Slogans of solidarity with Ukraine were spray-painted on walls, hung from banners and sung on stages around the world.
Few things have done more to capture the visceral emotion of Ukrainians grappling with war than music.
When many of the country’s top musicians left the studio for the front, they continued to produce and share their art.
Antytila is one of the greatest musical groups in Ukraine. After RussiaIn February, the group enlisted in Territorial Defense and joined the war efforts in Irpin, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Borodyanka.
While nursing at Borodyanka, Antytila frontman Taras Topolia wrote the lyrics to his verse on the collaborative song with Ed Sheeran2Step.
Taras’ bandmates filmed him on the front line for the clip, but say they only had 20 minutes before they had to evacuate to avoid being targeted by enemy forces. A radical departure from their former lives as regional rock stars.
“I can honestly say it’s not that easy, but we have to do it. We have to live this double life. Even now, we do our rehearsals, before doing our military duties,” says Taras, 35, of the band’s studio in Kyiv.
“We are fathers and husbands. We have dreams, we had plans and the war changed everything.”
In May, they performed BB King’s Stand by Me – remixed to “Stand by Ukraine” – in military gear with Bono. Three months later, the head of the Ukrainian army gave them permission to go and help promote culture through their art.
Now they are back in Kyiv rehearsing 2Step in the studio to prepare for a show in London on February 26th. Their normal life is still far from being restored – Taras’ family is still in the United States for their safety, and the family of teammate and keyboardist Serhii Vusuk is in Wales.
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“Of course, it’s psychologically very difficult because relationships grow and develop when you talk to each other and when you touch each other. When you hug your wife and children, make jokes and chat with them,” Taras explains.
“This war separated many families.
Antytila is not alone. One of the oldest hip-hop groups in the country, TNMK, spent the first days of the war in the National Guard in Kharkiv. The mother of founding member Oleksandr “Fozzi” Sydorenko is still there now.
“In Kharkiv, until recently, there were three nights when there was no shelling at the beginning of the war. Of course, I am and I write, and it happens that during the day there is no has no connection with her and the connection drops,” he said.
Instead of their usual New Year’s performance, Fozzi will travel to Kharkiv to be with his mother. But first, he and bandmate Oleh Mykhailyuta “Fahot” are putting the finishing touches on the music video for their new single.
This is an informative animation that explains to young people the dangers of mines and bombardments. A mortal danger felt all too often.
“Many are already dead. My friend’s brother, who played in our joint works, died yesterday,” says Fahot.
“Ukrainians will defend themselves, defend their homes, their families and they die. The best, the bravest, the most powerful and the most open will die.”