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Ukrainian Musicians: Some of the Country’s Biggest Stars

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. 


Ukrainian Musician Luna
Luna (Interview Magazine)

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

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. 


DakhaBrakha (Bristol 24/7)

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.”


Ukrainian Musician Jamala
Jamala (REDEF)

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. 

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy Causes Stir Over Vogue Feature

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife have appeared in the famed magazine

The Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the first lady, Olena Zelenska, have been highly criticised domestically in Ukraine and internationally as they appeared in the latest edition of Vogue Magazine. Despite the narrative of the article focussing heavily on war and their strong relationship, many critics are in agreement that the shoot is in bad taste, considering the ongoing war with Russia.

Volodomyr Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy and Zelenska (NY Post)

In the fashion magazine piece, the pair discuss the impact of war on their personal lives with respect to their relationship and family dynamic. “[the war] has been the most terrible months of my life,” said Zelenska. “Frankly I don’t think anyone is aware of how we have managed emotionally.” What inspires her, she told me, is her fellow Ukrainians. “We’re looking forward to victory. We have no doubt we will prevail. And this is what keeps us going.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy was also present in the interview, expressing his concern for the safety of his family, and the country in which he was elected to protect. “Like any ordinary man, I have been worried sick about them, about their safety. I didn’t want them to be put in danger,” he said, referring to the time the family spent apart at the beginning of the war. “It’s not about romance. It’s about horrors that were happening here in Kyiv’s outskirts and all those horrors that are happening now in our country, in occupied territories.” He continued: “But of course, I’ve been missing them. I’ve wanted to hug them so much. I’ve wanted to be able to touch them.”

Zelenska in the Vogue shoot (TFI Post)

Despite the patriotic and well intentional content of the interview, the main areas of controversy lie in the photos themselves. The sheer fact that two are posing for photos with world-renowned photographer, Annie Leibovitz — in some cases next to military equipment — is infuriating many. “Has Zelenskyy forgotten there is a war going on,” says one Twitter user. “Ordinary Ukrainians are dying every single day in a war they can’t win while Zelenskyy is busy doing photoshoots for Vogue,” said Greg Price.

But, on the other hand, Ukraine’s future depends just as much on international support as it does on its own military strength. Therefore, all publicity is good publicity. And being on the cover of Vogue is huge international exposure for drumming up Ukrainian support, especially at a time when inevitable fatigue begins to creep into the media. “A big part of Zelensky’s job is doing as much PR for Western audiences as possible, to keep the war in the public consciousness,” said another account, who agrees with the tactics. “Ukraine needs to keep talking to the world to counter fatigue and disinterest,” says another corroborative voice.

Olena in a shelter (

Since February of this year, Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour, Ukraine. Over 6 months later, thousands of innocent people have lost their lives. Each day, that number increases, whilst missiles destroy important Ukrainian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools. In order to win this war, momentum is needed on all fronts: military and media. Exposure means more money, and strategists agree that money is crucial to winning a war and defending a nation.