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‘The war changed everything’: Ukraine’s top performers forced to grapple war and music

Slogans in solidarity with Ukraine were spray-painted on walls and banners, and sung from stages all over the globe.

Music has been able to capture the emotions of Ukrainians coping with war more than any other medium.

Many of the country’s most respected musicians moved to the frontline but they still produced and shared their music.

Antytila is one the most popular musical acts in Ukraine. The band joined the Territorial Defence in Irpin and Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Borodyanka war efforts after Russia‘s February invasion.


Antytila frontman Taras Topolia was a Borodyanka medic and wrote the lyrics to his verse on the collaboration song with Ed Sheeran. 2Step

Taras’ bandmates recorded him at the frontline of the video, but they say that they only had 20 minutes to leave to avoid being attacked by enemy forces. This is a drastic change from their previous lives as regional rock stars.

Image Taras Topolia
Image Taras Topolia as a medic

“It is difficult, but it is possible. This dual lifestyle is what we must live. “Even now, we are making our rehearsals before we were making military duties,” Taras, 35 years old, says from the band’s studio at Kyiv.

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“We are husbands and fathers. We had our dreams, and we made plans. But the war changed everything.

They performed BB King’s Stand by Me – a remix of “Stand by Ukraine”, in military fatigues, with Bono. They were granted permission by the head Ukrainian military to leave the country and promote culture through art three months later.

They are now back in Kyiv, where they practice 2Step in preparation for the London concert on 26 February. Their lives are far from normal. Taras’ family is still in the US for safety. Serhii Vusuk’s family, his keyboard player and bandmate, are in Wales.

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It is difficult psychologically because relationships develop and grow when people touch and talk to each other. Taras says that hugging your spouse and children, telling jokes, and having conversations with them is a great way to bond.

“This war has separated many families.”

Antytila is not the only one. TNMK is one of the most established hip-hop groups in Ukraine. It spent the war years in Kharkiv’s National Guard. Oleksandr “Fozzi”, Sydorenko, the founder of the group, is still living with her mother.

“Until recently, there were only three nights in Kharkiv when there wasn’t any shelling at the start of the war. He says, “Of course, I follow and compose and it happens that during a day there is not connection with her and this connection drops.”

Fozzi will be traveling to Kharkiv with his mother, instead of performing on New Years Eve. He and Oleh Mykhailyuta Fahot, his bandmate, are finishing the music video for their new single.

This animation explains to young people the dangers of shelling and mines. This is a hazard that has been too often fatally experienced.

“Many people have already died.” Fahot says that yesterday was the death of my friend’s brother who was working in our joint work.

“Ukrainians will defend themselves, their homes, and their families, and they are dying.” The bravest, strongest, most powerful, and most open-minded will all die.


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