Photo: Viktoriia Kvitka
June 18 was an ordinary Saturday in Kyiv. However, from the afternoon onwards you would quite often meet people in traditional vyshyvanka dress and girls wearing flower wreaths in their hair. Closer to the evening people with Ukrainian flags started to appear. This was neither a celebration nor a football match. Okean Elzy, the most popular Ukrainian music band, is able to fill the entire Olympic Stadium in Kyiv. The same is happening in Lviv, Dnipro, Odesa, Kharkiv and even in the frontline city Mariupol.
The secret of this rock band’s popularity is that their music is clear to everybody. Okean Elzy were with the people during the Orange Revolution, they brought together 200,000 people at the Euromaidan in December 2013:
At the June 18 concert, Okean Elzy broke the record of highest attendance at the Olympic Stadium, with more than 85,000 [the exact figure is as yet unreleased].
“I do not think that our concerts are entertainment. Our concerts are what unites,” said band frontman Sviatoslav Vakarchuk during the concert devoted to the 20th anniversary of Okean Elzy at Olympic Stadium two years ago. After these words, he sang a song, On the Firing Line, for “the heroes of Ukraine who gave their lives for it.” It was the time when the war in the east had just started.
Two years later Vakarchuk also devotes the group’s songs to those who fight for Ukraine in Donbas. At the end of the concert, he said that “during these two years we [Ukrainians] have become stronger.”
His words merit atention, as in the past they often turned out to be prophetic. In spring 2013, before the revolution and the war, the band released the album Zemlya [Land]. The songs became even more important half a year later.
Just a few examples:
Stina [The wall]: “Where will be you and me when their war is over? Will we have power to make the wall between us fall down?”
Obiymy [Hug Me]: “When a day comes, the war is over. I lost myself there and saw it all to the bottom.”
Na Liniyi Vognyu [On the Firing Line]: “On the firing line I have given you my love. On the firing line you’ve been my secret. Tell me: Why do we live on the firing line?”
In 2016 Okean Elzy released their new album “Bez Mezh” [Without Limits]. Their tour continues and will take them to Latvia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Finland, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and the USA.