The fields are flowering, but Mama Stefania is slowly turning gray. Ukraine heard these words for the first time in February of this year. The Kalush Orchestra had hoped to be allowed to take her to the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, less than a season later, the world has changed forever, and this tribute to Ukrainian mothers has become the voice of a country struggling for its very existence.
The story of the Kalush Orchestra shows how radically this world has changed in a short period of time. In the lead-up to the Ukraine qualifying round for Eurovision in February, they toured the country extensively, with daily concerts in various major cities. “We don’t really sleep,” they said with a laugh at the start of the live show.
Less than two weeks later, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Pictures of the Kalosh squad members in their full military outfits have been circulating on social media – were they really going to fight? It turns out that this is not true, but it illustrates the chaos in which the country has found itself, as well as in terms of providing information. It soon became clear that the band members did not flee Ukraine; They helped collect food, medicine, helmets and other supplies for the army on a daily basis.
The scream of terror
If they can leave their country in time, six of the band members will take the stage for Ukraine on May 10 during the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin. Three of them – Oleh, Ihor and MC Kylymen – have been making up the successful hip-hop collective Kalush for some time. They simply took this name from the city in which they began their musical journey, Kalush, in the Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine. Even before their participation in the Ukrainian qualifying round for Eurovision, they recorded major domestic hits with hip-hop music in their own language.
After Ihor was on the Eurovision stage at Go_A as the flutist in 2021 (5th place in the final), things started to go downhill. Inspired by the phenomenal success of Go_A’s blend of electronic music with Ukrainian folklore, Kalush decided to expand with three musicians who brought this folklore into their hip-hop music; Dzhonni, Tymofii, and Vitalii joined, and Kalush became the Kalush Orchestra. Singer and rapper Oleh said in an interview, “When we first heard that these influences were coming together in the studio, everyone got goosebumps. It was so cool!”
Another line from their predecessors in the Go_A Kalush Orchestra continues: to sing (and rap) in Ukrainian. How important that is at the moment cannot be doubted during the national preliminary round in February. the number Stefania, written by all the band members together, is an ode to their mothers, in their mother tongue. The two rap clips are first-hand descriptions of how difficult life in Ukraine is for mothers. The child sees how his mother grew up, but he also sees how she formed the ground on which he was able to grow: “She shook me, gave me rhythm, strength and perseverance.”
The described mother is not only loving and caring, but also incredibly strong. She stands on her feet, and continues to walk, despite the intensification of the storm, even though the roads she walks on are ruined. “Her hands make a fig gesture (a defiant hand gesture used mainly in Mediterranean and Slavic countries, JS) as if they were two bullets.”
Strong, almost furious, like the lines the narrator here uses to portray the mother, so these lines become soft and loving in the chorus. That choir, sung in this typical Ukrainian folklore style, is a lullaby. Or rather: the request for a lullaby. “I want to hear you sing it, Mama, a lullaby in your mother tongue,” these are the literal words – underneath, unspoken but felt: I want to hear you say I can close my eyes, Mama. That everything will be fine, tomorrow is another day.
“We wrote this song with the whole band, because we wanted to connect our mothers’ love with the love of our country,” Awla says. “The mix of hip hop and folklore here is also a soft and hard mix, old and modern. We want to send a message to the younger generations that it is important to respect the traditions of your culture, but not There is nothing to update these traditions by adding something of your own.
Stefania It became a phenomenon long before it was shown live during the Eurovision Song Contest. Written by Lisa Boyor in de Volkskrant†
Without noticing it, I listened to the Ukrainian entry into the Eurovision Song Contest about a hundred times this week. (…) Part of it is now used for TikToks about the war in Ukraine. Groups of friends huddled together in sleeping bags, their faces lit up blue. By smartphone. A bikini-clad woman runs across a tropical beach and when the chorus begins, she suddenly finds herself in the mud wearing full combat gear. In my head it goes on all day: “Lyuuuli lyuuuli lyuuuli-oh.”
Since the outbreak of the war, the song has been broadcast millions of times, and has quickly risen to the top of all Eurovision bookmakers. So it is very likely that the Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine will win the 2022 Song Contest.
