Today, one of Ukraine’s biggest rock bands VeVe (V.V or Vopli Vodipliassova; Воплі Відоплясова) had a long-planned concert in Ivano-Frankivsk. The concert was excellent, featuring a sound system for the 500-seat Regional Philharmonic that would have been sufficient for the Albert Hall, as well as a selection of songs from their 25+ year-long career. The band’s leader Oleh Skrypka, together with the guitarist, stopped by the daily six p.m. gathering in central Ivano-Frankivsk and played the national anthem, while also encouraging the population to keep to peaceful protest.
The music at the Ivano-Frankivsk gatherings has not always been this rousing – and skilled – however. On the first day of mass gatherings, so Friday 22 December, a young female singer – who appeared for the next few days and on 3 December was at the university when the rector finally made a statement, adding some grandeur to this occasion – attempted to keep the crowds’ attention with nominally patriotic songs whose pathos tended to drive away listeners, who were far less numerous in those early days anyway before the students got involved. That singers’ “talents” were probably more suited to weddings, or the numerous talent contests that seem to fill up Ivano-Frankivsk’s squares in the warmer months.
A more successful female singer – and one who could provide perhaps the angle that British tabloids are presumably looking for in order to justify covering this Ukrainian revolution – has been highly involved in the protests. “Eurovision winner supports revolution” (add in a more misogynistic description for Daily Mail or The Sun). Ruslana, Руслана Степанівна Лижичко, who won Eurovision in 2004 and was also an MP for the victorious Orange Revolution party, Nasha Ukraina, has been a huge presence at the Kyiv demonstrations. Here she presents an appeal in English, (more in Ukrainian from 4 mins here) while she also helped to keep spirits up by singing and dancing several nights in a row, pulling an all-nighter on some nights. She was also key in spotting some potential provocateurs and government-paid fighters within the crowd. She was also tearful as she felt compelled to offer an apology to those who were injured as a result of the riot police’s violent clearing of the square early on Saturday 30 November.
Ukraine’s biggest rock band, meanwhile, Okean Elzy (Океан Ельзи) have provided – like they did in the Orange Revolution – the unofficial anthem for events. In 2004 it was Вставай! (Get Up!) – original and translated lyrics here – while this year they have offered CTIHA (Wall), whose original video is an attempt to depict national unity, drawing on scenes from live concerts in Donetsk and Lviv, so the two opposite ends of Ukraine that Western media and Ukrainians themselves often juxtapose, imagining tensions based in stereotypes of eastern “Russkies/Muscovites” and western “bandits/Banderovcy”. A new version of the video for the song has now emerged, inserting footage from the violent clearance of Independence Square on Saturday.
As something of a prelude to the current events in Ukraine, Okean Elzy received a short-term ban on performing in one city in Russia, allegedly for breaking work permit regulations. However, others suspected local officials’ sense of fury at the notion of thousands of Russians singing along in Ukrainian as a reason for briefly stopping the band’s tour.