Ukraine’s Eurovision Wartime Playlist

12 May, 01:29 PM
Kalush Orchestra (Photo:REUTERS/Yara Nardi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Kalush Orchestra (Photo:REUTERS/Yara Nardi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Author: Lee Reaney

You know all their Eurovision tunes – but have you heard what Ukraine’s Eurovision acts have been up to since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022? Check out NV’s definitive Eurovision Wartime Playlist to find out!

Eurovision fans have grown well familiar with Ukraine’s Eurovision acts over the years. Beyond winning hits like Ruslana’s ‘Wild Dances’, Jamala’s ‘1944’, and Kalush Orchestra’s ‘Stefania’, songs like Verka Serduchka’s ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ and Go_A’s ‘Solovey’ (‘Nightingale’) and ‘Shum’ (‘Noise’) are heard at every Eurovision-themed party worth mentioning. What Eurovision fans might not be so familiar with is the role these artists are playing during the war.

Video of day

NV has the details.

Virtually every singer in Ukraine has come out with tracks since Russia began its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022. The artists pen the tunes to process their emotions, to raise the morale of Ukrainians, or to teach those unfamiliar with the war what is happening to their homes.

While a full accounting of Ukraine’s wartime playlist must include hits like Andriy Khvylnyuk’s (aka Boombox) ‘Oi u luzi chervona kalyna’ (‘Oh, there is a red viburnum in the meadow’) – the war’s unofficial theme song – or Antytyla’s ‘Fortetsia Bakhmut’ (‘Bakhmut Fortress’), Ukraine’s Eurovision stars have put together an impressive wartime playlist of their own.

So, for anyone that’s a fan of Ukraine’s Eurovision artists, here are some new tracks that you can add to your playlist. The next time you have 2-3 hours, throw them on – just like Ukrainians do while they sit in their bomb shelters waiting for the all-clear after another Russian mass missile attack.

2003 – Oleksandr Ponamaryov – 14th for ‘Hasta la Vista’

Hey Sokoly! with Myhailo Khoma (aka Dzidzio)

Ukraine’s intriguing and successful journey at Eurovision kicked off with the booming voice of Oleksandr Ponamaryov, who continues to belt out audience-pleasers at concerts across Ukraine. He’s come out with a number of wartime hits, including a leading role in the star-studded ‘Ukraina Peremozhe’ (‘Ukraine Will Win’). But it was his emotional rendition of the traditional Cossack-era Polish-Ukrainian folk-war song ‘Hey, Sokoly!’ with Myhailo Khoma – another booming voice, known for his stirring rendition of the Ukrainian anthem – that is the must-listen-to addition to Ukraine’s Wartime Eurovision Playlist.

2005 – GreenJolly – 19th for ‘Razom Nas Bahato’ (‘Together We Are Many’)

‘Voiyny Svitla’ (‘Warriors of Light’) by Lyapis Trubetskoy

GreenJolly’s Orange Revolution anthem ‘Razom Nas Bahato’ (‘Together We Are Many’) took the country by storm in late 2004 and was still popular when Ukraine had its Eurovision selections, leading to the ditty being added as a last-minute entry. Ukraine seemed to learn its lesson though, as by the time Eurovision rolled around in May, the song had lost its popularity and remained tied to the short-lived hope inspired by that revolution. The group broke up shortly after their Eurovision appearance, but Ukraine also had an anthem for its next revolution – the 2013-14 Revolution of Dignity. A Belarusian-language song by popular opposition group Lyapis Trubetskoy served the same role as ‘Razom Nas Bahato’. After Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion, the group reworked their anthem into the Ukrainian language as ‘Vojny Svitla’ (‘Warriors of Light’).

2006 – Tina Karol – 7th for ‘Show Me Your Love

‘Vilna’ (‘I’m Free’)

Since her star showing at Eurovision 2006, Tina Karol has become one of the single most popular influential celebrities in Ukraine. She regularly serves as a judge on signing competitions, including ‘Vidbir’ – Ukraine’s Eurovision selection competition – and Voice of Ukraine. She has been named the ‘Most Attractive Woman in Ukraine’ three times and is on Focus magazine’s ‘Most Influential Ukrainians’ list. She has also been very active since the war began: raising funds, organizing volunteer efforts, and raising awareness. She has plenty of songs she sings at anti-war telethons, though most pre-date Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion. We went with ‘Vilna’ (‘I’m Free’) over ‘Ukraina – Tse Te ‘ (‘Ukraine is You’) and ‘Chervona Kalyna‘ (‘Red Viburnum Rose’), which was already mentioned at the start of the article, but you can choose your own favorite.

2009 – Sveltana Loboda – 12th for ‘Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)

‘Molytva’ (‘Prayer’)

Svetlana Loboda shot to stardom with VIA GRA – an all-girl group that sort of served the role as a sexualized Spice Girls in Ukraine. Her solo act at Eurovision 2009 remains one of the most popular 9th-place acts in Eurovision history and helped her branch off into a highly successful solo career under the moniker LOBDODA. Following Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, she released the emotional ‘Molytva’ (‘Prayer’), focusing on how women face loss in war. Break out a box of tissues and watch below.

2011 – Mika Newton – 4th for ‘Angel

‘Free – A Tribute to Ukraine’ by John Legend with Mika Newton

Most foreigners aren’t aware of how difficult it was for Mika Newton to even qualify for Eurovision 2011. Before finishing 4th in Dusseldorf, she topped future Eurovision heavyweights Zlata Ognevich (3rd in 2013) and Jamala (1st in 2016) in a star-studded Ukrainian national selection contest. She had success for a few more years before taking a break from show business. She returned at the 2022 Grammy’s after a special request from Ukraine’s wartime president Volodmyr Zelenskyy to perform a moving duet with American superstar John Legend dedicated to those that had lost their lives at the hands of the Russian invasion. In the video below, you will also see the former actor Zelenskyy’s address to the American music industry before the duet begins.