Eurovision in wartime
But will they ever be able to stand there? In order to make their voices heard for the world at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, the Kalush Orchestra will have to flee besieged Ukraine. However, it is unrealistic that this question was asked for the first time in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1993, Bosnian Fadla ran with his comrades into an abandoned airport to flee Sarajevo. Eurostory told how they braved the bullets of Serb snipers to represent their new country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Eurovision Song Contest.
In the end, Bounty only took 16th place, but for the Kalush orchestra, the omens seem better. Singer Oleh dreamed in early February, saying “there is no better gift for my mother” than the prospect of winning the Ukrainian preliminary round. With everything we know now, this gift to his mom will carry infinitely more weight once Stefania plays in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest.
In fact, the Kalush Orchestra was not at the Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine at all; They finished second in the National Final! The winner was famous singer Alina Pash with her Shadows of forgotten ancestors, a rich and poetic song full of references to Ukraine’s eventful history (read more about it here). But the day after Alina’s victory, she lost her credibility. It was previously clear that she was in 2015 in Crimea, the southern peninsula of Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014. At first, it seemed that Alina did it legally, across the Ukrainian national border, but the documents proving this were forged from An employee of Alina’s team accepted, according to one of the official Ukrainian newspapers. The rumors persisted for several days, until Alina herself withdrew: “I don’t want to be part of this virtual war anymore.”
March 15, 2022 update: Ukraine confirms its intention to participate in Eurovision
On March 15, Ukrainian Radio reported on Instagram that preparations are underway for participation in the Eurovision Song Contest 2022. “Eurovision is very important for the Kalush Orchestra. At the same time, they are constantly working on the situation in our country.
Singer and rapper Oleh is also speaking. He tells us that one of the squad members is actually fighting to defend Ukraine. He doesn’t say which band member he is. “We do everything within our capabilities; we provide food and medicine, we help people find shelter or flee. Our country is united to the maximum.
He continues: ‘To all who hear us: Help us, speak! War once felt like something very far, something I had only seen in movies. But when you wake up to the sound of explosions, and you don’t know if your girlfriend is still alive, you realize that it’s not that far away, and that this should never happen in 2022.”
Update March 28, 2022: Singer Oleh gives a sign of life
In an interview with Nu.nl, standoff leader Oleh confirmed that he and his fellow band members are still fully engaged in volunteer work in their beleaguered country. While most Eurovision participants are already busy preparing and rehearsing, the members of the Kalush Orchestra have not seen each other for weeks. It would be great if we could meet calmly and train on a daily basis, but that’s not the case. However, I know that if we see each other again, it will be fine right away. Then we train constantly and still achieve the level we are used to.
In addition, Oleh is reflecting on the success of their song, both with bookmakers at Eurovision and on social media, as Stefania The soundtrack is still among the many videos posted from Ukraine on platforms like TikTok. Everyone finds something they feel connected to. “Mother” can stand not only for my mother or your mother, but also for the motherland. Because of this, we can feel like singing and singing about Ukraine. But people also think of their mothers. which they cannot see now, because they are far from them.
Men under the age of 60 who wish to flee Ukraine are usually stopped at the Ukrainian border because they will have to fight in the war. However, Ole does not want to say that he and his band members cannot participate in the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin. “We really hope it works. Then we leave for a little while and come back right away.
April 2, 2022 Update: The Kalush Orchestra was allowed to leave Ukraine
The Ukrainian broadcaster announced on Instagram that the Kalush Orchestra has been given permission to leave the country temporarily for a promotional tour and participate in the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin. For the first time since the Russian invasion, the troupe met in Lviv – one of the troupe members, for unknown reasons, could not join, and was to be replaced. In the main square in the center, the band played live Stefania to listen. It was also the first time since they won the Eurovision national final for Ukraine.
Update April 7, 2022 – Roadshow has begun
The Kaloosh Orchestra promotional tour is in full swing. First stop: Tel Aviv. There took the band using a green screen Postcards images that will be shown during the Eurovision Song Contest. This was followed by a presentation during the Eurovision event “Israel Calling”, and a temporary live performance A group of Ukrainian refugees in the city. The band will continue their European tour in the coming days. Saturday 9th April they will perform during “Eurovision in Concert” at AFAS Live.