By Abigail Lewis
Music, itself a form of poetry, has taken on new significance and meaning since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Across a wide range of musical genres, this art form has offered a medium for elevating Ukrainian identity, culture, traditions, and language on both a local and global stage. Some Ukrainian musicians seek to provide music that is uplifting for the troops and the nation, while for others, music provides an emotional outlet for the nation; a way to feel and express experiences that are otherwise too difficult to articulate.
In the context of invasion, music has become multimodal; it functions as a form of protest, a source of comfort and emotional support, a memorial, and a global means of testifying to Ukraine’s existence. Artists are writing songs quickly in response to new developments in the war and disseminating their music via social media. For example, Taras Borovok, a musician and soldier, created the viral hit Bayraktar in only 20 minutes to celebrate and commemorate the Ukrainian victory over Russian tanks in Kyiv at the end of February 2022. Borovok, speaking with the Washington Post, stated that he writes the music that he thinks people need. “If society’s mood has slipped a bit and if people are getting depressed, then I write something fun and encouraging,” he continued. “If we see that people are starting to forget the situation — are always going to bars and nightclubs — we write something to make everyone remember we are at war.”
In wartime, many new Ukrainian artists have catapulted into popularity. This exhibition features two new indie artists — solo artist Mia Ramari and the duo Tember Blanche — whose music speaks to the themes and experiences of invasion. Ramari’s song, “Гості” (“Guests”), uses irony to depict the Russian invaders as uninvited guests, highlighting the colonial nature of Russia’s treatment of Ukraine and driving home the point that, whatever propaganda Vladimir Putin’s government might put out about a “special military operation,” the Russian army is an invading, not a liberating force. The song is a political response to the full-scale invasion. Tember Blanche’s “Ти живий” (“You're Alive”) also makes a defiant point about the Russian army as uninvited invaders. Like “Guests,” the song plays with changes in who the singer means by “you” at various points, sometimes signifying loved ones and friends, sometimes signifying the enemy. The shift in language and tone in how each is addressed further emphasizes the invaders’ outsider status. “You’re Alive” fulfills another important function. As its title suggests, the song testifies to the human cost of the invasion, but as a reminder — to Ukrainians and to the world — of their continued existence and that of their nation. These two songs exemplify the power of music during times of war and how music has helped give a human face to the cost of this war.
To expand on these themes even further, students compiled a Spotify playlist of songs from Ukrainian artists.
Anna Gazewood is a senior at the University of Notre Dame studying political science and music with a minor in public service. This past winter, she worked on the Nanovic project entitled "Ukrainian Art as Protest and Resilience," for which she researched and wrote about patriotic tattoos. This coming academic year, she is serving as the president of the Notre Dame Chorale and writing her senior thesis in political science. She is originally from Charlottesville, Virginia.
Yuliia Sokolenko is a student at Ukrainian Catholic University majoring in cultural studies. She has strong commitments to life-long learning, cultural diplomacy, and culture as a tool to order chaos. Being impacted by the Russian-Ukrainian war that started in 2014 and intensified in 2022, her desire is the victory of the Ukrainian nation and that gaps of ignorance about Ukraine will be filled around the world.