Tymofii Muzychuk, a piper who forms part of Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian group that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2022, spoke with The Northern Times ahead of their performance at Groningen’s ESNS music festival this week.
How would you describe Kalush Orchestra to someone who is new to your music?
Kalush Orchestra is a Ukrainian band that combines ethnic music with rap and hip-hop dances. And our music has folklore motifs. We use Ukrainian folk instruments in our songs. And as you know, the band’s signature is the pink bucket hat and it is recognized around the world. Oleg Psyuk, who is the band’s frontman, bought this hat in a second-hand store to film a music video. Now it’s known worldwide. And by the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Gleeson (who played Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones) and many other famous people now have this bucket hat.
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How has winning the Eurovision in 2022 shaped your journey?
It was an unforgettable experience. Well we now have a lot more concerts than we did before. Once we even gave more than 30 concerts in a month, it was crazy. And it’s physically exhausting. And we began to be invited to world-famous festivals where Ukrainian artists have never participated before. And we also got acquainted with famous artists and singers such as The Rasmus. Together we created a new song called In The Shadows Of Ukraine.
What is daily life like for a Ukrainian artist such as yourself – is it more glamorous like in a rock star movie or is it more regular with daily struggles?
Well, it’s difficult to call the life of most Ukrainian artists glamorous right now especially during the war. Currently every Ukrainian starts their morning by reading the news – reading what happened during the night, what’s the latest news, and what is going on in Ukraine. So every person in Ukraine, as well as every Ukrainian artist, is trying to help the country. Trying to support the Ukrainian people and trying to do everything to end this war as soon as possible.
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Since your Eurovision win, Russia continued with its unjustified war against Ukraine. What do you tell people back in your home country to show them why it’s important for you to continue touring and playing music abroad?
Yes our lives have changed and everyone is trying to make their maximum effort for our victory. What we can do now is to make sure our concerts are great, because our concerts abroad serve 2 important functions. Firstly we can raise funds for Ukraine – charity collections and auctions are held at all of our concerts. You can simply donate using a QR code which we always take with us. And also, you can buy merchandise during the concerts such as an instrument which I was playing during the Eurovision. But a fan favourite is performing with us on stage. They donate a lot of money for this experience. We do it all to help people in Ukraine.
Secondly, it’s an opportunity to distract people from bad news, because currently, there are many forcibly displaced Ukrainians living abroad and being far from home. It’s very important for them to feel something special and familiar. Once in the USA, after a concert, someone told me, “It was like a fresh Ukrainian air to me”.
What are your expectations for your Groningen concert?
Well, I hope that we will be able to make the festivalgoers fall in love with Ukrainian music and I’m very glad that we can perform at such a large-scale event. This is not only an opportunity to introduce a new audience to your work, but also a place for new acquaintances, because such cities often become the beginning of powerful collaborations. For example our work with The Rasmus and we also collaborated with the Canadian rapper bbno$ (baby no money). I hope there will be more of these opportunities.
What is the next big dream for Kalush Orchestra?
Well, for every Ukrainian right now, the most important thing is victory in this war. As for me, like as part of Kalush Orchestra, I want a Grammy and we all want a Grammy.
Any final words before we say goodbye?
Well, first of all, I want to thank you for being here. And I sincerely thank the Dutch people and the Dutch government for helping and supporting Ukraine. This is extremely valuable to us. Thank you for being with us and see you at the festival!
You can watch Kalush Orchestra perform live at the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival on the Grote Markt in Groningen on Thursday 18th January between 23:15 and 00:00.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Sandra Serhiienko was our Ukrainian-English translator.
Photo courtesy of Kalush Orchestra.