Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra’s melodic and upbeat entry for this month’s Eurovision Song Contest was written as a tribute to the leader’s mother.
But now it has become an anthem for the homeland of the nation ravaged by war since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Stefania is the most viewed song on YouTube among the 35 national entries that will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest next week in the northern Italian industrial city of Turin.
While some bookies and data analysts have pegged others to win, the Kalush Orchestra song is fast becoming a sentimental favourite.
“I will always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,” wrote Oleh Psiuk, leader of the Kalush Orchestra, in Stefania.
The lyrics have become more poignant as Russian missiles hit cities and towns in Ukraine, forcing more than 11 million people to flee the country.
“In fact, some things here were written long before the war, and they were dedicated to my mother,” Psiuk told the Associated Press at his hotel in Turin, wearing a bright bucket hat that makes him instantly recognizable to anyone who happens to be around. transmitted Stefania. .
video of the day
“After it all started with war and hostilities, it took on additional meaning and many people began to see it as its mother, Ukraine, in the meaning of the country. He has become very close to the hearts of so many people in Ukraine,” she said.
“Our purpose is to make Ukrainian music popular, not only in Ukraine but throughout Europe. And Eurovision is the best platform for that.”
The band members mix break dancing with Hopak, a Ukrainian folk dance, in an energetic performance punctuated with rap interludes by Psiuk.
Costumes feature embroidered Cossack shirts and vests mixed with contemporary street wear.
Psiuk and five bandmates, all men between the ages of 21 and 35, received special permission from the Ukrainian authorities to travel to Turin to participate in Eurovision, travel overland to Poland, and then fly to Italy.
An original gang member stayed behind to fight.
Psiuk, 27, left behind a network of volunteers he organized two days after the war to help deliver logistical aid to people across Ukraine seeking shelter or transportation.
Everyone will return to Ukraine when the song contest is over.
“We feel a great responsibility,” Psiuk said.
“It is very important for us to be as useful as possible for the country. We want to represent our country decently.”
Kalush Orchestra is more than a musical group.
It is a cultural project that includes folklore scholars and deliberately combines hip hop with traditional Ukrainian music, dance and costumes, some long forgotten, according to Psiuk.
The six-month project takes its name from Psiuk’s hometown of Kalush, which is located in the Carpathian Mountains, south of the western city of Lviv. It is an evolution of the original Kalush hip hop group that Psiuk also fronted.
Ukraine first joined the Eurovision Song Contest 19 years ago.
He has won twice since then, both times with songs performed primarily in Ukrainian: by Ruslana in 2004 and Jamala in 2016.
Psiuk attributes Ukraine’s success to the “peculiar character of our music.”
“I really hope that after we perform it at the Eurovision Song Contest, Ukrainian music will be even more popular and listened to,” he said.