence and freedom. In the course of every concert, Yevhen Hudz always raises the Ukrainian flag, emphasizing the need to support the resistance being shown by the people of Ukraine, who are now on the frontline of the fight for democracy, paying an incredibly heavy and terrible price for it.
In August, Yevhen Hudz and the band’s violinist, Serhiy Ryabtsev, joined a group of volunteers who brought cargo to Ukraine and played an improvised concert together with an ensemble of Ukrainian soldiers on the western border. Western media enthusiastically responded to this event, with the influential music magazine Rolling Stone calling this performance “Gogol Bordello’s secret show”.
One of the numerous initiatives and activities of Yevhen in this field is close cooperation with the famous American actor, film director, screenwriter and producer Liev Shreiber.Theirs is a long-standing friendship, as Yevhen played one of the main roles in Liev Shreiber’s film Everything Is Illuminated (2005). Shreiber himself has Ukrainian roots on his maternal grandfather’s side.
He’s a co-founder of the foundation BlueCheck Ukraine initiative, whose goal is to provide humanitarian aid to war-torn Ukraine. Shreiber also joined the United24 project as an ambassador for medical aid.
But that’s not all. Yevhen and the other musicians who make up Gogol Bordello actively support an artistic volunteer project called Artdopomoga, which was initiated by Yevhen’s old friend and classmate, the Kyiv musician and DJ Ivan Moskalenko (also known by his creative pseudonym DJ Derbastler). Artdopomoga produces stickers and other visual works created by Ukrainian artists and collections of compositions by Ukrainian musicians in order to raise funds for the needs of Ukraine’s defenders who risk life and limb on a daily basis.
Well, with a new album comes a new promotional tour. Gogol Bordello will shortly kick off a big U.S. tour with gigs showcasing their new album Solidaritine. Part of the funds earned will go towards supporting Ukraine.
More information about the tour schedule and the new album can be found on the band’s official website, on which, by the way, there’s even a separate section called Support Ukraine.
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