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Music and Control

Photo by Taras Polatayko
Photo by Taras Polatayko

Last weekend Lviv, one of the most beautiful and popular with tourists Ukrainian city, hosted the rock festival ‘Stare Misto (Old City)’. This event symbolizes one more step towards the formation of more mature Ukrainian underground culture, which is still quite young. Since 2007 this festival has been held annually, except of the last year when it was canceled due to UEFA European Championship. This year the headliners of ‘Stare Misto’ were mostly international bands, such as Kaiser Chiefs, The Subways, Archive, IAMX, and DDT. Though, the public also had the chance to see the famous Ukrainian performers.

This is not the only significant musical event that recently took place in Ukraine. Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Limp Bizkit, Enter Shikari, Korn, and this is not the full list of famous bands that played in Kyiv during the last two years. This indicates the increasing openness of Ukrainian music sphere. In contrast, before the 2005 mostly Russian or other former Soviet countries’ bands prevailed on Ukrainian stages. Probably, this change can be explained by the influence of Orange revolution and the fact that Ukraine became exposed to the world and more open to international artists. Thus, more and more world stars visit Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Besides, it is possible to state that Ukrainian public became ‘thirsty’ for good and high quality performances especially not the pop ones and host musicians very generously, which make it quite attractive for artists.

Music is one of the spheres that has not been censored and controlled by Ukrainian Government. And I am talking about underground music and culture. Concerts, festivals, open-airs, tattoo-conventions and other types of evens which are popular among Ukrainian alternative public and regularly take place thanks to the local initiatives. Even the gothic festival which has in program body modifications and suspension is held annually in Kyiv. They all are mostly sponsored by private business and hold on efforts of enthusiasts who apply incredible amount of energy and resources in order to invite and host world-known bands. Though, at least government is not opposing them, which is the usual practice in Belarus, where such kind of events meets a lot of obstacles on their way to happen.

So, does it mean that there is no censorship in Ukraine? Not really, it is still quite active. This can be illustrated by not uncommon killings of journalists who asked uncomfortable questions or touched upon topics which “should not be named”. Besides, the funny videos about current Ukrainian President, for instance when he was ´attacked´ by the celebration wreath (in case you want to watch it), was banned from Ukrainian TV channels immediately.  And it would not be that big of an issue, if it was the only video, but Ukrainians are already used to be entertained from time to time by Mr. Yanukovych. So, there is no point of censoring it. Hence, the censorship did not disappear from Ukrainian social life. But it does not touch the sphere of culture and underground music in particular, as long as it is self-sufficient and does not ask for money from the state.

Probably, Ukrainian Government thinks that musical events are the distraction from the real problems and that having fun will not produce any threat to them. But I believe that this is one more place where people meet each other, drop off the propaganda veil, find common interests and become capable of action. On such events the young people get together and there is an opportunity for youth culture to be formed. And hopefully, this is the chance for change in Ukrainian society. Let the music change the world!