Whether its techno-pop or ethnic folk, Ukrainian musicians have a lot to offer
Despite being a relatively young country – gaining independence in 1991 – Ukraine has come a long way. In a little over 30 years, contemporary Ukrainian culture has thrived. Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Lviv have been hotbeds of musical talent, churning out quality artists which span a multitude of genres, including, folk, rap, indie, rock, and pop. Although Ukraine is independent, Russia’s dark shadow looms. Throughout history, Russia has sought to erase Ukrainian culture from the map. And, with the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, its intention to conquer has never been more clear. It is now more than ever that Ukrainian culture needs to be celebrated. Here is a list of some of the most promising Ukrainian musicians.
Often compared to Lana Del Rey because of her signature solemn vocals and nostalgic lyrics and sounds, Luna is one of Ukraine’s biggest pop exports. Born and based in Kyiv, Luna’s music can be described as being soulful pop with electronic, trance and techno influences. Luna’s music has catchy lyrics which have helped with commercial success, but the minimalist beats mean that each album could be played back to back at an electronic club. Luna is proud of her heritage and most of her visuals are shot by local and emerging directors and creatives. Now, following the war, Luna is embarking on a European charity tour, with the purpose of rallying support for Ukraine through music.
Esthetic Education is a rock band based in the capital, Kyiv. Formed in 2004, the band was part of the new generation of indie and rock bands that shaped Ukraine’s modern cultural era. At a time when Ukraine wanted to distance itself from Russia and the East in favour of a progressive/European-centric future, Esthetic Education was among the artists which helped shape this image. In 2005 and 2006, the band became a huge success in their hometown, playing in front of 170,000 people in the Palace of Sports in Kyiv. Despite only releasing two records, the band’s music has left a big mark on a period of change for Ukraine.
Dubbed Ukraine’s biggest folk band, DakhaBrakha has enjoyed steady international success, playing at some of Europe’s biggest music festivals: including Glastonbury. The band – whose name translates to ‘give and take’ – is a folk quartet that fuses musical styles from several Ukrainian ethnic groups. For this reason, among many, DakhaBrakha is considered to be a proud representative of Ukrainian heritage.
DakhaBrakha was founded in 2004 at the Dakh Theatre in Kyiv,” says Marko, one of the band members, to Mouthing Off Magazine. “The founder can be considered the director of the theatre, Vlad Troitsky. Yes, at first we made music for theatre performances. These were musical-visual actions, where everything that sounded from the stage was our music. Later, realising that we had a lot of musical material, we started making our concerts. And this has its buzz. We liked it.”
Jamala is probably the most well-known Ukrainian artist on the list, thanks to her spine-tingling performance of 1944 at the Eurovision Song Contest – which she won! Since taking home the prized trophy, Jamala’s career has gone strength to strength – even featuring as a judge on Ukraine’s version of the Voice. Commercial success aside, Jamala’s music is sonically stunning and lyrically beautiful. With recent albums, Jamala has explored a more raw Jazz sound, which has helped portray her as one of the most talented and diverse Ukrainian musicians. Nowadays, Jamala is helping with the Ukrainian war effort by performing in most European countries, through festivals and TV appearances.