10 Ukrainian Songs: Punk for Hong Kong, Americana Blues, and Carol of the Bells–27 December Playlist

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As the world media sees Ukraine mainly as a target of Russia, here is music to showcase the varied and vibrant musical culture of the country, which is the largest nation fully within Europe.

We regularly offer you a playlist of Ukrainian music, curated by a revolving crew of guest-editors. This week’s selections come from Joe Lindsley, an American and the editor of Lviv Now.

The playlist:

Information about the selected songs:

  1. «Prognosis,» by Dity Inzheneriv: «Welcome to Ukraine, punk» sings Olexandra Kopachevska, in English, in this otherwise Ukrainian-language song by a band whose name means «Children of Engineers.»
  1. «Textbooks,» by Dity Inzheneriv: On Sunday 19 December Hong Kong held its first major elections since Beijing stripped the city of its liberties. Dity Inzheneriv wrote this song to remind Urkainians to stay true to their 2014 Revolution of Dignity and to support those oppressed by the Communist government in Beijing. Read more: «With Winnie the Pooh, Ukrainian Punk Rockers Stand with Hong Kong.»

Read more: Ukrainian Punk Rockers Make a Song for Hong Kong and the Uyghurs

  1. «Mankind as We Know It,» Sasha Boole: As the world becomes gripped by yet another variant of Covid, Sasha Boole of Chernivtsi folk-blues, with a calm protest-punk spirit, might be a good balm. «We’ll take care of your [g-d] twitter / When you pass away. You’re wasting your time / setting me up / I’m not that gullible fool.»

 Read more: «Watching the World Die»: Sasha Boole Sings the Folk Blues of Wild Ukraine

  1. «Ти є я,» Druha Rika [«Ty ye ya / «you are me»]: This band from Zhytomyr, in the northern part of western Ukraine, gives energetic momentum, with what they call «Brit pop,» but the melodies and singing are more substantial than saccarchine 
  1. «На Небі,» Okean Elzy [Na Nebi / In the sky]: This is perhaps the unofficial anthem of Lviv. You’ll hear it from street musicians, often surrounded by a crowd of people singing along. Okean Elzy is perhaps Ukraine’s top rock band, led by Slava Vakarchuk, a physicist-songwriter who nearly ran for president.

Read more: «A Musician-Physicist Who Chronicles and Sometimes Steers the Story of Ukraine.»

  1. «Shchedryk« by Viter Ukrainian Folk Choir [The little swallow], aka «Carol of the Bells»: This is Ukraine’s big contribution to the global Christmas songbook. Traditionally this song is sung on old-calendar New Year’s Eve, 13 January. (Next week, we’ll post a list of Ukrainian Christmas songs, or kolyadka, which are not sung until 7 January, Christmas Day on the old calendar recognized by Orthodox and Greek Catholics, the latter of which is the main religion in Lviv.
  1. Сам собі країна, by Skyrabin [The country itself]: This band is beloved by Ukrainiains young and old. It helped many get through the tough times of the post-Soviet 90s and during the revolutionary years of the 2000s. Many believe its frontman, Andriy Kuzmenko, was murdered by sinister friends of the government, which he often criticized. He died in a car accident in 2015. «Don’t be ashamed, it’s your land / Don’t be ashamed, Ukraine,» he sings in this encouraging, upbeat, and catchy song. 
  1. «The High Pass,» by Myroslav Skoryk: Skoryk, the great Ukrainian composer and son of Lviv who died in 2020, put the spirit of the Carpathian mountains in his classical pieces. This music takes you to the forested mountains and valleys of the Hutsul people, one of the storied cultures of Ukraine. 
  1. Shum by Go-A [«Noise»]: This electro-folk band, formed in 2012, repretened Ukraine in the 2021 Eurovision song contest. Their musical mission is to return to Ukraine’s ancient roots and the haunting cries in this song bring the memories of a wild peasant past to the present. Also: see the music video here:
  1. Kyba, Dakh Daughters [«Cuba»]: The seven women of Dakh Daughters create wild songs, in a mixture of languages including Ukrainian, English, and French, and often with unusual instruments. 

Here you can see a video of their performance in December 2013 during the wild, fearful, and hopeful days of the Euromaidan Revolution, which ultimately resulted, in February 2014, with the pro-Moscow regime fleeing to Russia and a new dawn of Ukrainian independence and culture. 

You can find more playlists and previous versions of this column here.

By Joe Lindsley (follow on Instagram or LinkedIn)

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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.

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