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'No Music in Ukraine': Documentary Charts Artistic Impact of Conflict

As Ukraine's pro-democracy movement gave way to conflict in the nation's east, musicians created works voicing the tumult being felt, a film shows.
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As a pro-democracy movement in Ukraine gave way to fighting between Russian separatists and pro-Ukraine forces in the country’s east, some musicians gave a voice to the turmoil being felt by everyday citizens while other artists found it hard to create works amid the tumult, a new documentary shows.

“We’re the type of people who sleep under bridges. Waiting out the storm so we can set off again,” raps Pavel Grazhdansky, Kharkiv, Ukraine, one of three performers whose working during this tumultuous period is chronicled in the mini-documentary by Raw Music International. “And again I’m told: Each person has his own life, his own cold teapot, torn sneakers, flat tires, dictators and cancer.”

Raw Music International followed the musicians in Odessa, who had experienced the days earlier this year when pro-democracy protests led to the impeachment of the Russian-leading president, to the days when the fighting hit home this year in the Black Sea port.

“We came to Ukraine to see what revolution and war do to music,” the documentary team said in a statement. “Ukraine is not famous for music at the best of times. And the unrest didn’t help. The musicians we met were worried about the immediate future. They didn’t have much time or inclination to write songs.”

The documentary shows two of the three artists shifting to help people affected as the conflict escalates, such as bringing medical supplies to those harmed in the fighting.

“There is no music in Ukraine right now,” said one of the musicians, Sergey Dolgov. “I think we’ll play a few more concerts, but then we need to reassess what we are doing.”

The documentary team left in May. Some of their subjects and their families are part of the mass exodus of people fleeing the ongoing fighting. On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said a "serious military buildup" was occurring inside Ukraine and on the Russian side of the border.

“We didn’t come away with any answers,” the group said in the statement. “But we heard first-hand what has become a defining narrative of the last few years — the elation of revolution followed by the uncertainty of war and political turmoil. And we saw how artistic, thoughtful individuals are dragged into the conflicts of world powers.”