Music among bombs: How festivals survived in Ukraine

“People are trying to live their best life, because every single day may be the last one, so the cultural life is blooming.”

We’ve been following the Russian invasion on Ukraine from day one, and while the world is currently focused on Israel and Palestine, we still keep our eyes – and ears – on Ukraine.

New albums never stopped coming out in Ukraine, but what about concerts and festivals? Alona Dmukhovska from Music Export Ukraine has the answers.


Was there any kind of “festival summer” in Ukraine this year?

Alona Dmukhovska: The majority of events we have now are small-scale. Small, because when you have an event for 200 people, you have to have a bomb shelter right next to it for 200 people, so when the alarm siren starts, over the course of a couple of minutes you can evacuate all of them.

We heard you have rave parties during the day now?

The electronic community in Ukraine found a way to continue their activities – the world-known Kyiv techno club ‘Closer’ even does music festivals – starting early in the morning and finishing in the evening. The reason for that is the curfew in all cities that we have during the nighttime, so no events are allowed then. So yes, you have got it right – rave parties during the daylight. It’s possible and still entertaining. And now you finally have an excuse to wear those fancy sunglasses while dancing to look cool.

Also, a lot of Ukrainian artists are trying to support Armed Forces of Ukraine and go to play acoustic concerts for our brave people. The frontman of one of the biggest Ukrainian rock bands, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk every couple of months goes to the frontline to make what he can best.

Because all these events are not just for fun? 

It’s because of a clear humanitarian need in the first place – every single event happening now in Ukraine and abroad is not for business, but to raise donations to help those in need.

Besides, it’s crucially important to keep the economy moving, keep the working places and own teams active. Not to mention such well-forgotten words as ‘mental health’, which does not exist in our reality anymore. It’s rather an important activity to stay sane.

Coming back to festivals, what about them?

Not that many, but they are still happening. One example is Brudniy Pes Festival, you can read a report by Lauder than War. Also, in a heart of Kyiv, a new music initiative appeared at Expo Center of Ukraine – Uyava – that are having open air concerts and 2-days festival during the weekend.

But the most prominent event was definitely Faine Misto in late July. They had to move from Ternopil, where they were taking place for many years, to Lviv, where the security situation is better, and the city administration provides significant support. The lineup was primarily Ukrainian, but still they have managed to attract more then 15 thousand visitors over 3 festival days. Besides the music program, they have had significant charity component and managed to raised 3.7 million UAH (appr. 100k euro) for security needs.

Are there any foreign artists coming to Ukraine already? 

Luckily for us, international acts are starting to come back to Ukraine: we recently had The Tiger Lillies who dedicated an album to Ukraine and played two sold-out shows in Lviv and Kyiv. UK’s London Elektricity came to play a set in July. Luxembourg-born singer-songwriter Rome played a couple of times here both in Kyiv and Lviv, and continuously supports humanitarian needs at the spot.

All of that gives a good sign for the foreign agents, that promoters are at place, and the audience is active, so with the proper preparation concerts in Ukraine are possible. Electronic musician IAMX just announced he will be back in Lviv after many years in November.

All of that brings hope that we’re not alone in the current situation and that true friends of Ukraine are ready to come and support Ukrainians.

What about the audience?

We have the warmest audience you can imagine, because people are supper happy to see their favorite artists – as not many people are allowed to go abroad for the concert, because of the military law. And the most flexible promoters, that have learned to do events in a most extreme situations.

If any European colleague needs a risk manager, bring Ukrainian. We know how to find a way from ANY situation.

What has happened to music clubs and venues? 

Obviously, economically, the situation is extreme. People would rather donate some extra money for the security needs, rather than spend it on leisure. Therefore, pre-sales of the tickets are extremely low. The horizon of planning is for a couple of days in advance maximum as any time a new missile or drone attack can destroy another energy infrastructure. But we are ready for that as well now.

After the last winter, the best present for the Ukrainian promoter is an electrical generator now. And yes, most of the concerts were played with them. Even if the electricity is switched off because of the numerous Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrostructure, the audience will cover the artist anyway, just like at the famous concert of Ukrainian artists Artem Pivovarov.

And that’s impressive as the full-scale war came right after covid restrictions.

Many venues and clubs have not survived the covid times – like Monteray Live Stage or BINGO, legendary music venues, which were around for 20+ years. And of course, russian aggressions has not helped to keep the rest going.

But the people are trying to live their best life – because, unfortunately, every single day may be the last one – so the cultural life is blooming. People really are paying attention to concerts and social gatherings, therefore many events are happening. Mostly open air, but some clubs like Closer or K41 are still active.

Many production companies had to transfer of their equipment – stages, sound equipment, lightning – to Europe last year, because those are huge investments and it takes a lot of money to pay even for the warehouse and not use it. So many of them are abroad. But the ones that have stayed, are pretty busy at the moment.


Photo credit: Faine Misto

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