The fusion of folk and rap as well as its fitting lyrics… Transmitting the image of a caring mother from a child’s perspective, Kalush Orchestra chose a story that will stay current and universal. We talked with Kalush Orchestra, the winner of the Eurovision 2022 Song Contest. 

This is the second year that a non-English song has won consecutively. What do you think about countries singing in their own national language? Did you think the song could have been more popular if it was in English?

The popularity of a song depends not only on the language in which it is performed. This is exactly what the Eurovision Contest has shown in the last two years. As far as singing songs in one’s mother tongue at the contest is concerned, it is a big plus to show the beauty of one’s own language and how the music of one’s own country sounds.

With Stefania, Ukraine has won 3 times in Eurovision. There is no doubt that Ukrainian music sounds magical. Why do you think Ukraine is so successful at music?

In Ukraine, there is a lot of interesting music and bands that appeal to the European audience. The key point of difference of Kalush Orchestra from other bands in Ukraine is the combination of ethnic music elements with modern sound production, hip-hop dances and Ukrainian-language rap. The essence is that we take the old Ukrainian folklore that has been forgotten. We dig it out from many generations and add modern, contemporary elements, rap and instruments. In the end, we have a combination of what our ancestors had and what the young people like today. And those are our songs.

You were chosen to represent Ukraine in Eurovision before Russia’s invasion. Did you compose different music or lyrics before the incident or did the song remain the same?

The desire to represent Ukraine in Eurovision arose right around the time we wrote our first track as Kalush Orchestra. We thought ‘this music should be heard in Europe. The song was written in 2021 and was dedicated to my mother, whose name is Stefania. Only a few days after Kalush Orchestra was selected to represent Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest, Ukraine was invaded by Russia, and the song became a trending soundtrack to war events on social media.

Very quickly the song expanded its meaning to all mothers who care for their children and protect them from the scourge of war. From the song about a mother, it has become the song about the motherland.

We know that Stefania was written to honor Oleg’s mother. How did the idea come out? Why did you choose your mother?

 I’ve never dedicated a song to her, and I’m not at all sure whether our relationship has been particularly close in the past, but I know she definitely deserves this song. This is the best thing I’ve ever done for her.  The song was composed and dedicated to my mother, but after the war the song has acquired lots of nuances because a lot of people are perceiving it as if Ukraine is my mother. That’s why the song has become so close to the Ukrainian people, and it is in the Ukrainian hearts.

You had a temporary permission to leave the country for Eurovision. How about now? Can you leave the country for concerts?

During the war, all men between the ages of 18-60 are not allowed to leave the country. Specifically, to participate in Eurovision 2022, we had special permission to leave the country for the competition. The next day, after the results were announced, we returned to Ukraine. But now, artists for our country are another front for the fight, just culturally.

We take part in charity concerts where we raise money to help Ukraine.

We appreciate the opportunity to be able to communicate with people in Europe in person. Our mission is to be the voice of Ukrainian people and told about the war that Russia started. 

What can we do to help Ukraine?

We ask everyone to talk about war, write on social networks and tag people who make decisions. If there are rallies in support of Ukraine – go to them, do everything so that this war ended as soon as possible in our country, and did not start with you.

You have become globally recognized after Stefania. What is next for you? Do you plan to come to Turkey?

What we want most now is the victory of Ukraine in this cruel war unleashed by Russia. And that our country has peaceful skies again.

As for creativity, we have both releases and collaborations. I hope they will pleasantly surprise you. We cannot reveal all the cards in advance. I can only say one thing – there will be collaborations, not only with Eurovision participants.

We have not yet performed in Turkey and would be happy to travel there one day.

It is a pity that Ukraine won’t be hosting Eurovision in 2023. The UK will host it but will we feel the Ukrainian spirit? What do you want to say about this?

Of course, we are very sad that the Eurovision Song Contest will not be held in Ukraine next year. But we are grateful to the UK for their solidarity and for agreeing to hold the event in support of our country. We hope Eurovision 2023 will have a Ukrainian flavor and celebrate our beautiful, unique culture. We, in turn, will make all efforts to help Ukraine win next year as well so that Eurovision 2024 can take place in a peaceful country.

Do you have a message about the current conflict or any last words?

Don’t pretend that the war in Ukraine that is happening now is a distant movie you are watching. Something that is far away. Ukraine is the center of Europe, and this brutal war is happening exactly there. When you wake up and hear explosions. You don’t know if your parents, friends, or relatives are still alive. This experience drives you crazy, it destroys your mental health. The faster we come together, the more people will help, and the faster the war will end. And not spread to other countries.