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2013 – Zlata Ognevich – 3rd for ‘Gravity

‘Pray for Ukraine’

Zlata Ognevich remains one of the most talented and popular solo singers in Ukraine. She has built a successful career after nearly winning Ukraine’s second Eurovision title in 2013 with the inspiring ‘Gravity’. While she hasn’t released anything specifically related to Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion, her Revolution of Dignity-era dance ditty ‘Pray for Ukraine’ remains an inspiring tune that can still be heard at Ukrainian discos. A Eurovision icon, Ognevich is expected to take part in the festivities of Ukraine’s Eurovision in Liverpool this week.

2014 – Mariya Yaremchuk – 6th for ‘Tick Tock’

‘Doroha Voyna’ (‘The Road of the Warrior’)

Mariya Yaremchuk’s ‘Tick Tock’ did well at Eurovision 2014, but is probably best remembered now for the “hamster wheel” in her performance that inspired the Will Ferrell Eurovision feature film ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga ‘ She branched off to star in a feature film about the Ukrainian Robin Hood, Oleksiy Dovbush, ‘The Legend of the Carpathians‘. She took a hiatus before releasing the powerful ‘Doroha Voyna’ (‘The Road of the Warrior’), showing she still has the talent to move an audience whenever she so chooses.

2016 – Jamala – 1st for ‘1944

‘Qirim’ (‘Crimea’)

The uber-talented Jamala was already a household name in Ukraine when she brought her emotional ‘1944’ to first place at Eurovision 2016. The song was about her great-grandmother, a Crimean woman who lost her daughter when Josef Stalin ordered the Tatars deported from Crimea. Jamala has been performing across Europe since the war began and remains a popular judge on ‘Vidbir’. She released her ‘Qirim’ (‘Crimea’) album last week and performed its songs for the first time on the EuroVillage grand stage in Liverpool earlier tonight. We can’t just recommend a single track – the whole album should shine light on her beloved Crimea – a land that many Ukrainians hope to see liberated in the very near future.

For more about Jamala’s ‘Qirim’ album, please click here.

2018 – Melovin – 17th for ‘Under the Ladder’

‘Ne Zvolikai’ (‘Waste No Time’)

Melovin came to the attention of Ukrainians after his successful performance on the sixth season of Ukraine’s X-Factor, where he ended up champion. He missed out at competing at his home Eurovision – despite winning the vote of the Ukrainian audience – and had to wait another year before securing his place at Eurovision 2018. Young, talented, and driven, Melovin released his emotional ‘Ne Zvolikai’ (‘Waste No Time’) shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022 and the clip has now been viewed nearly two million times.

2020 & 2021 – Go_A – with ‘Solovey’ (‘Nightingale’) and 4th for ‘Shum’ (‘Noise’)

‘Kalyna’ (‘Guelder Rose’)

After becoming one of Eurovision’s most popular acts with not one – but two (!) – brilliant tracks after their ‘Solovey’ (‘Nightingale’) was cancelled out in 2020 before finishing fourth with ‘Shum’ (‘Noise’) – the first Ukrainian song to hit the Billboard charts – Go_A has been touring, raising money for the army, and raising awareness of the situation in Ukraine. That doesn’t mean they haven’t released new music. ‘Kalyna’ (‘Guelder Rose’) follows the group’s format of turning traditional folk songs into rave-standard electronic hits. In an exclusive interview, lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko told NV that the group’s newest video shoot was interrupted by a Russian air raid. What she wouldn’t reveal, however, was whether the video was for ‘Kalyna’ or a yet-to-be-released new wartime hit from one of Ukraine’s all-time most popular Eurovision acts.

2022 – Kalush Orchestra – 1st for ‘Stefania’

‘Numo Kozaky’ (‘Come On Cossacks’) with Kozak Siromaha

While the record-setting Eurovision winner ‘Stefania’ is a wartime hit in and of itself, Ukraine’s trendy folk-rap stars haven’t stopped putting out popular songs throughout the war. Among the catchiest is the techno-rap collaboration with Kozak Siromaha. With a chorus that will stick with you and memorable lyrics like “Come on Cossacks, get on horses – the Russians are stealing our sunflowers” (which even rhymes in Ukrainian), the call to action will have you dancing as much as it inspires Ukrainians to keep up the fight. However, if you’re more of a hip-hop fan, be sure to check out his ‘Batkivshchyna’ (‘Fatherland’) collab with the trendy Skofka. Even with out understanding the lyrics, the beat will likely rile you up.

2023 – Tvorchi - TBD for ‘Heart of Steel’

‘Dosit’ (‘Enough’) with Alyona Alyona

While European audiences will get familiar with Ukraine’s Tvorchi this weekend at Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool, the multiracial electronic music duo has been entertaining audiences across Ukraine throughout the war. Among their more popular tunes is ‘Dosit’ (‘Enough’) with the kindergarten teacher-turned-rap superstar Alyona Alyona. Something like Ukraine’s Pitbull, Alyona Alyona has performed hits with many of Ukraine’s biggest stars. Her work with Tvorchi is an electronic-funk-hip hop masterpiece that gets Ukrainians up out of their chairs whether they’re on the dance floor or down in their bomb shelter.

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