The initial media blaze surrounding the political and social unrest in Ukraine has abated somewhat in recent weeks, but there are still undeniably dark tactics afoot and dangerous developing situations in progress across the country-particularly in the east. Their sovereignty continues to be under threat and their economy is in turmoil, but the Ukrainians are a proud and brave nation of people who believe there is a light in the end of the tunnel. Normality of a certain degree has returned to the streets of Kiev and the general consensus is that people simply want to get on with life.
Grassroots: United Over Ukraine is a musically driven charity project and it’s only aim is to provide support and help to families directly affected by those events. The two disk compilation represents both Ukrainian artists and international guests who have performed in Ukraine over the course of their careers, respectively. Featuring Vakula, Etapp Kyle, Murat Tepeli and Perc, the musical context is diverse and arranged specifically to create a flow that ranges from ambient interludes to more dance-floor friendly sounds and industrial bangers on the second disk. The first disk represents Ukrainian artists and the second feature guests and close friends who represent different but connected scenes and backgrounds. Hyponik’s Conor McTernan got in touch with Kiev native and project leader Igor Glushko to find out more about the project, Vakula’s patriotic views and the word on the street in Kiev…
Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Igor Glushko, I am a Kiev native. Currently I’m working a regular job in IT, but historically I’ve been involved with numerous different musical projects for years, ranging from working as an editor for a music magazine to promoting Techno parties here in Kiev and running a podcast series called Addicted.
When did you get the idea for the project?
The idea struck me right after our former asshole of a president ran out of the country back in late February. I remember a video interview with one of the victims’ mother that has probably provided the biggest emotional influence in that respect. Besides that, I already knew that this kind of venture may potentially be successful for charity purposes: the project entitled ‘Composure’ produced by organisers of Japanese festival called The Labyrinth few years ago has played the role of benchmark for me. I didn’t want to just copy their idea though, so I spent 2.5 months putting together my own original project that in the end became ‘Grassroots: United Over Ukraine’.
Is this the first time you’ve put together a compilation like this or have you done something similar before?
I have never done something like this before! I was very very nervous when we were announcing the project, as every single step we took felt like a shot in the dark. What was really helpful though is that I already had some really useful contacts from previous projects I had been involved with.
How many people worked on the project asides from yourself and the artists involved?
There were a few people who this idea wouldn’t have been completed without. These are 7 friends of mine who are either helping financially (meaning there are some expenses related to production that we decided not to get balanced from future revenues, but rather take care of ourselves) or getting over some particular tasks we are constantly facing. Moreover, many other people have helped with other minor but necessary things that I had had no experience whatsoever with.
Who funded the project?
As stated previously, the project has been funded by myself and a few friends of mine. Of course, we don’t always pay the ‘normal’ price given the charitable nature of the project, but I still consider it to be quite expensive for an ordinary Ukrainian 🙂
Obviously the artists must have been more than happy to contribute to such a good cause, but how did you go about contacting everyone and how long did it take you to get everyone on board?
Yeah, I was pleasantly amazed by enthusiasm the artists expressed while working on their tracks for the project, it was a nice thing to realise. I either know or have met personally 80% of artists featured in ‘Grassroots: United Over Ukraine’ – of course, this made it easier for me to sign up their tracks, but it was their noble will that made it all possible first and foremost. And I’m extremely grateful for that.
For the non Ukrainian guest contributors, how did you decide on who to contact?
I approached the artists who I admired and knew how to get in touch with. The idea was to have the second CD produced by international artists who have played in Ukraine before. Another condition was that they could all fit together despite different musical tastes and backgrounds. Unfortunately, we could not wait any longer for certain artists to deliver their tracks beyond the very deadline, therefore the final version of the project doesn’t include some artists who were originally planned to be there. I am more than happy with what it all turned out to be like in the end though.
Who out of all the contributors would you say has been most affected by the violence?
Fortunately, nobody has. However, all Ukrainian artists have definitely experienced some unpleasant moments, regardless of whether they took part in actual protests or not.
Vakula had been covering the violence quite actively on social media, he must have been quite happy to get on board for the project?
Vakula has always put himself forward as a Ukrainian patriot. Take a look at his records: national themes are everywhere. His own imprints are entitled Leleka (translated from our language as ‘stork’, the symbol of luck) and Shevchenko (named after the prominent Ukrainian poet and artist from 19th century). By the way, the very name Vakula is not his real name, it is a reminiscence of the major character from Nikolai Gogol’s book ‘Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka’. I’m not sure what his first impression of the project was, but I am glad we have him as participant, as the project wouldn’t have been the same without Vakula.
What outcome would you like to see from the project?
I want people to see this as a charity project, not a political statement. To think otherwise is utter non-sense to say the least. Of course, we all have our own political and social preferences, but they are irrelevant here. The only point that has to be brought into attention is that we’re collecting money for families that were affected by recent events in Ukraine. Period. I really hope we’ll be able to generate as much profit as possible. At least this is what we’ve spent our sleepless nights for.
How has the crisis affected nightlife and electronic music, clubbing culture in Kiev and elsewhere? Is there still a music scene or is it too dangerous?
I can only judge about Kiev from my personal perspective. People used to be afraid of going out during the most intensive part of the conflict, but now everything is getting back to normal. If somebody tells you it is still unsafe in Kiev, don’t believe this guy. Moreover, there is an emotional rise among young people, so everybody is willing to party like there’s no tomorrow. The negative aspects are psychological and economical: firstly, many international artists are cancelling their Ukrainian gigs for safety reasons, a totally unnecessary but understandable move, at least for Kiev. Secondly, our national currency has dropped 1.5 times in its value, hence what used to be considered affordable before has now become expensive. However, we all believe there is a light in the end of the tunnel.
As it stands now, what point is Ukraine at in relation to Maidan & what does it the nation need in order for it’s society to begin functioning normally, at least on some level?
Obviously, people are getting tired of politics, everybody wants peace first and foremost. I personally consider Ukraine to be a very talented nation and think we would be able to significantly raise the bar for life quality if we trusted ourselves more. However, there are two main obstacles on our way at the moment: external pressure and dirty politicians with Soviet mentalities. If we get rid of the former alone, life will come back to its normal route. If we manage to get rid of both, Ukraine will become a better place to live in (it’s already a good place to visit). Nevertheless, I think it will take us at least one more generation to overcome the Soviet ‘legacy’ in full extent.
What is the general feeling amongst the ordinary citizens trying to live normal lives throughout all of this?
As one celebrity artist put it, “Ukrainian national idea has to be “Fuck off and let us live our own lives” – I think it’s a very common thought among Ukrainian people right now.
The ‘Grassroots: United Over Ukraine’ compilation will be released on the 9th of June, Pre-order it here.
Interview by Conor McTernan
All profits from the ‘Grassroots’ project will be transferred to Maidan Family fund and re-distributed between short-term support initiatives targeted at families of Maidan victims, medical treatment and rehabilitation of physically challenged individuals, and long-term aid for under-aged children who lost their parents in the events otherwise known as Maidan 2013/2014.