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The favorites to win the next edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, the largest music competition in the world, are the Kalush Orchestra, a hip-hop band that will represent Ukraine at the event to be held in Turin on May 10-14. The forecasts seem to be more related to the current situation in Ukraine than to the unique nature of the piece. Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 cannot leave the country because of the war with Russia, but the Kalush Orchestra has obtained a special permit and Eurovision will perform the song “Stefania”, dedicated to the mother of one of them. Meanwhile, when they are not involved in promotional rehearsals and concerts, the members of the group engage in various activities to support the Ukrainian population and troops.
The Kalush Orchestra was founded in 2019 as a trio and is named after the western town of Kaluš, in the foothills of the Carpathians, where the singing rapper Oleh Psyuk was born. Their style combines hip hop with traditional melodies of Ukrainian folk music, enriched with, among others, telenkaa wind instrument similar to the long flute typical of their area.
Although they were the favorites of the audience, in the competition for a Ukrainian artist to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest, the Kalush Orchestra took second place: they were selected after the winner, Alina Paš, who was confronted with a trip to the Crimea, a territory annexed in a way deemed illegal by Russia in 2014.
When the news of his participation in Eurovision was announced on February 22, two days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the group was finishing touring various Ukrainian and Polish cities. A few weeks ago, the group gathered in Lviv – the main city of western Ukraine, one hundred kilometers north of Kalush – to prepare for several concerts in the Netherlands and Israel. Meanwhile, both team members and colleagues also engaged in other activities.
After the invasion began, Psyuk left the capital Kyiv, where he lived, to return to Kalush, taking steps to deliver packages with humanitarian aid and transport refugees from one station to another. Mikola Kycheriavyy, the head of the group, initially joined the army: then he left him (he had no military experience) and began collecting funds for ammunition, bulletproof vests and a first aid kit.
Even Tymofij Muzyczuk, a guest musician who sings the melodic parts of “Stefania”, became a volunteer, in particular taking care of contact between people who had a car with those who had to move, but also transporting food and materials for soldiers.
In an interviewEconomistMuzychuk said that with the war “everything stopped” and that now “we can only think about surviving and protecting our families.” Kycheriavyy argues, on the other hand, that someone could criticize him for “choosing the easier path” with regard to engagement at the front: always talking toEconomist Kycheriavyy said he did not want to “compare Eurovision with a military mission” but that the festival “is also somehow important”.
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Ukraine has been participating in Eurovision since 2003 and almost always ranks in the top ten countries classified with artists or groups of different genres, from pop dance singer Ruslana, who won the competition in 2004, to techno-disco Go_A, arrived fifth last year. Ukraine also won Eurovision in 2016 with singer Jamala’s song “1944” and devoted to a rather complex historical topic: the deportation of Tatars to the Crimea by the Soviet Union of Josip Stalin during World War II.
The song of the Kalush Orchestra for this year’s edition, from which Russia was excluded, is dedicated to Psyuk’s mother. As Ołeksi Zembieowski, the artistic producer who will curate the group’s performance at Eurovision, explained, however, with the war, both the message of the song and the show prepared for the competition in Turin will be more universal, devoted to the broader concept of motherhood.
Żembeowski would like the exhibition to include specific elements indicating the ongoing war, but since the rules of the competition do not allow the use of “political” images, he predicted that there would be many “surprises” and symbols of the current “situation”: among them there should be photos The eyes of several Ukrainian mothers indicate the pain of waiting for their children to return home from the war.
As predicted by various betting agencies, the song by Kalush Orchestra would definitely be the favorite to win this edition, followed by “Broglie”, the song with which singers Mahmood and Blanco won the last festival in Sanremo. Psyuk saidEconomist that Eurovision “is very important” and is “especially now”, considering that the group “pays a lot of attention to it”. Kycheriavyy added that he was optimistic about the victory of the Kalush Orchestra, but also said that he did not think too much about it: “Like all Ukrainians, I dream of a victory [nella guerra, ndr]. Turin is just another way to win a little earlier ».
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