What could the future hold for Ukrainian music when the war ends — explained by Yurii Bereza


Suspilne Culture is launching a new project – “No brotherhood – there wasn't one, isn't and will never be”. People from across Ukraine's creative and cultural industries explain in their columns, how Russia has been trying to destroy Ukrainian identity for years (or even centuries).

All materials will be published in both Ukrainian and English. Russia's informational aggression has been a part of the daily discourse in Ukraine for a long time, especially after Maidan in 2014. Now we need to make this context available abroad to show that we've been fighting this war for way more than just a month.

Yurii Bereza, a music reviewer, tells about what's happening to Ukrainian music right now and what the future holds after the ties to Russian markets are severed.

For the Ukrainian version click here.

Translated from Ukrainian by Ivan Korniienko.

War sped up a lot of processes within Ukraine. Expectedly, folk arts rose up. There are a ton of examples: from a song about Bayraktar by Taras Borovkow to the rapping "Sho vy, brattia" (Sup, my brothers) by Jockii Druce. Armed Forces of Ukraine says we know a thing or two about trench warfare. The same is true about our culture.

It's not silent nor dead, it has gone into a state of entrenchment, which is reinforcing and reassuring. Not that there are a lot of new songs, because, to put it mildly, not everyone has got time to write them. Still, the moment they come about, they become truly national and do help a lot. War's been going on for more than a month and not everybody is all about positive vibes. You've got to draw them somewhere.

Now is not the right time to discuss how modern Ukrainian music evolves. First, right now many artists are on the frontlines or in territorial defense and will benefit this country for a long time. Second, they might have the ability or will to create anything anytime soon. We can't be sure they will choose to pursue a music career afterward. Many think that war is an inspiration, but it also is a huge emotional trigger. The general mood around here veers closer to putting brick by brick in a large house rather than notes into big hits.

Still, the story of 2014 is sure to repeat itself once we win. The good news is that, compared to 2014, there won't be any Russian narratives present.

War made sure that we turn away from the northern neighbor. Even those who say "it's complicated" and "those living there are people too". Lots of we-are-for-peace-artists have gone missing from our playlists. Just because they can't spade a spade. I'm glad it finally happened, but it`s sad it had to be this way.

Of course, it's hard to cut this narrative up by the root completely. It's sure to sneak in someplace. Take the charity concert in Warsaw, where Face (Russian rapper) and T-Fest (Chernihiv, Ukrainian artist), who was never considered Russian. But pay no mind to that. There won't be huge banners advertising Shufutinsky’sRussian pop singer – Editor`s Note concert on the Palace of SportsIndoor sport-concert complex situated in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine – Editor`s Note front, nor will there be "koleso SansaryA song by Russian rapper Basta – Editor`s Note" twice in a row in Stereo PlazaNight club in Kyiv, Ukraine – Editor`s Note.

Breaking free from Russia's pressure is sure to be the watershed moment for Ukrainian culture. To put it into neologisms, it's the moment we clear our take-off lane. So unbelievable it makes the 2014's renaissance seems a hypothetical possibility. It's akin to winning the national lottery and scoring with those Khreschatyk kick-the-ball scams all in one day.

This is a chance to open up new ways to find an audience, previously limited to talent shows with fake contestant stories. It's a chance for musicians to earn via intellectual property, not just through corporative parties. A chance to build our own industry, which, in recent years, was spoken of in the same tone of voice as the stuff of myths and legends.

So here are my cheers for the death of the Russian entertainment industry. It's been pushing us down for all these years, never once letting us promote anything of our own. We were ignored in our desire to become autonomous and do our own thing. At the same time, we were literally flooded with rather dubious content in the likes of broken-jaw-rapping and psychotropic schizo of instasamkaRussian singer and instabloger – Editor`s Note.

There are two reasons for this. The first one is just business. Big companies see no reasons to put an office in a country that doesn't bring big bucks in, so they install regional offices. Another one (and more important at that) is misjudgment and we see a lot of it lately. Remember Kanzler Scholtz and innocent Russians? Or the firm belief that Ukraine will fall in two days? Those two days have been lasting for a month now and still counting.

We've got ourselves a chance and we must milk it dry. Invite big labels, streaming services, distributors. Vote for laws that compensate artists fairly sans the arguments that on in the last months. Revive promotional business so that foreign artists want to come here not just in the search of larger pay. It's a very generic plan and it's sure to have lots of nuances. But it's here and it's not impossible.

This timeline has proven that Ukraine is capable of more than just folktronica on European showcase stages. It's capable of much more.

We have wonderful and original artists with lots of experience of working with the west. PR specialists who can hype an artist up even on the most basic premises. Promoters and organizers who take the hundredth mortgage on their own houses and cars just do have a cool fest in a unique location. Managers who defied the odds to make the tour happen. Our social capital is just fantastic and it's itching with the desire to build something new. They have been waiting for these ropes to be cut for a very long time.

I haven't been doing music journalism for more than four years now, but I never left the sidelines and kept watching from afar. Lots of my friends and colleagues keep "warm" ties to the industry. It's the same as it was when I worked there: a clique of people which is hard to get into for just someone from the street. But now they're united as never before. They must remain like that when the war ends. To forget their own interests for a while and work for the common good, creating a market which creates possibilities for each and every one. I'm more than sure that it's more than possible.

A picture of a bright future can be seen. Still, we've got to be cautious and careful with our actions. You only get one chance like that. There won't be another one. A myriad of variants is presented before us, but we're alone in it. So if we fail, we fail alone. Not Russians, who've cut their last remaining ties to the industry. All they've left is their bleached-hair Baskovs, post-punk abusers, and other BueraksA post-punk band from Novosibirsk, Russia – Editor`s Note.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Suspilne Culture.

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